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Sunburn for 4.12.17 – Florida is on fire; Fundraising is cold; Jeff Atwater bids adieu; It’s Seersucker 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.


As more than 100 wildfires burn across the state of Florida, Governor Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency to ensure proper response to the danger of more fires.

Forecasts predict hotter and drier conditions than normal in Florida during the coming months.

Florida wildfires have already burned 250 percent more acreage during the first three months of 2017 than during the same time period last year.

There are currently more than 100 active wildfires across more than 20,000 acres in Florida.

“Much of Central and South Florida are approaching drought-like conditions and the chances for wildfires are continuing to increase with hotter temperatures and low rainfall. This may only get worse as we enter the hotter summer months and it is crucial that we take every action right now to be prepared,” says Gov. Scott.

“Wildfires are burning more than 20,000 acres in Florida right now, and we haven’t seen this active of a season since 2011. From St. George Island in the Panhandle to a wildfire just north of one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions in Orlando, we’re seeing that every area of our state is susceptible to wildfire. I thank Governor Scott for signing this executive order, which will ensure we have every resource available to us to combat these wildfires to protect life, property and wildlife,” says Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Since February, wildfires have swept across 68,000 acres of the state. That amount is higher than the average acreage burned over the past five years.

The largest blaze right now is the one known as the Cowbell Fire in the Big Cypress National Preserve, which has spread to more than 10,000 acres about a mile north of Alligator Alley.

A Hernando County brush fire apparently sparked by lightning on Saturday had widened to 1,100 acres by Monday.

The dry conditions mark sharp contrast to 2016, when the state was drenched by two hurricanes.

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MILLIONS DONATE TO FLA. POLS AMID 2017 SESSION via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Some of the biggest companies involved in battles at the state Capitol showered campaign contributions to the state’s political parties and other top politicians in the first few months of the year.

Newly-filed campaign finance reports show that the Republican Party of Florida raised $2.46 million during the first quarter of the year, while a separate GOP campaign committee that raises money for state Senate candidates raised $1.43 million. The Florida Democratic Party raised slightly more than $843,000 during the same period.

— “Both major parties in Fla show tepid money-raising” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Despite anti-Trump energy, Florida Dems struggle out of the gate with 2017 fundraising” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze

— “Florida Democratic Party chair chips in $100K in first quarter” via Florida Politics

— “Richard Corcoran among top donors to RPOF during first quarter” via Florida Politics

RICK SCOTT SIDESTEPS QUESTIONS ABOUT MID-SESSION CHECKS FROM BIG DONORS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO FloridaScott’s political committee last month raked in more than $600,000 in contributions from companies with major bills before the Legislature that could end up on his desk next month to veto or sign into law. The largest amount, $100,000, came from U.S. Sugar … Others doling out $50,000 checks each to Scott’s Let’s Get To Work committee included Wal-Mart and Auto Nation … When asked about the large contributions during a Cabinet meeting, Scott would not directly respond to whether the large contributions would influence his decisions about legislation affecting the interests of some of his largest donors. “I look forward to seeing the budget,” Scott said. “I’ll go through every line item to make sure it’s good for the citizens of our state.”

DENISE GRIMSLEY RAISES $260K FOR AG. COMMISH BID via Florida Politics — Sen. Denise Grimsley raised more than $260,000 in just one week toward her 2018 Agriculture Commissioner bid, far outpacing the only other Republican candidate in the race. But state campaign finance record show Grimsley could face stiff fundraising competition from Rep. Matt Caldwell, whose political committee raised more than $224,000 in the same one-week period. State campaign finance records show Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, raised a combined $260,756 between March 1 and March 6, the eve of the 2017 Legislative Session. Grimsley brought in $85,008 to her official campaign account; her political committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland, brought in $176,000. … State records show Caldwell’s political committee — Friends of Matt Caldwell — raised $224,980 between March 1 and March 6, the day before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

— “Bill Galvano adds $500K in committee cash during March” via Florida Politics

— “Wilton Simpson tacks on $263K for political committee” via Florida Politics

 — “Jack Latvala raises more than $244K on eve of 2017 Legislative Session” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

— “Dana Young raises $150K in March for Senate re-election” via Florida Politics

— “Jason Brodeur adds $50K to Senate campaign” via Orlando Rising

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RICK SCOTT WON’T END FIGHT FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TOURISM FUNDING via Florida Politics With the House seemingly intent on gutting VISIT FLORIDA and eliminating Enterprise Florida, Gov. Scott suggested he won’t stop counterpunching. The governor, who spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, has been openly warring with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. He’s been out to kill state government’s business incentives programs. Corcoran counts Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, and VISIT FLORIDA, its tourism marketing arm, as dispensers of “corporate welfare” … “We’re at record tourism numbers,” with close to 113 million tourists visiting the state last year. With thousands of jobs tied to tourism, “it’s important to me that we fully fund VISIT FLORIDA,” Scott said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtable at USTA National Campus in the Champions Lodge Dining Area, 10000 USTA Boulevard in Orlando.

NO STATE OF EMERGENCY, BUT GOV. ANNOUNCES WORKSHOPS TO ADDRESS OPIOID CRISIS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s Department of Health, Department of Children and Families and Department of Law Enforcement will in the coming weeks begin workshops in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange counties. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the initiative, a deal with drug companies to provide Narcan spray and their support for legislation related to the opioid crisis at an event in the state Capitol … An emergency declaration allows the governor to direct immediate spending to combat problems and allows public health officials to move quickly in response to a crisis. “We’re working through the Legislature, we’re doing the workshops,” Scott said Tuesday when asked why he hadn’t done the same for the opioid crisis. “We’re going to have these workshops and we’re going to see if there’s ideas that we can put forth that might have an impact. We’re going to see what we can learn, but all of us have to understand that we all have to be involved with this.” The workshops are a “starting point,” Scott said.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: On the day @PamBondi talks about dangers of opioids there is buzz that a Pa congressman will bc Trump’s pick for drug czar

A DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCE OF FLORIDA’S EYEBALL WARS; THROWING GASOLINE ON THE STATE’S WILDFIRE OPIOID CRISIS via Florida Politics – It’s no secret that the United States is in the midst of an epidemic of opioid abuse, overdoses and deaths, with Florida emerging as an epicenter. Nevertheless, several Tallahassee lawmakers, albeit unwittingly, may soon contribute to this wildfire of a crisis, a casualty of the latest battle in Florida’s Eyeball Wars … As chair of the House Health Quality Subcommittee, Cary Pigman – himself an emergency room physician – narrowly approved a bill that would add nearly 4,000 new prescription pads to Florida … the flip side of HB 1037 — giving optometrists power to prescribe an added group of medications, including opioids — has not received as much attention. And it could turn out to be just as dangerous. If passed, HB 1037 could fall under the category of unintended (but not unforeseen) consequences by creating a surge in availability of opioids throughout the state, especially during a time when lawmakers struggle to find ways to curb access.

AYALA FILES CHALLENGES OF SCOTT WITH FLORIDA SUPREME COURT, FEDERAL COURT via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In complaints filed by her attorney, Roy Austin Jr.of Washington D.C., Ayala contends that she legally exercised prosecutorial discretion in deciding not to pursue death penalty prosecutions in the 9th Judicial Circuit. Ayala was not found by guilty of any misconduct. Consequently, Ayala argues that Scott’s executive orders stripping 23 first-degree murder cases from her and reassigning them to another state attorney were only because he disagreed with her determination not to pursue death penalties. The state action, seeking a writ of quo warranto, asks the Florida Supreme Court to vacate Scott’s 23 executive orders. Ayala’s petition cites Article V, Section 17, of the Florida Constitution, which declares that “the state attorney shall be the prosecuting officer of all trial courts in that circuit,” and contends that Scott has no legitimate grounds to overcome that.

GOV’S OFFICE AFFIRMED PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION, STATE ATTORNEYS’ INDEPENDENCE, IN LETTER LAST YEAR via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Among material filed with Ayala‘s Florida Supreme Court challenge of Gov. Scott‘s executive orders stripping cases from her is a year-old letter from his office affirming her position – that her prosecutorial decisions cannot be overridden … almost exactly a year ago, April 21, 2016, Scott’s office wrote to support the prosecutorial discretion exercised by Ayala’s predecessor, then-9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jeff Ashton, whom Ayala beat in the election last year. The letter came from Warren Davis in Scott’s Office of Citizen Services. “Although we appreciate your concerns,” Davis wrote to concerned citizen in the 9th Judicial Circuit, “each state attorney is an elected official charged with certain discretionary duties, including the duty to determine whether or not to prosecute any particular crime committed within his or her jurisdiction. This decision is based on the quality and the quantity of the evidence of guilt shown, and in the best interest of justice.”

RANDOLPH BRACY, JACK LATVALA REACH COMPROMISE ON SENATE CUT TO ARAMIS AYALA’S OFFICE via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsAyala‘s office would take a much smaller budget hit this year under a compromise worked out by Bracy and Senate Appropriations Chairman Latvala. State Rep. Scott Plakon engineered the House cut of about $1.3 million, to transfer that money to the 5th Judicial Circuit, which is set to get the cases Scott reassigned from Ayala. Bracy, of Oakland, is one of the few Democrats who have actively come to Ayala’s aid. Under the arrangement agreed to by Bracy and Latvala, $569,000 of the proposed Senate cut would be restored, while $622,000 would be transferred to the office of the 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King.

SENATE, HOUSE SPLIT ON CAPITAL OUTLAY FUNDING via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – In the House bill (HB 5001), maintenance and repair projects are funded at $54.6 million for the Florida College System and $114.8 million for the State University System. The Senate’s offer (SB 2500) is $38.1 million for colleges and $45.6 million for universities. But the Senate budget includes another $122.2 million in construction projects for colleges and $178 million for university projects. The House’s proposal does not yet include any money for such projects. Altogether, the House is considering $360 million in capital outlay funding while the Senate is contemplating more than $616 million. This number includes PreK-12 public schools, colleges and universities.

HOUSE TO TAKE UP PENSION REFORM THIS WEEK via Sascha Cordner of WLRN – Among its provisions is changing the default retirement for newly hired state employees, who haven’t chosen a retirement plan. Instead of the more popular and traditional option known as the pension plan, the bill changes the default to the 401(k) style investment plan. Supporters of the proposal say the goal is to allow more employees to take their retirement earnings with them, should they leave their state job in a couple of years. But, opponents—mainly state employee unions—say the investment plan is less stable and more risky.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Shevrin Jones and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will hold a press conference to discuss the House’s “Schools of Hope” legislation and its impacts on Florida’s public schools at 10 a.m. outside the House chamber on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

HAPPENING TODAY – CARIBBEAN DAY AT THE CAPITOL — The 9th annual event, hosted by members of the House and Senate, is meant to give community members a chance to meet with their lawmakers and give the capital city a taste of the Caribbean. The day’s events include a luncheon on the 22nd floor from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Caribbean food and barbecue from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Capitol Courtyard.

CARY PIGMAN’S DUI SOBRIETY TEST ON FHP DASHCAM VIDEO via Niels Heimeriks of WPTVPigman, 58, who represents a district that includes parts of St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties, was pulled over Thursday, March 23, around 10:45 p.m. on the turnpike near the Fort Drum Service Plaza. An open bottle of wine was found on the front passenger seat of his vehicle. When asked by the trooper Pigman denied having purchased the wine and denied drinking, though the trooper could detect a smell of alcohol coming from his mouth. During the roadside test the lawmaker had problems following instructions, he was so off balance that he almost fell during one of the tests.


DARLENE FARAH: PROSECUTORS RECOGNIZE DEATH PENALTY’S HARM TO VICTIMS’ FAMILIES via Florida Politics – For so long, prosecutors have repeated the mantra that the death penalty is needed for murder victims’ families and to provide them justice. This idea developed into an unquestioned assumption that guided many district attorneys in handling cases and crafting campaign messages. Yet the recent announcement by State Attorney Aramis Ayala of Orlando, Florida, to no longer seek death sentences challenges the notion that capital punishment helps victims’ families. Given the uncertain and painful process that capital cases put victims’ families — including my own — through, I applaud this announcement and hope other prosecutors will adopt a similar approach. There’s a vast disconnect between the theoretical death penalty championed by some officials — which they say is justice and brings closure — and what it looks like in reality. My children and I witnessed that reality firsthand after my daughter Shelby Farah was murdered in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 20, 2013.

DARRYL PAULSON: THE FILIBUSTER, THE NUCLEAR OPTION AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN POLITICS via Florida Politics –  Now that the filibuster is dead in the nomination process, will it also fall by the wayside with respect to legislation? The answer is likely yes. The larger question is whether the filibuster is a good or bad part of the legislative process?  Many argue that the Constitution is premised on majority rights and the filibuster allows a minority to dictate public policy. In other words, it is undemocratic. Supporters of the filibuster contend that it serves a useful purpose. Its use forces legislators to compromise in order to secure passage of major legislation. On controversial issues such as civil rights, a supermajority vote ensures that the legislation has widespread support and its passage was critical. Critics of the filibuster … Argue the filibuster has been a tool to frustrate the will of the majority and to impede passage of important legislation. Supporters counter that the death of the filibuster will lead to greater polarization, although that is hard to imagine. They argue that a simple majority vote will allow a president to appoint more extreme nominees and will allow the Senate to pass more extreme legislation.

JOE HENDERSON: DEMOCRATS MAY FINALLY GET THE MESSAGE THAT THEY NEED, WELL, A MESSAGE via Florida Politics – Florida Democrats have become such a non-factor in state politics that the real drama frequently becomes which faction of the Republican Party will prevail on a given issue. Think about it. We have had knockdown, drag-outs between the GOP-controlled House and Senate. This year the main event has been the ongoing feud between Republican Gov. Scott and House Speaker Corcoran. It’s almost like Democrats don’t exist … Democrats are going to have to shout such things from the rooftop, with clarity and determination. It won’t be easy. Republicans have controlled the microphone for a long time now while Democrats have curled up in the corner with nothing to say. Are they up for this? Time will tell, I guess.

JIM DEBEAUGRINE: REVENUE FROM MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR TREATMENT, PREVENTION WOULD BE MINIMAL via Florida Politics – If nothing else, the intense debate over how to implement legalized medical marijuana in Florida has given many of us a crash course in business economics, government regulation and medical protocols. Missing from this discussion, however, is the collateral damage of the drug trade – addiction, criminal behavior, broken families, unemployment, even death. Ironically, these collateral effects are the most likely to directly impact the average Floridian … the Legislature has a tremendous opportunity to make major progress toward addressing these unwanted side effects. Under current law, marijuana is subject to the state’s sales and use tax. This is, by the way, consistent with most of the states that have legalized medical marijuana. State economists estimate that tax collections will eventually rise to $24 million on an annual basis. This estimate, however, is based on assumed annual sales that are roughly one-quarter what a leading industry expert predicts. Either way, these funds represent an untapped resource that could be used to boost the state’s substance abuse education, prevention and treatment efforts.

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JEFF ATWATER GETS SENTIMENTAL SENDOFF AT CABINET MEETING via Florida Politics – The state’s CFO, who’s leaving after this legislative session to join Florida Atlantic University as a VP, got a surprise recognition at what is likely his last Cabinet meeting. “I don’t see this on the agenda,” Atwater said, laughing. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam gifted him with an orange juice decanter; Attorney General Pam Bondi gave him a mug, and Gov. Rick Scott presented him with a state flag in a case. “We’ll miss you; you’ve been just a joy,” Bondi told him. “We all started together,” she added—all four were first elected in 2010. “The band is breaking up.”

99 APPLY TO RUN FLORIDA’S DEP via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Already 99 people have applied to replace Jon Steverson, the head of DEP who resigned suddenly in January, according to the Florida Cabinet which has posted the names of all 99. Currently the agency is being led by Ryan Matthews, who had been the deputy secretary for regulatory programs before he was appointed as interim secretary back in February. Matthews is not among the people to have applied so far for the permanent job. The Cabinet has set a goal of having a final vote on a new DEP leader by May 23.

HUNDREDS OF CONCERNS AUTOMATICALLY SIGNED UP TO LOBBY CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD via Florida PoliticsThe list of companies, nonprofits and others who were registered to lobby the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) now stretches to 55 pages, according to the state’s Lobbyist Registration Office. But many, if not most, of those may be from the state automatically adding names to that lobbying registry—and from lobbyists who haven’t yet “unchecked” their box for the CRC. The commission, which convenes every 20 years to review and rewrite the state’s governing document, holds its next public hearing 5 p.m. Wednesday on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION ANNOUNCES MORE MEETING DATES via Florida Politics Carlos Beruff, the commission’s chairman, on Tuesday announced more dates and locations for public hearings: Wednesday, April 26 in Gainesville (Alachua County); Thursday, April 27 in Jacksonville (Duval County); Wednesday, May 3 in Bay County; Wednesday, May 10 in Lee County; Wednesday, May 17 in Hillsborough County. “This historic process gives Florida voters an opportunity to change the framework of our government,” he said in a statement. “You don’t need to be a policy expert to have a good idea.”

BLACKJACK APPEAL NOW ON HOLD TILL AFTER SESSION via Florida Politics – A mediation between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida that was set for Tuesday morning was cancelled, the tribe’s attorney said. The state had appealed to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court a federal judge’s ruling allowing the Seminoles to keep offering blackjack at their Florida casinos. The mediator agreed to hold off and to stay the appeal until the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. By then, the sides may know whether lawmakers pass omnibus gambling legislation, including a new blackjack agreement, that would “moot the appeal,” attorney Barry Richard said. “In a case like this, (mediation) is kind of meaningless, but they make you go through the routine anyway,” he added. Richard explained the state couldn’t agree to any mediated settlement in the case without legislative approval.

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The day you’ve been waiting for all session is here.

No, not the budget debate in the House and Senate. And it’s not Sine Die quite yet.

Nope, it’s Seersucker Day at the Florida Capitol. But once again seersucker aficionados are left with a dilemma: Break the rules and break out their favorite suit out of season or just wait a few more days?

Tradition dictates that seersucker should only be worn between Easter and Labor Day — or if you prescribe to the to the “fashion dos and don’ts” outlined by former Sen. Trent Lott, who started Seersucker Day in the United States Congress in 1996, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Florida lawmakers are known to bend the rules every once in a while when it comes to their love of this thin, all-cotton striped garb. In 2016, when the Legislature met from January to March the annual event was held in Feb 24. The average temperature that day was just 61 degrees.

And in case you were wondering, last year Easter was March 27. That means lawmakers celebrated all things seersucker a full month before the traditional start of seersucker season.

This year, the celebration of the Southern suit isn’t starting nearly as early. Easter is this Sunday, which means you’re only jumping the gun by a couple of days. And unlike last year, the high in Tallahassee is expected to be closer to 85 degrees, making a summer suit preferable.

Still feeling queasy about bending the rules? Style experts suggest pairing the jacket with a pair of dark pants, instead of wearing the full suit. Or maybe just wear a seersucker tie to get in the spirit. Women can pair their seersucker jacket with a darker skirt, or put a shirt under their dress to create a layered look.

But if you’re asking yourself WWJPD, you should know: It’s probably unlikely Jimmy Patronis, the former state Representative and a member of Florida Public Service Commission, will be wearing seersucker when the Constitution Revision Commission convenes at Florida A&M University tonight.

When asked about Seersucker Day on Twitter, Patronis responded “you can’t have it ‘til after Easter! Every good Southern Gentleman knows this.”

“I’m no longer on the BOD of Seersucker Day,” he continued. “I would encourage April 19 or 10, preferably a day the @MyFLHouse is in Session.”

Dare we suggest a Seersucker Day, part deux?

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY BUFFET LUNCH MENU Wednesday’s Governors club menu comes from the Pacific Northwest with smoked tomato soup; apple pear salad – celery, Granny Smith apples, pears, walnuts, dried cherries; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; smoked salmon & penne pasta salad – Pacific smoked salmon, penne pasta, scallions, capers, eggs, herb vinaigrette; rosemary peppered beef; chicken thigh yakitori; BBQ grilled salmon ; white & wild rice with apples & raisin and beans, lardon & sage.


Keith Arnold, Brett Bacot, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Gateway Health Plan, LP

Ron Pierce, Ed Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Consulting: Palm Beach County Tax Collector

CITRUS FORECAST GENERALLY HOLDS STEADY, USDA SAYS via Florida Politics – The bad news in citrus: “Grapefruit production declined.” The good news: “Florida orange production remained steady.” That’s the upshot of the latest forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, according to the Florida Department of Citrus. “The April report projects the state’s orange crop to stay at 67 million boxes for the 2016-17 season,” a Tuesday news release said. “The grapefruit crop was reduced by 800,000 boxes to 8.1 million.” The industry has been savaged by a citrus greening epidemic … In a separate statement, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the latest forecast “represents a more than 70 percent collapse in production of our state’s signature crop” since the 1997-98 season.

MICHAEL GANNON, WHO MADE HISTORY LIVELY, DIES AT 89 via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun – University of Florida history professor Gannon, a former priest, an expert on the state’s Spanish beginnings and a calming presence on campus during troubled times, died days shy of his 90th birthday. Gannon was remembered by former students and colleagues as an engaging and knowledgeable professor who spent part of his youth in St. Augustine, spurring his interest in Florida history. Among them was Carl Van Ness, UF’s historian and curator of the manuscripts and archives department. “It’s hard to say where to start with Mike’s involvement with the university. It just seems like he was involved with so many things,” Van Ness said. “He was funny and had a great sense of humor — very outgoing. He had a beautiful, beautiful voice.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our great friends, top Democratic fundraiser, Stephanie Lewis-McClung, and Richard Corcoran‘s vox, Fred Piccolo. Also celebrating today is Tampa airport’s Emily Nipps, Jared Rosenstein, and former  Rep. Joe Saunders.

Sunburn for 4.11.17 – Letting them eat cake; House demand apropos records; Pam Bondi sued; Herald wins two Pulitzers

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

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


If the last week offered the turning point of the 2017 Legislative Session — Senate President Joe Negron‘s scaling back his Everglades reservoir proposal — it also offered an uncharacteristic moment of hubris for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

At a media availability on Thursday, the Land O’ Lakes Republican pushed back against a reporter’s question about special interests who draft bills, and whether leadership pressures committee chairs to hear those bills.

“All I hear from you guys is ‘OK, you guys have done more than any other Legislature in the history of mankind (on) transparency and openness … but you forgot this one,’ ” Corcoran said.

“Really, what you ought to say is thank you. We’ve made your lives a heck of a lot easier. You guys have not even had access to all of the documents and all of the information if it wasn’t for us filing lawsuits and dragging people who take taxpayer money up here before committees and browbeating them (about) what they’re spending money on. And the only thing you guys come and tell us is, ‘you forgot this group.’ “

That last part — “what you ought to say is thank you” — is the kind of cringe-worthy statement you’d expect from a Johnnie Byrd. Even if he thought this kind of thing before, Corcoran has been smart enough not to say it aloud. In fact, up until Thursday, he had been playing the Capitol Press Corps and the rest of the state’s political media (this writer included) like a fiddle. Corcoran has offered the press just the right amount of righteous indignation mixed with pragmatic politics, good quotes and timely scoops.

But Thursday’s “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” moment left several reporters scratching their heads, as if they realized they were only props in an elaborate play directed by the House Speaker.

What’s worse than what Corcoran said is the absolute inflexibility he and the House are displaying in their gamesmanship with the Senate. The House is allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And in doing so, Richard Corcoran‘s Florida House is in danger of becoming the Freedom Caucus of Tallahassee.

Negron dramatically re-works his top priority, the Everglades reservoir proposal, and how does Corcoran and Co. react? By complaining about the small amount of bonding involved in the financing of the plan, as if matters to a single voter whether the Senate pays cash or uses a credit card at the gas pump.

The courts and bureaucrats are essentially deciding the framework for the state’s gaming industry and what is the House’s position as it enters conference with the Senate? Opposition to the slots expansion approved by local referendums, while also opposing most of the Senate’s other thinking on the issue.

Enterprise Florida? Blow it up, say the political Jesuits in the House. Hospitals and Medicaid? Cut ’em off, says the House while asking them for information on how much they’re spending to lobby. Judges and the courts? Neuter them, says the legislative branch.

None of this is to say that Richard Corcoran is wrong on the merits of these issues. Or that he should abandon his long-held principles.

However, for the first five weeks of the Legislative Session, his side was setting the agenda, if not winning. He should consolidate those wins by reaching out to Negron over the Easter holiday, extending a few olive branches, and getting out of town on time.

Mr. Speaker, you’ve already won. Do not be so principled that you now snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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JOE NEGRON’S LAKE O RESERVOIR PROPOSAL GETS SENATE HEARING WEDNESDAY – Negron’s Everglades reservoir proposal (SB 1) is scheduled for a Senate special order hearing tomorrow, as both the House and Senate hold second readings and amendments on their respective budgets. The House budget is at $81.2 billion, around $4 billion less than the Senate. Both chambers are split on Negron’s Everglades reservoir issue, which now includes deepening 31,000 acres of reservoirs, and only using farmland as needed. The plan has also reduced from $2.4 billion to $1.5 billion, with Florida bonding for its share. The House version (HB 761) has yet to be heard by a committee. Corcoran, who remains opposed to bonding for the plan, says its chances are improving.

HOUSE, SENATE BUDGETERS DISAGREE ON WHAT EVERGLADES RESTORATION IS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – House members outlined $165.7 million for restoration. That’s $94.9 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP and $32 million for restoration strategies regional water quality plan (line 1594 of HB 5001); $29.9 million goes for Northern Everglades and estuaries (line 1594A). But they also include $5 million for dispersed water storage for the South Florida Water Management District (line 1589) and $3.9 million for agricultural nutrient reduction and water retention projects for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed (1356A). A press release from the Senate says it has $144 million for Everglades restoration, but if they used the more inclusive definition from the House, SB 2500 has $193.6 million; $112 million would go to CERP while the House has $94.9 million. It appears the Senate’s budget does not fully contemplate the Negron water storage bill (SB 10) as line 1595 offers $1 million for the C-51 reservoir. The House budget, of course, has no line for the reservoir.

EDITORIAL: SENATE BUDGET IS AN INVESTMENT IN FLORIDA’S EDUCATION via the South Florida Sun Sentinel ed board – The Senate would increase overall state funding for the universities by $334 million next year, about 12 percent. The House would cut that category by $183 million, almost 7 percent. The Senate also would make the universities accessible to more Floridians by expanding financial aid by $320 million. This total includes a $180 million increase in Bright Futures merit scholarships and a $126 million boost in need-based aid. The House, by contrast, would reduce Bright Futures by more than $11 million, though it would bump up need-based aid by $7 million. Negotiators in the two chambers will need to reconcile these and any other discrepancies before passing a budget and sending it to Gov. Scott‘s desk. But if lawmakers are truly committed to enhancing the quality and competitiveness of the state’s university system — and ultimately the state’s economy — the Senate’s position will prevail. A first-class higher education system is a critical component in attracting more high-wage jobs to Florida.

HOUSE BUDGET LANGUAGE WOULD UNDERMINE FLORIDA LOTTERY CONTRACT via Florida Politics – Pending an appeal of a court order blocking a $700 million Florida Lottery contract, proviso language in the proposed House budget would appear to block officials from attempting to enforce its terms. The language within the budget bill, HB 5100 (see page 329) pertains to a $26.6 million appropriation to operate game terminals. It would forbid officials from paying a vendor to “deploy, utilize, or lease” instant-ticket or full-service vending machines. The document would provide $5 million “only to pay to lease up to a maximum total of 1,500 instant ticket vending machines at a per-machine, per-month rate that must be specified in express terms in a vendor contract.”  A separate $2.9 million line authorizes leasing no more than 500 full-service machines, under a written contract with a vendor. The disputed contract would boost the number of full-service vending machines to 5,000.

DESPITE BIG DOLLARS, HOUSE ‘SCHOOLS OF HOPE’ PLAN NOT ATTRACTIVE TO TOP NATIONAL CHARTER SCHOOL FIRMS via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – House Speaker Corcoran wants nonprofits that have operated high-performing charter schools in other states to replicate their success here. To that end, he’s made them an offer: $200 million to cover facilities costs, personnel and specialized educational offerings, plus a wish list of statutory and regulatory changes designed to help them prosper. But it appears they’re not interested. Several of the organizations the Land O’Lakes Republican has mentioned by name or that have appeared in front of House education committees — networks that operate charter schools in New York City, Boston, the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, among other locales … they have no plans to open schools in the Sunshine State.

HOUSE DEMANDS FINANCE RECORDS FROM SECRET APPROPRIATIONS via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Speaker Corcoran wants two companies that received millions in secret appropriations to detail how they spent the taxpayer money. A Fernandina Beach psychological firm run by the friend of a state senator received $1 million in this year’s Florida State University budget with the lawmaker’s helpbut failed to produce the results it promised … An online education company operated from the Miami office of a lobbyist received $2 million in the Florida Polytechnic University budget but served fewer students at a greater cost than a separate program run through the University of Central Florida, the Daily News reported. Corcoran’s letters threatened to make the universities return the money if details aren’t provided by Thursday about how the companies spent the money or if they failed to use it as required.

ANITERE FLORES ATTACKED OVER AOB via Florida Politics – Floridians for Government Accountability is launching a direct mail campaign targeting Sen. Anitere Flores over insurance premiums. The direct mail campaign comes about a week after the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial that indicated Flores, the chairwoman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, would be to blame if insurance rates increased. “Paying too much for insurance? The Wall Street Journal says Flores is at fault,” reads one side of the mailer.

TRIAL LAWYERS DENOUNCES HOUSE WORKERS’ COMP PACKAGE via Florida Politics – HB 7085 is “a handout to the insurance industry and its big-business allies – one that does little to benefit injured workers or most employers,” the Florida Justice Association said in a written statement. “The plan wipes out countless injured workers’ ability to afford legal help when insurance companies wrongfully deny benefits, without providing other new benefits to offset this added burden,” the organization said. Real reform would allow workers some choice in their doctors, a “mid-level” tier for benefits, competition between insurers on rates, and “reasonable” attorney fees, said Richard Chait, chairman of the workers’ compensation section. “The eventual outcome of the current approach will be that more injured workers will receive inadequate health care treatment to help them recover,” he said.

EVAN JENNE’S ‘TIPPING POINT’: A RUN FOR HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER via Florida PoliticsIt’s tough to be a top Democrat in Florida, but Jenne is going for it. Jenne, of Dania Beach, recently announced his intention to seek the leadership of the House Democrats in 2020-22. In a state where Republicans have controlled the Legislature for the last two decades, “you can’t promise definitively that something will happen,” he told That said, he added, “If I say I’m going to do something, you can stick to my word.”

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “As the House is poised to take up its budget proposal this week, please see the updated infographic at … below for the breakdown of legislation that has been placed on the calendar for a hearing in the Florida House through April 11th“:

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 16; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 23; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 23; MLB All-Star Game – 91; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 144; Election Day 2017 – 209; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 247; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 271.

BETSY DEVOS PRAISES THIS VOUCHER-LIKE PROGRAM. HERE’S WHAT IT MEANS FOR SCHOOL REFORM via Emma Brown with the Washington Post — Florida has channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into scholarships for poor children to attend private schools over the past 15 years, using tax credits to build a laboratory for school choice that the Trump administration holds up as a model for the nation. The voucher-like program, the largest of its kind in the country, helps pay tuition for nearly 100,000 students from low-income families. But there is scant evidence that these students fare better academically than their peers in public schools. …Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime advocate for school choice, does not seem to be bothered by that complaint. She is driven instead by the faith that children need and deserve alternatives to traditional public schools. … On Thursday, DeVos visited another Florida private school to highlight the program. Christian Academy for Reaching Excellence (CARE) Elementary is “an awesome example of the opportunities provided through the Florida tax-credit scholarship,” DeVos told reporters. She said that the administration is working on how to expand choice nationally and that there is a “possibility” its efforts might be patterned on Florida’s tax-credit program, according to Politico.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: CFO Jeff Atwater will host the traditional “Ringing of the Bell” ceremony, honoring firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty, at 8:35 a.m. at the Florida Capitol.

LAWSUIT: PAM BONDI FORCING CONTRIBUTIONS TO UNREGISTERED CHARITIES via Florida Politics – The Attorney General is forcing businesses who settle unfair trade actions with her office to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities, according to a lawsuit filed last week. She also is directing contributions to her Office’s own nonprofit, Seniors vs. Crime, which is a “conflict of interest,” the suit says. Two of its directors work for Bondi … The petition says Bondi “exceeded (her) authority” under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), aimed at protecting consumers and businesses from abuse. “Our office has not been served at this point; however, after a preliminary review of the information you provided us, we believe these claims to be without merit,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email.

STATE, FORMER HEALTH CARE PROVIDER AGREE TO SETTLE SUIT OVER PRISONERS’ UNTREATED HERNIAS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – About 1,800 current and former Florida prison inmates who were denied medical care for hernias will be entitled to divide $1.7 million in damages from a class-action lawsuit under a conditional settlement agreed to by the Department of Corrections and its former prison health care provider, Corizon, and filed in federal court in Tallahassee last week. The suit was brought by the Florida Justice Institute and the Coral Gables law firm of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in September 2015 on behalf of three inmates. It alleged Corizon and the agency violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments by denying the inmates medical care in an effort to save money. The damages will be paid by Corizon, but the settlement agreement also requires the state prison system to adopt a new policy to provide consultations with surgeons for inmates with hernia symptoms in all Florida facilities.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor will plant a pinwheel garden with Department of Economic Opportunity staff to help raise awareness about child abuse prevention in Florida at 3 p.m. at the Caldwell Building Steps, at the intersection of Madison Street and Monroe Street, 107 Madison Street, in Tallahassee.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS SAYS LACK OF OPENNESS STILL HINDERING CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL via Florida PoliticsThe head of the League of Women Voters of Florida said Monday that “a lack of transparency” still plagues the state’s Constitution Revision Commission. In a letter to chairman Carlos Beruff and commissioners, LWVF President Pamela Goodman added concerns over “potential roadblocks to meaningful public engagement, potential for leverage and influence over commission members, and a less than robust respect for the Sunshine Rules.” The commission, which convenes every 20 years to fold public hearings, then review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document, still has not adopted final rules since its March 20 organization meeting.

PERSONNEL NOTE: GOVERNOR’S TOP LAWYER JOINING CONSTITUTION REVISION PANEL via Florida PoliticsWilliam Spicola, general counsel to Gov. Rick Scott for the past year, is leaving to become top legal officer of the Constitution Revision Commission. Replacing him as GC in the executive office of the governor is Daniel Nordby, a partner in Shutts & Bowen’s Tallahassee office. Both job changes become official on April 17, the governor’s office announced Monday. … Before joining Scott’s office, Spicola was a veteran of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. … Nordby has practiced election, constitutional, and administrative law at his firm since 2014. Before that, he served stints as general counsel to the Florida House and the secretary of state’s office.

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EDITORIAL: THE LEGISLATURE’S FREE-MARKET FANTASY FOR HOSPITALS via – Access to quality health care is not just at risk in Washington. It also is at stake in Tallahassee, where Florida House Speaker Corcoran relentlessly pursues a free-market fantasy that threatens the future of hospitals such as Tampa General, Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg and the BayCare network. This is a risky strategy that would undermine the financial viability of the venerable institutions Tampa Bay residents have long relied upon for top-flight care, and it fails to recognize that hospitals cannot be treated like fast-food franchises competing for customers on opposite street corners. Corcoran declares he and his Republican allies are pushing “dynamic reform” to health care aimed at empowering patients by increasing the supply of health care options, which they believe will bring down prices. That would create a wild-west free market for health care where hospitals are treated no differently than auto dealers or furniture stores competing for customers by promising lower prices in the best neighborhoods and avoiding unprofitable sites in low-income communities. The reality is that health care doesn’t work that way unless you’re Gov. Scott, who got rich running the nation’s largest for-profit hospital system — now HCA Healthcare — that is one of the key supporters of the changes.

ROBERT MCCLURE: MISINFORMATION ABOUT EVERGLADES RESTORATION ABOUNDS via the Tallahassee Democrat – We all recognize the special place in Florida’s shared heritage and the unique ecosystem present in the Glades. So it has been somewhat disappointing to observe how much erroneous information is being written regarding attempts to restore the Everglades and fix ongoing challenges with Lake O. The James Madison Institute (JMI), with a 30-year history of nonpartisan, public policy work has done extensive research in this area, seeking to identify the most effective and efficient path forward regarding Everglades restoration. Nobody disputes the fact that heavy rain events have myriad negative impacts on the environment, the economy and the population. Heavy rains cause Lake O to reach depths requiring discharges from the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD). This water, often containing toxins, then flows into the Everglades estuary. And yet, many falsely claim the main source of pollution is the farmers of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). This is in direct opposition to the facts on the ground, as highlighted in our report of 2016 entitled “Solving the Everglades Riddle.”

ANDY MADTES: WHAT HB 11 SUPPORTERS DON’T GET via Florida Politics – Recently the House passed HB 11, legislation that would require labor unions representing public sector workers to certify they have more than half of the workers signed up as members every single year. In their view this will empower workers to somehow bargain better contracts and benefits and, they swear, in no way an attempt to strip workers of their right to a voice on the job. It could be they just don’t understand how a union, in a “right to work for less” state like Florida, operates in a modern workplace. The wages, retirement, health care and other benefits that a union like AFSCME negotiates are enjoyed by every employee, not just those that pay dues. Things like investments in safety, emergency response protocols and, yes, how to save lives from a burning building are negotiated on behalf of bus drivers, public service aids and more, not just those in police and fire unites that the legislation would except under the belief they are the only ones dealing with public safety. All public-sector workers are on the front line of serving their community. Maybe the supporters of the legislation believe that all workers pitch in to the union in their workplace. That is not true. Members decide to pay dues for a variety of reasons but not because they are forced to do so. Non-members don’t even pay a fair share for the benefits they get to enjoy. It is a choice, but this legislation would take that choice from them.

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HOME RULE ADVOCACY GROUP ADDS TWO NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS TO ITS ROSTER via Florida Politics – Home-rule advocates Campaign to Defend Local Solutions is adding Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the National Black Justice Coalition as official partners. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is a bipartisan group of more than 1,000 current and former mayors that advocates for common-sense gun laws, while the National Black Justice Coalition is the country’s leading black LGBTQ civil rights organization. The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions was launched by Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in January and include in its membership elected officials from 15 states as well as local and national organizations. CDLS was formed to fight against local government pre-emption laws passed by state legislatures, which it claims are often pushed through by “shadowy special interests and unaccountable lobbyists.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: DOUGLAS SUNSHINE JOINS COURT CLERKS ORGANIZATION via Florida PoliticsSunshine has been named chief legal officer of the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers statewide association, according to a Monday news release. Sunshine is a state government and legal veteran, with more than 25 years of experience. He’s been Agency Rules Coordinator for the Agency for Health Care Administration and Florida Department of Revenue. He also served in the Florida Department of Health’s Medical Quality Assurance Unit, the Office of General Counsel for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Florida Engineers Management Corp., and the Florida Department of State.

PERSONNEL NOTE: FSU’S HIRES ALUMNA AS ITS NEW VP FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS via Florida Politics – The new hire is Amy Hecht, an FSU graduate who was VP for student affairs at The College of New Jersey, a public institution with about 7,400 students. Enrollment at FSU is nearly 42,000. “We are extremely pleased to welcome Amy back to her alma mater,” President John Thrasher said.  “Amy’s knowledge and experience in student affairs, as well as her passion for FSU, will serve our students well as we strive to continue on our path of excellence.” Hecht will oversee student housing, health, counseling, and recreation programs, as well as a career center, the student union, the student government association, and the dean of students. … She will succeed Mary Coburn, who is retiring at the end of this semester after 14 years as VP for student affairs.

FLORIDA WINTER BAR EXAM PASSAGE RATE NOW AT LOWEST POINT IN 8 YEARS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Of 751 first-time takers, 433 passed the bar, or 57.7 percent, according to a release from the state’s Board of Bar Examiners. That’s down from the high pass rate of 80.2 percent in February 2013, when there were 819 first-timers, and the lowest passing percentage for the February exam since 2009. “Save for a few states, bar passage rates have continued to decline nationwide,” the Above the Law blog reported late last year, noting that California’s July bar exam pass rate was its lowest in 32 years. Experts have placed the blame on law schools lowering their admission standards to fill seats as the number of applicants continues to decline. Part of that decline is because full-time lawyer jobs keep dwindling, according to The American Lawyer. Citing U.S. Department of Labor data last week, the website reported “employment in the U.S. legal sector took another hit in March, with the industry losing 1,500 jobs.”

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MIAMI HERALD WINS TWO PULITZERS, FOR PANAMA PAPERS INVESTIGATION AND EDITORIAL CARTOONS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Staff coverage of the Panama Papers, the international investigation that exposed how crooks and millionaires use the secret world of offshore companies, and the mordant political commentary of editorial cartoonist Jim Morin in a year rife with material won the Miami Herald two Pulitzer Prizes … The 2017 prize for explanatory reporting was awarded to the Herald, its parent company McClatchy and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for their dive into a massive cache of leaked documents that revealed a financial system of tax havens preferred by tax dodgers, corrupt politicians and drug dealers whose money often wound up in Miami real estate. The 2017 prize for editorial cartooning went to Morin, whose unmistakable quill-pen drawings and piercing captions have anchored the Herald’s editorial pages since 1978. Morin became a two-time Pulitzer winner, having previously earned the coveted prize in 1996.

TIMES FOOD CRITIC LAURA REILEY’S ‘FARM TO FABLE’ SERIES IS FINALIST FOR PULITZER PRIZE via the Tampa Bay Times – … which exposed false claims of food origins by many restaurants and farmers’ markets. Reiley’s work prompted state investigations into the claims and other state-level regulatory changes. She was one of three finalists for the prize, which was won by Hilton Als of the New Yorker.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, Jupiter Medical CEO John Couris discusses the Certificate of Need program as he tells lawmakers some regulations are necessary to maintain quality care in hospitals. Gomes also interviews Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez about his efforts to see a statewide ban on red-light cameras. House District 66 hopeful Berny Jacques gets a running start in his 2018 campaign. Plus, Gomes shares reactions from Florida officials about Donald Trump’s decision to attack Syria.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU Tuesday’s Governors Club buffet menu offers a taste of the South with chicken noodle soup; spinach salad – spinach, red onion, roma tomato, bacon, shallots, mushrooms, eggs, herb vinaigrette; tiger slaw – red cabbage, carrots, coleslaw dressing; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; fried chicken; fried catfish & hush puppies; scalloped potatoes; butter beans & ham; and corn choux.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favorite GrayRobinson lobbyist, Chris Carmody, as well as Betsy Collins and the St. Pete Chamber’s Chris Steinocher.

Sunburn for 4.10.17 – Pulitzer Prize Day! On the road with Chris King; Jose Mallea raises $ in D.C.; Ballard’s $900K payday

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 should be a slow day and relatively slow week in the Capitol as lawmakers stick close to home for the Easter break. They’ll convene Wednesday and Thursday to pass each chamber’s respective budget, but other than that it’s the calm before the storm of the last three weeks of Session.

With this lull in the action, you can pay attention to the awarding of the Pulitzer Prizes, which will take place at 3 p.m. from Columbia University.

Pulitzers expert Roy J. Harris Jr. asks: With President Donald Trump‘s attacks against the media now a daily reality, “what will the winning journalism say about the press’ value to the public?” Harris also wrote his annual preview of the competition for Poynter. The big-ticket national prizes will likely be won by the New York Times and The Washington Post (look for David Fahrenthold to score for his coverage of Trump’s charitable history, or lack thereof.)

So, will any Florida-based newspapers win a Pulitzer?

The Tampa Bay Times has won 12 throughout its distinguished history, including two last year. However, I’m not readily familiar with any Times projects produced in 2016 that were awards bait. I mean, nothing like what it published on Sunday, “Why Cops Shoot.” Then again, restaurant critic Laura Reiley‘s investigation into where her local eateries were really getting their ingredients may be one of the best pieces of criticism EVER. Might the Pulitzer judges stretch a little beyond what typically wins to recognize her work?

The Palm Beach Post’s reporting on the community’s heroin crisis has garnered national attention and awards, including recognition for the ethical struggle involved in publishing the faces and stories of those who died from the epidemic. It would not be surprising to see the Post end up being a finalist for a Pulitzer, although the issue has not been wrapped up with a pretty little bow on top of it (newspaper reports, officials take concrete action, problem is mitigated) like other investigative series in competition.

Every story written by the Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller probably deserves some sort of award and her Sisyphean effort to shine a spotlight on the horrors of the state’s child protective system deserves as much attention as possible, but since she did not win for her incredible work in 2014-15 on “Innocents Lost,” she may never win.

Leave it to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to be Florida’s best chance for snatching a Pulitzer. As Harris notes, a team from the SHT was a Ring finalist for “Bias on the Bench,” which detailed unequal treatment of black and white defendants in Florida. It was also  among the top American Society of News Editors honorees announced this past week.

Will the Herald-Tribune’s team of Josh Salman, Emily Le Coz and Elizabeth Johnson earn the highest honor in journalism. Tune in today to find out. The event is being livestreamed from the historic World Room of the journalism building at New York’s Columbia University.

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I THINK I DID MORE INVESTIGATING ON PAM BONDI-TRUMP U THAN STATE ‘INVESTIGATORS’ DID via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – The state attorney assigned to decide whether Attorney General Bondi did anything wrong when she asked for and accepted $25,000 in campaign cash from Trump — after her office had been asked to investigate Trump University — declared that he found no evidence to say she did. Of course, there wasn’t much evidence the prosecutor actually looked for evidence either. In a five-page report, Fort Myers State Attorney Stephen Russell’s office does not cite a single interview his office conducted in the course of reviewing this case. Nor does it reveal any new evidence the media hadn’t already reported. Not only that — and this part is key — Russell’s investigation actually ignored key evidence that had already been unearthed. Instead, Russell’s report seems to try to substantiate a claim that Bondi has made before — that she didn’t know her office had received complaints about Trump U when she requested and took campaign money from Trump.

‘LET’S GET TO WORK’ POSTS OVER $600K IN CONTRIBUTIONS FOR MARCH via Florida Politics – The political committee behind Gov. Rick Scott recently listed its March fundraising on its website. The largest contribution was $100,000 from U.S. Sugar. Also ponying up was Southeast QSR, a Clearwater-based Taco Bell franchisee, with $50,000, and Comcast Cable with $25,000. Its biggest expenditure in March was more than $976,000 to On Message of Annapolis, Maryland for “media production.” The PAC has run TV ads in recent weeks to back up Scott’s defense of the Enterprise Florida economic development organization and VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing arm. Speaker Corcoran has criticized and tried to eliminate them as dispensers of “corporate welfare.” Scott says they help create jobs.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will honor Florida veterans during a ceremony at 9 a.m. the Bonita Bay Club, 26660 Country Club Drive in Bonita Springs.

ON THE ROAD WITH CHRIS KING, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay TimesKing, 38, an affordable housing executive and father of three from Winter Park, was on the trail just days after he launched his campaign with a hometown kickoff. He joins a diverse and wide-open field that includes … Andrew GillumGwen Graham and Philip Levine. He said Florida Democrats keep losing races for governor because they don’t articulate a vision and a message to voters, especially on economic issues. But the last two races were close — about 1 percentage point both times — so that while the losses pile up, his party is keeping within striking distance. King supports raising the minimum wage and restoring the voting rights of non-violent felons. He opposes the death penalty in most cases, saying it conflicts with his religious views, but that he would enforce the law as governor. “We need to limit its use,” King said. “I believe it’s a penalty in decline.”

TENSIONS REFLECT A REPUBLICAN ‘PARTY IN TRANSITION’ via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat –  This is an extraordinary time for the Republican Party. The November election maintained its grip on all branches of state government. Voters also delivered Washington to the GOP as well, increasing the influence of Florida’s Congressional Republican delegation and installing a kindred spirit of Gov. Scott in the White House. But once the celebration quieted, the pressure of governing opened a rift in the coalition … The split in Tallahassee became public and vicious two weeks before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. Corcoran rallied the House Republican Caucus at the trendy Edison Restaurant to go forth and eliminate Scott’s pet project Enterprise Florida. He called the economic development agency, which hands out tax credits and other incentives to businesses, an example of “corporate welfare.” Scott was said to be livid. He responded with a video depicting Corcoran as a “job-killing Tallahassee politician.” Scott and Corcoran are on opposite sides regarding whether a fiscally-conservative government provides business incentives. How the Scott v. Corcoran debate will influence the budget battle remains an open question.

SAY WHAT, MR. CALL? A savvy Capitol insider messaged: “I actually read a James Call piece. A piece in which he seems to suggest that the divide in Florida is somehow connected to Trump phenomenon. It’s not. Maybe they utilized some of the same bandwidth – but his piece misses the 2010 split between establishment and a self-funded candidate, the decision by Scott to bypass the party after they rejected his party chair, the fact that Corcoran-Scott dynamic got started last year. and any story that relies on MacManus and Pafford as its anchors …. deep breath.”

SHOT – ANITERE FLORES, ON THE EDGE OF A BLACK HOLE via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – Bright-eyed Flores — with that arresting smile, the bounce in her step and so much time, it seemed, to hear out all comers — entered the Republican Senate in 2010 with as much promise as I’d ever seen in a freshman. She was a breath of fresh air. Fast-forward to 2017 and so many are asking themselves, what happened? The promise is gone, say senators throughout her caucus. It’s been soured by … what? Ambition? Opportunity? A change of allegiance to principles perhaps she held all along but didn’t realize or reveal? They plain don’t like what they see anymore. Maybe it’s only jealousy on the part of senators left behind. Then again, maybe the heaped-on praise went to her head, who knows? The point is, when I ask GOP senators where Flores goes from here, when Negron’s gavel isn’t propping her up — I usually get a wry smile or a shrug or worse: an answer.

CHASER – FLORES’S LEADERSHIP AND ‘GUN-BILL FATIGUE’ DISARM LEGISLATURE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – When Flores declared, unprompted, a month ago that there were a lot of controversial gun-rights measures she wouldn’t support this year, the Miami Republican state senator truly set the tone for the Legislature’s gun debate in 2017. With the session half over, only a handful of the two dozen pieces of gun-related legislation proposed this year have been considered at all, and of those, only a couple have a viable path at actually becoming law. The House approved three such bills this week — two of which could likely be enacted this year, including highly divisive changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law — but lawmakers in both chambers and from both parties predict those measures will be the only ones on the table for this session. Several attribute Flores — who is No. 2 in the Senate behind President Negron — as the reason. “I think the members — not just myself, but some others — we’re a little gun-bill fatigued,” Flores told the Herald/Times.

COMPROMISE WON’T BE SO EASY IN CHANGING ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Senate President Joe Negron … wants to hold the line and stick with the Senate’s more stringent version of SB 128, which would require prosecutors to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” — before trial — why a criminal defendant cannot claim immunity from prosecution in use-of-force cases. Negron said he, personally, doesn’t want to accept the compromise language the House approved that sets the standard one step lower, to “clear and convincing evidence … I would rather have ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’” Negron said. “As I’ve said from the beginning, if the government wants to convict you of a serious crime and send you to prison, they should have the burden to prove that at every stage of the proceeding beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.”

DANNY BURGESS: ‘ABSOLUTELY, THE INJURED WORKER IS A BIG CONCERN HERE’ via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The workers’ compensation fix that emerged from the House Commerce Committee last week was the product of hours — and hours — of testimony, debate and negotiations. We caught up with I&B chairman Burgess immediately following the Commerce vote and ducked into a hearing room alcove for a quick post-mortem. Q: Are you disappointed you couldn’t get the unions on board? The actual workers? There was a lot of discussion here that we never hear about the workers. A: I think you heard that from every stakeholder: Absolutely, the injured worker is a big concern here. You heard that in our committee (Insurance & Banking), too and from my own mouth. I believe our extension of indemnity benefits is definitely a step in that right direction. There’s no question that the injured worker is one piece of the heart of the balance of the grand bargain. Q: That’s the temporary total disability? A: Yes, from 104 to 260 weeks. — Yes! (He answered the roll call for the next bill on the agenda.)

ABUSE OF THE SYSTEM BY A FEW COULD COST EVERYONE via Ann Howard of The Capitolist – The Consumer Protection Coalition, (which is a self-described ” broad-based group of business leaders, consumer advocates, real estate agents, construction contractors, insurance agents and insurance trade groups”) says the complicated issue of Assignment of Benefits fraud  will literally cost everyone in the state, so they are taking the fight to directly to lawmakers for relief. “Make no mistake: If the Legislature fails to address the growing cancer of AOB for a fifth straight year, Florida’s hardworking families are the ones that will lose. Our leaders have crystal clear evidence that AOB fraud and abuse is threatening the affordability of homeownership for average Floridians. For lower-income families and those on fixed incomes, it could literally put the dream of homeownership out of reach,” said Dulce Suarez-Resnick, independent insurance agent in Miami. According to state-run Citizens Property Insurance, AOB fraud is hitting Citizens, hard.

COST OF TAX EXEMPTION FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA WOULD BE MINIMAL via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference estimated the bill might reduce tax receipts, but not enough to notice — even when accounting for the non-state residents who would qualify for cannabis cards if the bill becomes law. “We felt like there might be a few snowbirds coming in, but we didn’t think that would be a lot,” said Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. More telling would be CS/SB 406’s extension of medical marijuana use to people suffering “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as those enumerated, and for which a physician believes the use of medical marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient. Bottom line: a “negative insignificant” revenue impact.

GREYHOUND ACTIVISTS JOIN FLORIDA’S GAMBLING FIGHT via Alexandra Glorioso of – There’s GREY2K, a national advocacy group with less muscle but no less fight championing the cause of greyhounds. This year’s battle over gambling offers the greyhound group a rare opportunity to accomplish its goal: eliminate dog racing now held to justify card games in Florida. Some Republicans say GREY2K could benefit this year from the intricate chess game of ideology, lawsuits and special interests, and successfully disconnect greyhound racing from card games. “It would completely depend on the details,” said [Mike] La Rosa. But he acknowledged, it’s “something that could be discussed.” [Bill] Galvano said he was not interested in taking La Rosa up on a slot machine-live-events trade but did call greyhound racing a “dying industry.” About GREY2K, he said, “They are effective, but it’s an easy sell.”

PRIVATE NONPROFIT, FOR-PROFIT UNIVERSITIES COULD SOON GET REGULATORY RELIEF via William Patrick of – Bad press, combined with federal rules and regulations disproportionately targeting the higher education alternatives, have taken their toll on nonprofit and for-profit universities in recent years — but that could soon change. For-profit and private nonprofit colleges and universities offer career-building options separate from traditional public universities … regulatory change is afoot. In February, Arthur Keiser, chancellor and CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based Keiser University, was named chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. The committee will make recommendations to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — a noted Florida education reformer — regarding accreditation and institutional eligibility for federal student financial aid.

***Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) reduce prescription drug costs and protect Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs from high drug prices. PBMs will save Floridians $43.4 billion over the next decade. Learn more at***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: CFO Jeff Atwater will present the annual Florida Fire Service Awards during a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on the 22nd Floor of the Capitol. The annual ceremony recognizes members of the fire services community who have shown excellence in their profession.

CONGRATS: The Florida Osteopathic Medical Association announced this week that Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean is its 2017 Legislator of the Year. FOMA said the annual award goes to a lawmaker that has proven their support for osteopathic medicine and the delivery of quality health care to the citizens of Florida. “I am beyond honored to be FOMA’s 2017 Legislator of the Year,” Bean said. “As a longtime advocate for health care issues and a former chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee, I understand how important it is to be constantly working to improve our health care and adopt treatment, prevention and alleviation advancements that benefit all Floridians.”

MOVING ONLydia Claire Brooks is no longer a legislative assistant for Rep. Loranne Ausley, per LobbyTools. She now has three district secretaries: Jessica Lamb, Shane Roerk, and newcomer Mark Hodges.

REST IN PEACE: FRANK ATTKISSON KILLED IN BICYCLE-CAR CRASH via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Former Osceola County chairman, Florida state representative, and Kissimmee Mayor Attkisson was killed when the bicycle he was riding was struck by a car … Attkisson, 61, was riding on Kissimmee Park Road near St. Cloud around 6:30 p.m. Thursday when his bike was struck from behind by a car driven by 26-year-old Kristie Jean Knoebel of St. Cloud … The crash is being investigated. Attkisson was transported to Osceola Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Republican served a long political career that began on the Kissimmee City Council in the early 1990s and included a stint as Kissimmee mayor from 1996-2000. He served in the House of Representatives from 2000-2008, when he was term limited out. In 2010, he ran for and won a seat on the Osceola County Commission, and two years later was elected the commission’s chairman. However, he lost re-election in 2014.

ABORTION AGAIN AT ISSUE IN LATEST CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW HEARING via Florida PoliticsAnti-abortion activists took to the microphone early and often at Friday’s Constitution Revision Commission hearing in Boca Raton. The 37-member panel, which convenes every 20 years to review and rewrite the state’s governing document, is now on a listening tour, holding public hearings around the state. A series of speakers Friday, as they had at previous hearings, urged the commission to amend the constitution to undo a 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision striking down as unconstitutional a state law that required parental consent before a minor can get an abortion. Several complained that the constitutional provision at issue, the right to privacy, was misconstrued to apply to abortion rights instead of a right to “informational privacy” against the government.

An estimated 500 Floridians made their voices heard at the most recent meeting of the Constitutional Revision Commission at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.


In the 1960s, “morning announcements” at Miami Crestview Elementary School were served up with a side order of morning Scriptures.  The daily Bible readings skewed heavily New Testament, and the Jewish kids always dreaded spring, with its Easter ham-handed swipes at “Christ-killers.”

It was confusing, unsettling, and sometimes downright scary. Somehow, we managed to weather it without help from the ACLU.

We got all the help we needed from our teachers. Whatever the administration might be pushing on the public address system, the faculty had time, in those days, to pay attention to the children in front of them. There were fewer Test Police and Helicopter Parents. Teachers knew by the end of the first week of school what they could and could not expect of us. They had the flexibility to peel off children teetering on the brink of boredom and throw them into a “resource group,” where they learned about Malthus and Marx. Karl, not Graucho. They gave extra time to those who needed extra support.

At Easter, and all year long, the Jewish kids—-along with the children of Christians and atheists—had help from parents, as well. We learned how to go in to other people’s homes and houses of worship for simple meals and special occasions and join hands and bow our heads as our hosts gave voice to their traditions.

These lessons in respect served us as we outgrew Miami and our circles expanded to include Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, and others whose beliefs were not represented in north Dade County in the years before Joe Robbie brought football to town and a stadium to our neighborhood.

Respect for those who invite you into their lives is always pleasing to any God with whom anyone has ever had a personal relationship. Grabbing the microphone in the principal’s office to proselytize to a captive audience of elementary school children is just abusive showing off.

Last week, a self-described “constitutional conservative” used her public address system at the Constitution Revision Commission—a microphone that belongs to 20 million Floridians— to pray to her god, her way.  It’s not very respectful thing to do, but it’s probably an excellent indication of where this Commission is coming from, and where it’s planning to go.

MARTIN DYCKMAN: WHO NEEDS STRONG, INDEPENDENT COURTS? WE DO. via Florida Politics – It’s a paradox in America’s ongoing experiment with self-government that we depend on the weakest branch of government to defend us from the more powerful ones. The Founders gave a lot of thought and ink to this. Writing in the Federalist, Alexander Hamilton pointed out that the judiciary would always be “least dangerous” to the public’s freedoms because it would be “least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.” The courts have no police or troops of their own, no power to make laws but only to review them, no control over even their own budgets. It would be their job, though, to protect against abuses of power by the president or the Congress. When you see one of those branches going after the courts, like the hotheads in the Florida Legislature at the moment, consider whose ox they’re really trying to gore: yours … The Legislature largely ignored you, to put it politely, and tried to hide the evidence of its skullduggery by hiding behind such phony excuses as “legislative privilege” and “trade secrets.” All that took time, nearly three years in fact, but the court eventually, and rightly, ordered up new maps for the state Senate and the congressional districts … Remember who needs strong, independent courts. You do.

PAT NEAL: BUSINESS RENT TAX STIFLES FLORIDA’S ECONOMIC FUTURE via Florida Politics – The business rent tax is the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire country and Florida is the not-so-proud holder of that title … Due to this burdensome tax, Florida businesses shell out more than $1.7 billion every year to the state. As a result, our state economy dramatically suffers in the form of suppressed job growth and economic activity. Luckily, Gov. Scott is committed to cutting this tax on hardworking small-business owners and budding entrepreneurs. The governor has repeatedly made cutting or abolishing this tax one of his top priorities for numerous years as part of his commitment to creating jobs for Florida families. Recently, he has hit the road advocating for a 25 percent cut in the tax –  a move that could save Florida businesses more than $400 million per year and reduce prices for Florida consumers. The business rent tax places a disproportionate burden on small businesses and startups that do not have the capital to purchase bigger office space, hire new employees or expand to other locations. All of this creates a chilling effect on many of Florida’s more than 2 million small businesses.

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REPUBLICAN BOBBY OLSZEWSKI FILES TO RUN FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 44 SEAT via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsOlszewski, who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Orange County Commission, filed for the house seat that will be vacated by state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, who is not running again. First, Olszewski rounded up a strong list of supporters, including 30 local elected officials, mostly from western Orange County. Two other candidates already have filed for that seat, including Republican Usha Jain of Orlando, who also ran unsuccessfully last year for the Orange County Commission, and Democrat Paul Jason Chandler of Orlando, a newcomer as a candidate.

HD 66 HOPEFUL BERNY JACQUES STARTS STRONG, RAISES NEARLY $30K IN MARCH via Mitch Perry of Florida PoliticsJacques raised $29,740 in March, the first month of fundraising after launching a 2018 bid for Pinellas County’s House District 66. Contributors to the former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney’s campaign include former Jeb Bush staffer Slater Bayliss, GOP fundraiser Brent Sembler, local Republican heavyweight Jim Holton, Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chair Mike Griffin and Fritz Brogan, former Executive Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Rick Scott. Jacques also picked up an endorsement from another local Pinellas County official, Largo City Commissioner Jamie Robinson.


PERSONNEL NOTE: GINGER DELEGAL SELECTED AS FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR via Florida PoliticsVirginia “Ginger” Delegal is one step closer to becoming the next Florida Association of Counties executive director. Delegal had been selected by the FAC Executive Committee in February, and confirmed by the Board of Directors last week. She has been interim Executive Director since Feb. 9. President Kathy Bryant and Immediate Past President Barbara Sharief now will begin final contract negotiations with Delegal. The contract, when complete, will go before the Board for final approval … She is married to Mark Delegal, currently a partner with Holland & Knight.

APPOINTED: Sara Gaver to the Florida Rehabilitation Council.

REAPPOINTED: Paul Wilson to the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.

BALLARD PARTNERS SIGNS $900K CONTRACT WITH THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC via Megan Wilson of The Hill Ballard Partners, a firm connected to Trump, has signed its first foreign government as a client: the Dominican Republic. The Florida-based company helped Trump win the state in the presidential election and recently opened a K Street office to expand its business to Washington. The Dominican Republic signed a one-year contract with the firm worth $900,000, according to disclosure reports filed with the Justice Department. The contract does not list specifics about what the firm, founded by longtime Florida lobbyist and fundraiser Brian Ballard, will be doing for the country.

MIAMI-DADE MAYOR’S SON JOINS COREY LEWANDOWSKI LOBBY SHOP via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaCarlos Gimenez Jr., former consultant for Trump and the son and namesake of Miami-Dade’s mayor, is joining the lobbying shop run by the president’s former campaign manager, Lewandoski, as it drums up business in one of the nation’s most dynamic metropolitan areas. Gimenez said he joined the newly founded firm, Avenue Strategies, to focus less on lobbying and more on strategic consulting and business development for clients in Florida and Latin America. “We’re not just representing any client,” Gimenez, a 40-year-old attorney from the Miami-area, said. “We represent those who would further the interests of the Trump Administration and the American people.” Asked what interests those would be, Gimenez quickly said: “bringing back jobs and manufacturing to the United States.”


Brett Bacot, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: City of South Daytona

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: QlikTech, Inc.

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: Roche Surety and Casualty Company, Inc

Lindsay Erin Raphael, Corey Staniscia, Tripp Scott: The Balmoral Condominium Association, Inc.

Trey Traviesa, Strategos Public Affairs: SAI Interactive, Inc. d/b/a Thinking Media; Study Edge

SPOTTEDMarty Fiorentino at Omarosa Manigault‘s wedding and reception in Washington, D.C. at Trump International Hotel. She married Pastor John Allen NewmanFiorentino has taken a stint at the USDOT to work alongside Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

***The Senate Prospective Payment System plan will protect Florida’s aging seniors by incentivizing quality care. Learn more about how this reimbursement plan will promote improvement in Florida’s skilled-nursing centers. Learn more here.***

FSU RETIREMENT TRIBUTE TO VP MARY COBURN DRAWS HUGE CROWD AT WESTCOTT via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat – For the past 14 years, Coburn has helped chart the course for nearly everything involving FSU students – opening new residence halls, resolving issues of Greek life, addressing issues of free speech, consoling parents who have lost a child and promoting diversity and civility on campus. She’s done it all. Coburn is retiring as of May 19. She will take a sabbatical this summer and return to teaching this fall. Her successor is expected to be named next week. Coburn’s tenure at FSU actually started in 1981 in student development, rising to associate dean from 1994 to 2005. She left from August 1995 to January 2003, to become vice president for student affairs at Tallahassee Community College under President T.K. Wetherell. She returned to FSU after Wetherell assumed the presidency in 2003 to become vice president of student affairs.

HYPERLOOP ONE EYES 26-MINUTE MIAMI-ORLANDO ROUTE FOR TUBE TRAIN via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel –  … as one of 11 new alternatives. The Hyperloop initiative was created by billionaire Elon Musk; it hopes to connect cities at speeds similar to, or faster than, air travel at a much cheaper cost, eventually. The Orlando route was included in a recent announcement without much detail about who proposed it. Last January, teams of students from UCF submitted ideas for the local route. Hyperloop is a fledgling concept, having been introduced in 2013 by Musk, who shortly thereafter left the project to focus on his other businesses. Hyperloop One met policymakers and transportation experts in Washington D.C. … where it introduced 11 routes that had been pitched.

PAGING SPEAKER CORCORAN – HARBOR BRANCH FOUNDATION SUES FAU IN ‘HOSTILE TAKEOVER’ OF $68 MILLION via Conrad deFiebre of TCPalm – The nine-year marriage of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and Florida Atlantic University is on the rocks amid a lawsuit accusing the university of a “hostile takeover” to seize control of the foundation’s $68 million endowment … it’s a big-bucks battle over a world-renowned research facility often described by FAU’s president as the university’s “crown jewel.” Lawyers for the Fort Pierce-based institution’s foundation said without intervention by the St. Lucie County circuit court, Boca Raton-based FAU could divert Harbor Branch Foundation funds away from its charitable charter’s mission of marine research and state requirements for its administration of millions in specialty license plate money. “We don’t know what FAU would do if they got control of the endowment,” said Harbor Branch Foundation attorney Joseph Galardi. According to his legal filing, FAU in 2015 began trying to use endowment funds for purposes not approved by the endowment’s independent board.

TAMPA RELEASES ‘TAMPA TOGETHER: STATE OF THE CITY’ VIDEO — The city of Tampa has released a five-minute video highlighting Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s “State of City” speech. Buckhorn, who announced earlier this year he won’t run for governor in 2018, can’t run for re-election again because of term-limits, but used his address to unveil several initiatives, including one called Autism Friendly Tampa. “I came here not to do little things but to do big things; to leave this city in better shape than it was given to me, to prepare Tampa for its next chapter to give hop to the least, and the last and the lost, to empower our neighborhoods, to invest in the infrastructure of opportunity, to make this city the place in America where the best and the brightest want to be,” he said. “I don’t know about you, Tampa, but I intend to finish strong.” Click the image below to watch the video.

DISNEY SEEKS PATENT FOR INTERACTIVE ‘HUMANOID’ ROBOTS via Ashley Carter of Orlando News 13 – The robots would “move and physically interact like an animated character.” The soft-body robots would be used to provide “interactive guidance or entertainment in stores and amusement parks,” according to the patent application. Since the robots would be interacting with park visitors, especially children, the inventors are making safety a priority. “To physically interact with children, the inventors understood that the robot should be soft and durable,” the filing stated. In order to achieve this, the robots would be comprised of multiple body segments and interconnecting joints. Each segment would have a “fluid-filled void” that could sense pressure (i.e., a hug from a child or collision) and adjust how the joints operate.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Jeff Atwater, Emily Duda Buckley, Matt Carlucci, Jesse Phillips, and Alli-Liby Schoonover. Celebrating today with a Budweiser is Jose Gonzalez. Also celebrating today is Jeremy Branch.

Sunburn for 4.7.17 – Uber victory; Bondi didn’t bribe; Thank you for being you, Mr. Speaker; Perry Thurston is everywhere!; Worm gruntin’

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

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


After three years of frustration and failure, a bill regulating transportation network companies in Florida is on the verge of reaching the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.

On Thursday, the Senate Rules Committee passed SB 340 by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes.

The Senate move came a day after the House version (HB 221) passed 115-0, a vote very similar to the overwhelming approval received in the 2016 Session – that is before it died in the Senate, which has become a graveyard of late for ride-sharing legislation.

But in 2017, the mood in the Legislature’s upper chamber is very different.

This time, it appears statewide regulations on Uber and Lyft will soon become law.

Rep. Chris Sprowls is congratulated by Rep. James Grant after his bill to regulate transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft passed a second reading Tuesday. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

During the Rules Committee meeting, the sole objection came via Brandon Republican Tom Lee, who offered an amendment prohibiting government entities from entering exclusive contracts with a TNC. Lee maintained that if SB 340 is truly about free market competition and tearing down the taxi monopoly, government entities shouldn’t be able to make deals with local governments that restrict competition among other TNCs.

After Brandes had promised to address those concerns before his bill goes to the full Senate, Lee withdrew the amendment.

While the House version faced no dissent, sponsor Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor (who co-sponsored the bill with Tampa’s Jamie Grant) was pressed in Committee about the thoroughness of background checks for ride-sharing drivers.

Sprowls, a former prosecutor, argued the notion that a Level II background check is more rigorous than those ride-sharing drivers will be subjected to through under the statewide bill.

“The FBI database has 95 million records,” Sprowls said. “These multistage databases that we specifically outline in the bill have 500 million records.”

 Although the full Senate will have ample opportunity to refine the bill further, ride-sharing company officials sound confident that the bill will soon become state law.

“Today’s vote signals a major milestone in the effort to ensure every Florida resident and visitor has access to ridesharing,” exclaimed Stephanie Smith, Uber’s senior manager for public policy.


Lyft’s Chelsea Harrison: “We are grateful to the members of the Senate Rules Committee, and especially Senator Brandes, for advancing legislation to create a comprehensive statewide framework for ridesharing in Florida. This legislation will give Florida’s residents and visitors easy access to an affordable and reliable transportation option, ultimately providing the state with increased economic opportunity. We look forward to passage by the full Senate.”

Uber’s Stephanie Smith: “Today’s vote signals a major milestone in the effort to ensure every Florida resident and visitor has access to ridesharing. At Uber, we are focused on connecting people and communities, increasing mobility, and this vote brings us one step closer to achieving this. We are thankful for the hard work of Sen. Jeffrey Brandes on this bill, and the 10 members of the Senate Rules Committee who voted in favor of safe and reliable transportation options for everyone who lives, works, and visits Florida.”

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PAM BONDI BRIBERY CASE DROPPED FOR LACK OF EVIDENCE via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – Fort Myers-area State Attorney Stephen Russell presented Gov. Scott with the results of an investigation. The complaint stemmed from scrutiny last year over a $25,000 campaign contribution Bondi received from Trump in 2013. Bondi asked for the donation about the same time her office was being asked about a New York investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University. The investigation came after numerous complaints filed against Bondi by a Massachusetts attorney. Scott assigned the case to Russell after the initial prosecutor, Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober, requested a different prosecutor. A prosecutor working for Russell’s office concluded that there is no reasonable suspicion that Trump or Bondi broke Florida’s bribery law.

RICHARD CORCORAN: THE PRESS CORPS’ ENABLER via Florida Politics – At halftime in this year’s Legislative Session, Corcoran sounds like he’s getting a bit fatigued with questions about “transparency.” At a media availability on Thursday, the Land O’ Lakes Republican pushed back against a reporter’s question about special interests who draft bills, and whether leadership pressures committee chairs to hear those bills. “All I hear from you guys is ‘OK, you guys have done more than any other Legislature in the history of mankind (on) transparency and openness … but you forgot this one,’ ” Corcoran said. “Really, what you ought to say is thank you. We’ve made your lives a heck of a lot easier. You guys have not even had access to all of the documents and all of the information if it wasn’t for us filing lawsuits and dragging people who take taxpayer money up here before committees and browbeating them (about) what they’re spending money on.”

House Speaker Rep. Richard Corcoran reacts to a colleague on the floor of the House Tuesday at the Florida Capitol. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

CORCORAN SAYS EVERGLADES RESERVOIR BONDING STILL A PROBLEM AS OTHERS RAISE CONCERNS via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO FloridaCorcoran said a Senate proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir is “getting better and better” after it was overhauled. But the proposal to borrow up to $1.2 billion to build the reservoir remains a problem … “No, we’re not bonding” he told reporters. “Bonding is an issue.” The cost still would be split with the federal government and the reservoir size to be determined later. “Obviously, it’s a Senate priority,” Corcoran said. “We feel like it’s getting more and more into a place where, that you could see some sort of finality.”

HOUSE, SENATE PHILOSOPHICALLY SPLIT ON MEMBER PROJECTS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – (T)he question of which projects get funded is always a source of contention between the House and the Senate. But this year a more fundamentally philosophical difference has emerged between the chamber’s two leaders when it comes to the relatively small pots of local funding that help pay for members’ pet initiatives, or project requests given to them by lobbyists who represent local governments or non-profits. … The House’s $81.2 billion budget, roughly $4 billion smaller than the Senate plan, includes about $100 million in what Corcoran deems member projects, a significantly smaller number than the Senate. Though there is not an agreement on the amount of member projects in that proposed spending plan, Corcoran says the upper chamber includes about $700 million. … “$700 million is too much for projects,” he said. “That’s a lot of pork.”

A HIGHER HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION? GOOD FOR HOMEOWNERS, BAD FOR COUNTIES via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – For Florida homeowners, it sounds almost too good to be true: Another break on property taxes in the form of a bigger homestead exemption. For legislators, it’s an easy way to seek favor with voters in an election year because the tax break requires their approval in 2018. But for counties and cities, it’s a disaster in the making that they warn would cut property taxes for some but force higher taxes on businesses and snowbirds or force cuts in basic services such as police and fire protection. In a year when local officials say the Legislature is trying to override home rule as never before, counties are mobilizing to defeat legislation to increase the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 of the first $100,000 of a home’s taxable value.

HOUSE WORKER’S COMPENSATION PACKAGE EMERGES FROM COMMERCE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – The House workers’ compensation package survived hearings before the Commerce Committee Thursday, including business-friendly amendments that would leave injured workers paying their own attorney fees if they pursue meritless claims. One by one, the panel gave voice approval to three amendments offered by House Insurance & Banking chairman Danny Burgess, who has managed the underlying bill’s progress. The final vote on the bill was 20-14. … “I believe this bill does strike a balance between constitutionality and a strong reform,” Burgess said. “I fought tooth and nail to make sure we had a constitutional proposal.” Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw wasn’t sold. “I hope we get to a place that’s fair and balanced, but right now I think we’re way out of whack,” he said before voting “No.”


The conventional wisdom has been that trial lawyers are dominating the 2017 Session, flexing their muscle in both chambers.

On the other side, the term “trial lawyer” is anathema, the label that the GOP uses (even though many trial lawyers are Republican) to taint an issue that crosses their friends in the business community.

Whatever you call them, the lawyers took one for the team in the House Commerce Committee Thursday. A succession of business-friendly amendments made it on to the workers’ comp bill.

A big one worth noting is a cap on attorneys’ fees, which is a big win for the business community.

With budget conference still to come, though, anything can still happen. But maybe, just perhaps, Speaker Corcoran—an attorney himself—isn’t as smitten with the lawyers as people think.

INSURANCE INDUSTRY FRUSTRATED BY LACK OF PROGRESS IN LEGISLATURE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – For the last two years, the industry has pressed the Legislature to pass legislation aimed at curbing a spike in lawsuits over disputed water claims from homeowners, particularly in South Florida. But House and Senate versions of what to do are dramatically different, raising the possibility that nothing will ultimately pass this year to address what one Miami area insurance agent called a “growing cancer” … “We are here halfway through the 2017 legislative session and it appears another year may pass without reforms,” said Dulce Suarez-Resnick at a rally at the Florida Capitol Building. She said if reforms do not come, consumers are looking at rate increases to offset the cost of litigation. She said Citizens Property Insurance is looking at a 50 percent rate increase “all because the Legislature is tolerating an undeniable problem.”

AOB REFORMERS PRESENT PETITIONS, INSIST NO OFFENSE INTENDED AGAINST CARLOS TRUJILLO via Florida Politics – Advocates of assignment of benefits reform delivered 1,500 petition signatures to Speaker Corcoran’s office Thursday, renewing their campaign against what they consider dodgy lawsuits by unscrupulous contractors and attorneys. … The advocates, operating under the Florida Consumer Protection Coalition banner, blame abusive lawsuits involving AOBs for rising property insurance claims. … The speakers appeared thrown on the defensive by the first question from a reporter. It concerned a list Citizens has published naming the law firms producing the most AOB-related litigation. Fifth from the top is Trujillo Vargas Gonzalez Hevia, a name partner in which is House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo. … (Citizens Insurance chief Barry) Gilway stressed that he was not accusing Trujillo of any scams. “I did not say that or infer it, sir. What I’m saying, basically, is: There are 13 firms that are driving this, from Citizens’ perspective,” Gilway said.

HOUSE MEDICAID RESTRUCTURE INCLUDES ASKING FEDS FOR WORK REQUIREMENTS, ENROLLEE PREMIUMS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House Health & Human Services Committee agreed to submit its proposed committee bill restructuring the statewide Medicaid managed care program … PCB HHS 17-03 consolidates the program from 11 regions of the state into eight larger regions, and changes the number of contracted health plans for each region. The Agency for Health Care Administration asked for the changes as it prepares to re-procure plans for the program starting later this year. The bill directs AHCA to request federal approval to require enrollees to work, be searching for work or be in school to maintain Medicaid eligibility. It would come with exemptions for those with disabilities and single parents with infants.

— “Majority of voters in Florida favor Medicaid expansion, survey says” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald

LAWMAKERS CLOSER TO ANSWER ON CHARTER SCHOOL FACILITIES via Travis Pillow of – The state House is pushing ahead with a plan, included in its budget package, that would require school districts to steer some of their local property taxes to charters. A similar effort had stalled in the Senate, but was jump-started this week and won bipartisan approval today from the Appropriations Committee. SB 376 would steer more than $150 million to charter schools statewide, though funding would vary significantly among districts. Before the committee passed the bill, Sen. Oscar Braynon said he wanted to add more protections to head off “private enrichment” in charter school real estate deals. “No one wants to have taxpayer money go to enrich someone, and then when they sell or divest, they make money, and they walk away with taxpayers’ money,” Braynon said. He had proposed an amendment to that effect, but withdrew it for the time being.

KEEP IT SECRET: FLORIDA MAY CLOSE PRESIDENTIAL SEARCHES via The Associated Press – A House panel approved a bill that would keep confidential the name of anyone applying to become head of a college or university. The bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel would also keep confidential the names of people applying for other top positions such as dean or provost. The legislation (HB 351) heads next to the full House. A similar bill has not moved in the Senate. If the measure becomes law, the names of finalists for top jobs would be made public 21 days before there is a final vote to hire someone.

POLLUTION-SPILL BILL RACES TO APPROVAL BY SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – The Senate Appropriations Committee wastes little time or comment approving a proposal to make sure the public is notified within 48 hours of a toxic spill. The panel took bare minutes to vote the bill out unanimously. It was the final committee stop on the way to the Senate floor. CS/SB 532, the Public Notice of Pollution Act, requires notice to the Department of Environmental Protection of any spill within 24 hours. The department then would have 24 hours to tell the public. Violations could bring civil penalties of $10,000 per day. Sen. Bill Galvano of Bradenton filed the bill after an administrative law judge in September threw out a toxic-notice rule imposed by Gov. Rick Scott — who acted after it took three weeks for neighbors of a phosphate plant in Lake Wales to learn that it had spilled millions of gallons of radioactive wastewater into the aquifer.

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

DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 20; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 27; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 27; MLB All-Star Game – 95; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 148; Election Day 2017 – 213; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 251; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 275.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtable at 8:45 a.m. (CST) Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer, 210 Harbor Boulevard in Destin. He’ll then head to Pensacola, where he’ll hold a military roundtable at 11:15 a.m. (CST) at the Navy Federal Credit Union, Building 3, 5550 Heritage Oaks Drive.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Constitution Revision Commission will hold a public hearing from 9 a.m. until noon in the Acura Club at FAU Stadium at Florida Atlantic University 777 Glades Road in Boca Raton. The meeting is scheduled to go until noon, but ending times are tentative based on attendance and public interest.

CRC HEARING MOVING TO CAPITAL FROM PANHANDLE via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission is moving its public hearing next Wednesday from Pensacola to Tallahassee “to maximize public input and commissioner participation,” according to a press release. Don’t worry, northwest Florida residents: the CRC “will re-schedule a public hearing to be held in the Florida Panhandle in the upcoming weeks.” The hearing now will be held at Florida A&M University’s Efferson Student Union, in the Grand Ballroom. A map of the venue is here. Free parking will be available, with doors open to the public starting at 4 p.m.. The hearing will begin at 5 p.m. More info is on the commission’s website, at It’s formed every 20 years to review and propose changes to the state’s governing document after holding public hearings statewide. Any constitutional amendments it puts forth would have to be approved by at least 60 percent of voters on the 2018 general election ballot.

BEARS AGAIN ON WILDLIFE COMMISSION AGENDA via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The agenda for the April 19-20 FWC meeting in Tallahassee, includes a discussion of “bear management,” but the staff is not going to recommend a bear hunt, according to executive director Nick Wiley. “We are not planning to propose anything specific to bear hunting in 2017,” Wiley said in an email. “With that said, there is usually public comment about bear hunting at our commission meetings and I expect that to continue at this meeting. And our commissioners can certainly discuss the topic if they wish. So, I would say the issue is likely to come up given the level of interest we continue to see.”

STATE COULD PUT POLICE LINEUP STANDARDS INTO LAW via The Associated Press – The Senate voted unanimously for a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to use the lineup standards to avoid eyewitness mistakes that could lead to wrongful convictions. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement encouraged agencies to adopt the standards, but agencies aren’t required to do so. Eyewitness mistakes are to blame in 64 percent of cases in which defendants are later exonerated by DNA evidence. The current guidelines suggest lineups be conducted by an administrator who does not know the suspect in order to ensure impartiality. Also, witnesses should be told that suspects may or may not be in a photo or in-person lineup and that they are not required to make an identification.

SUPREME COURT TWEAKS ITS ‘SENIOR JUSTICE’ RULE AFTER CONTROVERSY via Florida Politics The Florida Supreme Court no longer will allow its justices to keep working indefinitely on open cases after they leave the bench, according to a new rule released Thursday. After Justice James E.C. Perry officially retired on Dec. 30, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga allowed him to finish work on opinions as a “senior justice,” following decades of court practice. But critics, including Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran, cried foul. They complained Perry was displacing his successor, C. Alan Lawson, who started work the next day on Dec. 31. Perry worked for an additional month after that. Lawson—GOP Gov. Rick Scott‘s first Supreme Court pick—is a conservative; Perry most often voted with the court’s left-leaning contingent.

PARENTS CONTINUE CHALLENGE OF FLORIDA’S THIRD-GRADE RETENTION LAW via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – A group of parents from Hernando County and across Florida is asking the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider their challenge of the state’s third-grade retention law. Their attorney, Andrea Mogensen, filed a request for review Wednesday of a recent 1st District Court of Appeals decision tossing out their complaint. “The decision announces a rule of law that conflicts with and misapplies existing precedent of the Florida Supreme Court on the same questions of law,” Mogensen said. The 1st DCA ruled that the parents should have brought their suit in local jurisdictions and not in Leon County. It also said they did not meet any requirements for injunctive relief. The court further made strong statements in support of the state’s testing and promotion system.

PERRY THURSTON, OTHERS WANT CONFEDERATE STATUE ISSUE RESOLVED via Florida Politics – Former and current black lawmakers took to the Old Capitol steps Thursday to call for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to replace a statue of a Confederate general now in the U.S. Capitol. Led by Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and surrounded by alumni members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the group called for passage of Thurston’s bill that would formally approve Dr. Bethune to replace Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, will remain. But Thurston’s bill has yet to have a hearing, and competing legislation calls for a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of Grass,” to take Smith’s place.

Perry Thurston

CHRIS KING LONE GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE TO SHOW AT FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS SYMPOSIUM via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsKing tweeted such, “Honored to talk w/the great leaders at the @FLBlackCaucus Gubernatorial Symposium about how to make our future better than our past.” The other announced Democrat so far is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum … “He’s here. Showing up is half the battle,” caucus chair state Sen. Perry Thurston. “I want to thank him for showing up, thank him for being here.”

‘GROVELAND FOUR’ EXONERATION RESOLUTION PASSES COMMITTEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – ‘The Groveland Four’ were four young men and teenagers who endured one of the darkest known moments of Florida’s Jim Crow history when they were falsely accused of rape, then all of them were beaten, two of them were killed, and two were convicted and imprisoned on what legal researchers are now convinced was false evidence … the House Judicial Committee unanimously approved a House Resolution 631, declaring the story, which began with a 1949 incident on a Lake County back road outside of Groveland, to have been a “grave injustice.” The bill declares that injustice toward Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas, offers an official apology on behalf of the state of Florida, exonerates them and urges Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet to pardon Irvin and Greenlee, the two who lived long enough to be convicted and imprisoned.

STATE MAY SPEND $1.2 MILLION ON REFORM SCHOOL MEMORIAL via The Associated Press – The state Legislature is already considering a bill to formally apologize for abuse at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, where nearly 100 boys died between 1900 and 1973. The school was located near Marianna, some 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Tallahassee. A House panel voted to carry out recommendations made last year by a state task force. The bill authorizes creation of a memorial at the state Capitol and one near Marianna. It also calls for reburying victims of a 1914 fire at the school cemetery in Marianna, and to rebury other remains in Tallahassee.

TODAY IN #CLUSTERF*CKS: HOW A SUICIDAL FLORIDA FOSTER CHILD FELL THROUGH THE CRACKS via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – When Lauryn Martin-Everett hanged herself at a troubled Tavernier youth shelter, children’s advocates in the small island community began asking questions. The answers, they were told, were hundreds of miles away. Though the 16-year-old had been sent to live at the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter on Plantation Key, the responsibility for her care remained in Southwest Florida. Members of a South Florida child welfare oversight board expressed frustration … that the teen had been moved far from home, and no one in her new county was responsible for ensuring her welfare. “We’re a small community down there; we’re not talking about Miami-Dade,” said Alexsa Leto, who heads the Monroe County office of the state’s Guardian-ad-Litem Program, which matches vulnerable children with court-appointed advocates. “And we didn’t know the child was there.”

***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***

PERSONNEL NOTE: STEVE JACKSON OUT AS FDP HOUSE VICTORY POLITICAL DIRECTOR — Jackson is expected to continue with the FDP, serving as the statewide field director, Jackson was hired in 2015 after a nationwide search to serve as the political director for House campaigns. In a statement announcing his hire, then-incoming Minority Leader Janet Cruz said she thought it was important for “House Victory to have our own dedicated political director focused exclusively on electing more Democrats to the House.” A campaign veteran, Jackson got his began his career as a field organizer in Florida during President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, before going to work as the field and data director for the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee. He went on to lead the successful re-election campaign for then Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez in 2014, and spent about a year working as the data and targeting manager for America Votes, before joining House Victory. Look for Jane’e Murphy, a close advisor to incoming Minority Leader Kionee McGhee, to play a key role going forward; although she is not going to be taking over political director role (yet).

MIAMI-DADE MAYOR’S SON JOINS COREY LEWADOWSKI LOBBY SHOP via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Carlos Gimenez Jr., former consultant for Donald Trump and the son and namesake of Miami-Dade’s mayor, is joining the lobbying shop run by the president’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandoski, as it drums up business in one of the nation’s most dynamic metropolitan areas. Gimenez said he joined the newly founded firm, Avenue Strategies, to focus less on lobbying and more on strategic consulting and business development for clients in Florida and Latin America.


Ivette O’Doski, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers; Florida Chapter American College of Cardiology

Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecencia: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and its Affiliates

Jon Kilman, Paul Lowell, Foley & Lardner: Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association

Toni Large, Steven Uhlfelder, Uhlfelder & Associates: Florida Medical Horticulture

Janet Mabry, Mabry and Associate: Academica

Kimberly McGlynn, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Coalition of Ignition Interlock; Florida Chapter American College of Cardiology

Bill Rubin, Amy Bisceglia, Christopher Finkbeiner, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: St. Petersburg Distillery

Jon Yapo, Foley & Lardner: Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association; NeuroTrauma Association of America, Inc.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Ed Brodsky will discuss Gov. Rick Scott’s reassignment of cases from 9th Circuit State Attorney Airamis Ayala to 5th Circuit State Attorney Ben King.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show will feature new Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt, who is also the first woman to lead the city’s police force, and Republican State Sen. Anitere Flores.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include former Democratic State Rep. Ed Narain, Tampa Bay Times columnist Dan Ruth, political writer Joe Henderson and Tampa Republican Women Federated Club VP Terry Castro.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan will be on to talk about the upcoming Day of Love and Kindness for the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, while the show’s Common Ground segment will focus on health care legislation.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will be joined by Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week Kent Justice will bring on Visit Jacksonville President/CEO Paul Astleford, Dr. Sunil Joshi of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, and Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa.

***The Senate Prospective Payment System plan will protect Florida’s aging seniors by incentivizing quality care. Learn more about how this reimbursement plan will promote improvement in Florida’s skilled-nursing centers. Learn more here .***

FLORIDA CITY SAYS ‘GAME OVER’ TO INFLATABLE SUPER MARIO  via The Associated Press – A Florida city is saying “game over” to a business owner’s decision to inflate a 9-foot-tall (2.7-meter-tall) Super Mario outside his shop. Scott Fisher owns a video game store in the city of Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville … Fisher filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the town’s ban violates his free speech. Lawyers with the conservative law organization Institute for Justice are representing Fisher. They argue that the city is discriminating by allowing inflatables to be displayed as holiday decorations or creative displays, but not to promote businesses. Fisher says the inflatable Mario helps people find his small store.

OLD-FASHIONED REST STOPS DISAPPEARING IN FLORIDA AND OTHER STATES via Jenni Bergal of – Cash-strapped transportation agencies are shuttering the old ones to save money, or because they don’t attract enough traffic or are in such bad shape that renovating them is too costly. Or, the stops have been overtaken by tourist information centers, service plazas that take in revenue from gasoline and food sales, or commercial strips off interstate exits. Florida, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota are among the states that have closed traditional rest stops in the past two years. But advocates of maintaining traditional rest areas say even if motorists are offered flashier options for pit stops, the ones that sprung up as highways did are still needed for driver safety and convenience … unlike service plazas, rest areas on federal interstate highways are prohibited from selling gasoline or food other than from vending machines, the proceeds of which traditionally go to people who are visually impaired. State transportation departments run the rest areas and are responsible for cleaning and maintaining them. That can take a chunk of their budget, depending on staffing and amenities, officials say.

RIVERS OF LIGHT TO BE SHOWN NIGHTLY STARTING SATURDAY via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Rivers of Light, the new nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will be shown every evening starting Saturday. Since its debut Feb. 17, the show has run at 8:45 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Rivers of Light is the first evening spectacular at Animal Kingdom and will play a crucial role in spreading out summer crowds once Pandora – The World of Avatar opens May 27. Disney bills Rivers of Light as “a celebration of the beauty, fragility and wild unpredictability of animals and nature told through live performers, animal spirit guide floats, fire, water and projections.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the great crusader, Lori Brown, and the great-at-something-I-just-don’t-know-what, Chris Turner.

HAPPENING SATURDAY — 17th annual Sochoopy Worm Gruntin’ Festival — The annual festival is scheduled for Saturday, and the day-long event includes a worm gruntin’ demonstration with Gray Revell, a professional bait harvester, at 10:15 a.m.; a worm gruntin’ contest open to kids ages 12 and under at 10:30 a.m.; and live music throughout the day.

Sunburn for 4.6.17 – The 2017 Legislative Session at the halfway mark

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

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


The Easter break is coming at just the right time in the 2017 Legislative Session. We all need a deep breath. Whether we find any (legislative) Easter eggs is another matter.

Some known knowns (“things we know that we know”): At the halfway mark, the House and Senate budgets are pretty much set up to go to conference, as is this year’s gambling legislation.

At least one high-profile bill, the alimony overhaul, has been effectively killed and isn’t coming back this year.

Here’s a known unknown (“things that we know we don’t know”): The “whiskey and Wheaties” liquor-separation repeal effort, which flew through the Senate, is hung up in the House and hanging on by a thread, lobbyists say. Maybe sponsor Bryan Avila can pull off a Hail Mary.

So policy-wise, what’s been accomplished?

Er … well … Gov. Rick Scott signed a bunch of what’s known as “repealer” bills.

According to an email, the Governor signed six bills into law Wednesday, a ho-hum assortment of pro forma measures that, among other things, “delete statutory provisions that have expired or become obsolete.”


It doesn’t seem like much. Why, by this time in the previous regular session … well, never mind. We were kind of at the same place.

Still, last year, big leadership bills passed in the first week:

— A water protection bill that then-House Speaker Steve Crisafulli wanted;

— A bill favored by then-Senate President Andy Gardiner that expands employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and

— Another that increases their educational opportunities.

And yet, and yet … the Senate this week struck a deal on a water storage plan to cut down the “guacamole water” coming out of Lake Okeechobee.

And just maybe, the state will finally compensate the twin brother of Nubia Barahona for the Department of Children and Families’ mistakes.

The 10-year-old former foster child was killed in 2011 and her body was then mutilated with caustic chemicals at the hands of her adoptive father.

Now we’ll worry about the unknown unknowns, “the things we don’t know we don’t know.” Let’s hope they don’t lead to a special session.

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 21; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 28; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 28; MLB All-Star Game – 96; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 149; Election Day 2017 – 214; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 252; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 276.


The Senate, with the revised version of SB 406, appears to be on what is a fairly balanced means of implementing Amendment 2.

Is that my opinion? Maybe.

But, as of yesterday, even the intrepid Ben Pollara sent an email saying (and I quote), “The Senate bill puts Patients First…” while most parties in attendance at the recent committee hearing waived in support. Not all, but most. That’s a far cry from where this was a few short weeks ago.

Good job senators.

But there is one provision that made it into the bill that will likely create (yet another) firestorm of lawsuits while unnecessarily jeopardizing patient safety. If enacted, this one provision and the resulting litigation conflagration will delay more licensees from entering the field of play or allow some substandard players with untested methods to slide into the market.

That provision should warrant another glance.

Here’s the deal … the bill (SB 406) as it left the committee allows — nay, requires — the Department of Health to issue five new licenses by Oct. 3 — of this year!

To clarify, these licenses must be completed and issued by Oct. 3.

Why should this freak some people out?

First, it is important to recognize that the Office of Compassionate Use (OCU) has only a handful of employees who are already up to their eyeballs in regulating the current crop of licensees, managing physician, and patient registries, handling complaints, issuing identification cards to patients and caregivers, etcetera. Second, it is also vital to understand how complex these new license applications are statutorily required to be. Last round, they averaged well over the 1,000+ page range.

Keep in mind that applicants must rush in these applications and then OCU must review, evaluate, score and award them (thousands of pages worth) – IN LIGHT SPEED.

They must do this, keep in mind, while issuing new patient and physician ID cards, implement sweeping new legislation, monitoring existing operations and do everything else they already do. Whew!

What could possibly go wrong?

With lots and lots (and lots!) of dollars on the table, and tens of thousands of pages to be scoured, there will certainly be at least a handful of aggrieved losers who will take their loss to the courts. We have danced this dance before.

SB 406 began its journey like most bills in the process; with a patient threshold (and not an arbitrary date) as a trigger to begin the process of awarding new licenses. It seems to make the most sense as it not only aligns the Senate bill closer to the House version, it relies on a logical progression based on actual users.

Why the change? Why the ultra-short window? Why take this chance?

This same body spent years designing a system to ensure the safety of patients. Um, where did that go?

CANADIAN MARIJUANA COMPANY APHIRA BUYING INTO FLORIDA’S MARKET via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Aphria, a publicly traded firm based out of Ontario, plans to invest $25 million in a shell that will purchase most or all of the assets of Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, the Alachua nursery that operates CHT Medical. … That placement, at $2.08 a share, implies a market cap of $177 million and suggests Aphria’s investment — which includes a 3 percent royalty on sales, plus shares — is worth $67 million, according to an analysis by Canadian investment dealer Eight Capital. … The pending agreement offers the most complete information to date on the value currently associated with Florida’s limited medical marijuana licenses, despite their current lack of income under a restrictive system. Chestnut’s CHT Medical, which won its license through a competitive process, has only been in operation since January, but the business has an implied value as the state’s number of eligible patients begins to expand following the November passage of Amendment 2.


THE PANHANDLE GETS A MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARY AS TRULIEVE OPENS FOURTH OUTPOST via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Trulieve, the first company to dispense medical marijuana in Florida, opened its fourth medical cannabis dispensary in the state Wednesday morning, this time in Pensacola. “We are proud to open our fourth dispensary and our first in the Pensacola area. And this opening is especially exciting because we maintain our headquarters in the panhandle and are deeply committed to our patients here,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. “We also have our statewide home delivery program and will have more dispensary locations opening this year.”

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

VOTERS SAID YES, BUT FLORIDA MAY CHANGE CLASS SIZE LIMITS via The Associated Press – The House voted 95-22 for a bill (HB 591) that would change the way class sizes are calculated. If the bill became law, then schools would measure class sizes by a schoolwide average instead of measuring it at the classroom level. A similar bill is moving in the Senate. Voters in 2002 first approved class size limits and rejected an attempt to change those limits in 2010. Those limits cap core classes between 18 and 25 students depending on the grade level.

MIAMI LAWMAKER: ‘SCHOOLS OF HOPE’ PLAN IS ‘SEPARATE BUT UNEQUAL’ via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay TimesKionne McGhee isn’t sugar-coating how much he dislikes House Republicans’ $200 million, “schools of hope” plan to attract high-performing charter schools to Florida that would aid students currently attending perpetually failing traditional public schools. “This bill, in my humble opinion, creates a separate but unequal system” that “runs afoul” of the state and U.S. Constitutions, McGhee said when HB 5105 faced its second of only two committee hearings. McGhee will be the House Democratic leader starting in late 2018. The full Appropriations Committee sent the “schools of hope” bill to the House floor on a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed.

JOE HENDERSON: RANDOLPH BRACY’S HEART MIGHT HAVE BEEN RIGHT, BUT HIS NUMBERS WERE WRONG via Florida Politics – We all know what a firestorm Ayala created when she decided not to seek the death penalty for alleged cop-killer Markeith Loyd. Scott came down on the side of outrage and in a stunning turn he ordered that the case go to another prosecutor … That prompted state Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Orlando Democrat, to blast Scott in an op-ed published in The New York Times. He was making strong arguments why the governor’s actions are wrong, at least up to the point where he wrote this paragraph: “As a black man, I see the death penalty as a powerful symbol of injustice in which race often determines who lives and who dies, especially in Florida. The state has the second-largest number of death row inmates in the country, after California, and African-Americans are grossly over-represented on Florida’s death row.” Fact check, please! Actually, there are 143 black males on death row compared to 214 white males. And when it comes to the total number of executions carried out since the capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, Texas is the runaway leader with the number of people put to death with 576. Florida is fourth (behind Oklahoma and Virginia) with 92.

HOUSE SENDS BACK SENATE’S ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ BILL via Florida Politics The House on Wednesday OK’d the Senate’s fix to the state’s “stand your ground” law to streamline claims of self-defense—with one change. The House version changes the measure (SB 128) to switch the burden of proof to “clear and convincing evidence,” a lower threshold than the Senate’s “beyond a reasonable doubt,” to overcome self-defense. Members voted 74-39 for the amended bill, sending it back across the rotunda. The Republican majority in the Legislature wants to shift the burden to prosecutors, making them disprove a claim of self-defense. A state Supreme Court decision had put the onus on the defendant to show self-defense. The stand your ground law, enacted in 2005, allows people who are attacked to counter deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.

DEMOCRATS DECRY CHANGE TO ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAW via Florida PoliticsA critic of the state’s “stand your ground” law Wednesday said a change to the law now moving through the Legislature will “make it easier for people to murder other human beings.” Lawmakers now are considering shifting the burden to prosecutors, making them disprove a claim of self-defense. Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, called that making “a bad law worse.” He appeared with several fellow Democrats at a morning press conference in the Capitol. The stand your ground law, enacted in 2005, allows people who are attacked to counter deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.

JACK LATVALA ARGUES REVISED LAKE O. PROJECT DEFANGS ITS CRITICS via Mike Moline of Florida Politics – If House leaders really oppose special interests they’ll support the Lake Okeechobee plan the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Wednesday, Latvala said following the vote. “When you hear their stated objections that they’ve made publicly, it’s always had to do with losing jobs or the amount of bonding involved,” Latvala told reporters. “We’ve pretty much removed those stated objections. Now it’s just going to have to come down to whether they’re going to follow the will of the special interests that are involved.”

SENATE BUDGET PANEL OKS CHANGES TO NURSING HOME FUNDING via Ryan Benk of WJCT – … that includes a new formula for reimbursing nursing homes. Opponents say the proposal would cut Medicaid dollars for top performing homes, while proponents argue it’ll result in a more equitable distribution of state funds. With 60 percent of nursing home residents on Medicaid, a lion’s share of the long-term care facilities depends on state reimbursement to stay afloat. Right now, nursing homes are funded retroactively after they submit expense reports. Officials audit those payments annually to make sure taxpayers aren’t overpaying. The Senate proposal would instead pay nursing homes a predetermined amount up front based on a specific formula.

STATE CONSIDERS ISSUING CERTIFICATES AFTER MISCARRIAGES via The Associated Press – The House voted 115-1 for what’s called the “Grieving Families Act.” At a parent’s request, the state would issue “certificates of nonviable birth” to women whose pregnancies end after nine weeks and before 20 weeks of gestation. Pregnancies that end at 20 weeks or later are considered stillbirths and death certificates must be issued. Parents can also request a birth certificate in such cases.

BILL TO HELP FOSTER CHILDREN GET DRIVERS’ LICENSES HEADS TO GOV. via The Associated Press – … under a bill heading to Gov. Scott. The House unanimously passed the bill that would make permanent a pilot program that began in 2014. The program reimburses foster parents or children for driver’s education, license fees and insurance. The idea is to help children in state care become more independent. The cost of the program is $800,000.

NEW HOUSE WORKERS COMP AMENDMENTS GO TOUGHER ON ATTORNEY FEES via Mike Moline of Florida Politics – The House Commerce Committee will take up a workers’ compromise amendment package Thursday that takes a more aggressive approach to attorney fees than did previous versions of the legislation. The amendments to HB 7085 retain language allowing deviations from the statutory attorney fee schedule that link trial lawyer’s compensation to benefits secured through claims litigation. But it shrinks the maximum hourly fee from $250 in the existing language to $150. Such awards would be tied to customary fees charged by defense — not plaintiffs — lawyers, depending on jurisdiction.

>>>WHAT ONE INSURANCE INSIDER THINKS: “The amendments will go a long way to help the system. Is it an overhaul that will significantly lower rates? No, but it will help stem the tide of future double digit increases by affecting behavior of claimants attorneys and the judges of compensation claims, along with attorney fee guidelines. The underlying bill addressed hospital costs that will also help. Of course, it could be tweaked and made better, but within the House self imposed parameters, it is a good of place to start as any. Late word is that Associated Industries may be waffling. They think the trial bar wrote it. They are wrong, Trial bar does not like this and will not support, as they would rather have nothing, which by the way is where we may very well end up based on the overall disposition of the Senate.”

TELEHEALTH, NURSE AUTHORITY MEASURE PASSES SECOND HOUSE PANEL via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools –-  The House Ways & Means Committee passed contentious legislation allowing advanced nurses who meet extensive education and experiential requirements to practice independently, without the supervision of a physician. A second component of HB 7011 regulates telehealth, allowing in-state and out-of-state professionals to use the technology. The bill also creates a tax credit for health insurers and health maintenance organizations that cover services provided by telehealth. The bill must pass the House Health & Human Services Committee before heading to the floor.

HOUSE PASSES REGULATIONS FOR UBER, LYFT via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Ride-booking companies have been pushing for statewide regulations so that their drivers are not subject to varied laws depending on what county or city they find themselves in. If the Senate passes the bill — up in its final committee hearing — local laws such as those charging fees in South Florida counties, Orlando and other large metropolitan areas around the state would all go away. The state law would demand drivers carry insurance of $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $25,000 for property damage. Local governments still would be able to keep pickup fees charged by ports and airports, so long as those ports charge taxi companies the same amount. The taxi companies continue to be against the legislation. They argue that what’s good for large cities is not necessarily what’s good for small towns.

HOUSE ‘WHISKEY & WHEATIES’ SPONSOR SAYS BILL STILL IN PLAY via Florida Politics – Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila is keeping hope alive that a bill to allow retailers to sell hard liquor in the same store as other goods will garner enough votes for passage. “We had some late issues come up,” he said after Wednesday’s floor session. Lawyers for Publix, the Florida supermarket chain that opposes the measure, this week said the bill would mean teenage employees wouldn’t be allowed to work in stores where booze is sold. But Avila said he disagreed with that reading of the bill and alcoholic beverage statutes. The latest issue came up after other critics raised concerns that gas stations would be allowed to sell distilled spirits under the measure. “Trust me: I can tell you with certainty I have experienced every thing imaginable that could possibly happen in the legislative process with this bill,” Avila said.

USED NEWS – “Florida gambling bills with billions at stake are likely to come down to session wire” via Alexandra Glorioiso of the Naples Daily News on April 5; “Will lawmakers walk away from gambling?” via Jim Rosica on March 31.

STATE COULD OPEN UP ATHLETIC BOOSTERS AND FOUNDATIONS via The Associated Press –  The Florida House is moving ahead with a measure to repeal a state law that now allows university groups to keep most of their records private. If the bill becomes law athletic boosters and university foundations could only keep confidential information on the names of donors. The legislation would also prevent colleges and universities from using taxpayer money to pay for people who work for direct support organizations, which usually raise money to help pay for athletics and other university operations. The House this year started scrutinizing university spending and requested private records that showed how much university foundations spend on travel and salaries.

STATE MAY SPEND MONEY TO BOOST SECURITY AT JEWISH SCHOOLS via The Associated Press – House and Senate budget committees voted to set aside money for security in spending plans being drawn up by the Legislature … The amounts that legislators set aside range between $254,000 and $500,000. Rep. Randy Fine says the money would go to pay for security upgrades at day schools now serving around 10,000 children. Budget documents say part of the funding go to fences and installing bullet proof glass. Since Jan. 9, there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools in 37 states and two Canadian provinces, according to a report issued late last month by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that battles anti-Semitism.

WTF? This remake is guaranteed to be funnier than the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart original. We can hear Rene Garcia saying, “Too tight. Too tight!”

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The Health & Human Services Committee will discuss a bill (HB 7) that would eliminate the state’s certificate of need program when it meets at 8 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The Judiciary Committee will tackle a proposed committee bill dealing with the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys when it meets at 8 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The committee will also discuss a bill (HB 1335) calling on the Legislature to acknowledge and apologize for the abuses at the reform school. The Commerce Committee will discuss a bill (HB 7085) dealing with workers’ compensation reform when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in 212 Knott. Over in the Senate, the Appropriations Committee will take up several proposals when it meets at 8 a.m. in 412 Knott. The Rules Committee will take up a bill (SB 340) to create statewide regulations for ride-booking companies like Uber and Lyft when it meets at 10:30 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. Greyhound doping is on the agenda when the Regulated Industries meets at 1 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: County commissioner from across the state are expected to speak out against proposals that would strip local governments of their home-rule authority during a Florida Association of Counties press conference at 9:30 a.m. on the fourth floor by the Senate Chambers.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Consumer Protection Coalition will address the growing abuse of assignment of benefits during a press conference at 12:30 p.m. in front of the House Chamber doors.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Elizabeth Porter and Sen. Rob Bradley will hold a joint press conference to announce joint resolutions to designate April 2017 as “Springs Awareness Month” at 1 p.m. in Room 333 of The Capitol.

HAPPENING TODAY – FAMU DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Get ready to see a lot of orange and green in the Capitol on Thursday. Why? Well, it’s FAMU Day at the Capitol. Students, alumni, staff and administrators will use the day-long event to advocate on behalf of Florida A&M University and thank lawmakers for their support. The FAMU Student Government and FAMU National Alumni Association will provide free shuttle services to the Capitol throughout the day. Go Rattlers!

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will stop by the 2nd annual Build Tamp Bay, a technical career fair for high school students, at 9:15 a.m. at Port Tampa Bay – Cruise Terminal 2, 651 Channelside Drive in Tampa. He’ll then head to Gainesville for a “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtable at 3:30 p.m. at Optym, 76000 NW 5 Pl.

RICK SCOTT’S SEARCH FOR AGENCY LAW FIRMS WITH LEGISLATIVE CONNECTIONS COMES UP EMPTY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Hunting for what it calls potential conflicts of interest, Scott‘s office asked every state agency to disclose a case in which it employs a law firm that has a state legislator on its payroll. More than 30 agencies responded, but none said it has such an arrangement. Only the Department of Corrections appeared to hedge somewhat, telling Scott’s office that “it does not appear to have any current contracts with a law firm that employs a current Florida legislator.” Scott’s chief of staff, Kim McDougal, asked agencies to respond after learning that Broad & Cassel, the law firm that employs House Speaker Richard Corcoran, has received more than $235,000 in legal work from Enterprise Florida since 2014. A top Corcoran priority is to abolish Enterprise Florida, which he has repeatedly cited as an example of waste and “corruption” in state government.

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UNIVERSAL ORLANDO STEPS INTO CAPITOL BEER BATTLE via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Universal Parks & Resorts is stepping into the middle of a bar fight between beer makers and distributors over legislation that would allow brewers to sponsor rides or events at major theme parks. The bill (SB 388) seeks to carve out an exemption for theme parks to a Prohibition-era law, known as “tied house evil,” that bans brewers from giving gifts or special deals to retail sellers. In Britain, a “tied house” is a bar required to sell beer from a particular company. The law is intended to keep brewers from creating monopolies and pushing out the competition by preventing rival beers from being sold. Supporters of the bill think the law is an unnecessary relic. “It’s got to be close to the most archaic, anti-competitive, heavily regulated regulatory statute on the books,” said Universal lobbyist Mac Stipanovich. Under the bill, brewers would be able to acquire sponsorships at theme parks with at least 25 acres and 1 million visitors per year. It would apply to Universal and Disney theme parks, but not connected areas such as City Walk or Downtown Disney.


Ivette O’Doski, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Recyclers Association; Pinch A Penny, Inc

Robert Beck, Adams Street Advocates: Quidel Corporation

Travis Blanton, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: PP+K

Christian Caballero, Foley & Lardner: Blue Head Land & Cattle Co., LLC

Kevin Cabrera, Southern Startegy Group: Miami Downtown Development Authority

Jon Costello, Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: Heartland Education Consortium

Claudia Devant, Adams Street Advocates: The Children’s Forum; DataLogic Software, Inc.

Chris Dawson, GrayRobinson: Accelerated Learning Solutions Florida

Christopher Dudley, Southern Strategy Group: ExamWorks

Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: Argo Partners; SkyMed International (Florida) Inc.

Michael Harrell, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Recyclers Association

Corinne Mixon, Jessica Janasiewicz, Mixon & Associates: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and its Affiliates

Toni Large, Uhlfelder & Associates PA: Orange County Medical Society

Kimberly McGlynn, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Rural Economic Development Association

Sydney Ridley, Southern Strategy Group: Beer Industry of Florida, Inc

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Florida Crystals Corporation

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – PERSONNEL NOTE: CYNTHIA HEFREN NAMED CFO OF VISIT FLORIDA via Florida PoliticsHefren is coming home: She will be VISIT FLORIDA‘s next chief financial officer, President & CEO Ken Lawson announced Wednesday. Hefren most recently was Assistant State Audit Supervisor for the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor. But she’s a Florida state government veteran, previously serving as Director of Auditing for the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation, and several other positions. She starts next Monday.

***The Senate Prospective Payment System plan will protect Florida’s aging seniors by incentivizing quality care. Learn more about how this reimbursement plan will promote improvement in Florida’s skilled-nursing centers. Learn more here .***

JOSE MALLEA RAISES $50K IN THREE WEEKS IN HD 116 RACE via Florida Politics – The Miami Republican announced in March he was running to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. According to Mallea’s campaign, he raised $50,000 since filing to run for office March 9. “We are off to a strong start,” said Mallea.

DAVID RIVERA ETHICS CASE GATHERING DUST ON RICHARD CORCORAN’S DESK via Ann Howard of the Capitolist – With House Speaker Corcoran firmly positioning himself as a no-nonsense leader, taking up the matter of Rivera’s ethics issues should be low=hanging fruit – an easy way to score points and take a fellow Republican to the proverbial woodshed. It remains unclear what, if anything, Corcoran plans to do about it. Over the past two days, Corcoran declined several requests for a comment on the matter. So for now, at least, the ethics case against Rivera remains mothballed on the Speaker’s desk.

OIR OK’S 10,500 CITIZENS TAKEOUTS FOR JUNE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – To assist in depopulation efforts, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved 10,511 policies to be removed from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. in June. The takeouts have been approved for Weston Insurance Company. June takeouts bring the year’s total approved takeouts to 68,235. Only 11,399 policies have been removed from Citizens in 2017.

ELECTION SUPERVISOR’S ISLAM PRESENTATION CAUSES ALARM via The Associated Press – The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations wants an election official in Florida to cancel a presentation on Islam that he’s offering to voters and poll workers … Charlotte County Supervisor of Elections Paul Stamoulis will present what he calls a “history of radical Islam” Thursday night. Stamoulis told the station his speech is an extension of something he calls “voter education.” He says he feels it’s an important issue for both voters and poll workers … CAIR says it’s inappropriate for an official to host such a polarizing event. Some groups are planning to protest the event.

LEGAL DEBATE OVER ARAMIS AYALA’S DECISION TURNS INTO HOCKEY GAME via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A debate in Orlando between former 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jeff Ashton and retired 18th Judicial Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr. broke down into near chaos at times, with shouted interruptions leading to political accusations, a few insults, a bit of belittling, sarcasm and condescension, and angry protests of unfairness. And most of that wasn’t between the prosecutor and the judge who were officially squaring off, but between Ashton and the debate moderator, Orlando defense attorney Mark O’Mara. “I hoped this discussion would not become political but it almost immediately did,” said an exasperated-sounding Ashton, who lost the JC9 seat to Ayala in a nasty election battle last year, and then took the positions opposing her decision. “I hoped that somebody would show me a case or an interpretation or a rule or a statutory construction. “But all I’ve heard is you two yelling at me that I’m wrong!” “I haven’t yelled at you at all. I’m very soft-spoken,” corrected Eaton, quipping about his reputation on the bench.

MUST READ, PART 1 — WHY COPS SHOOT via Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times — In September 2014, the Tampa Bay Times asked all of Florida’s nearly 400 law enforcement agencies for reports generated any time an officer shot someone between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2014. The newspaper analyzed more than 10,000 pages of police records, combed through hundreds of court documents and media reports, and conducted dozens of fresh interviews to build Florida’s most comprehensive database of policy shootings. The top line findings: Florida police shot 827 people in those six years, about one every two and a half days. More than half were fatal. Nearly one-fifth of the people shot were unarmed, or about 156 people. And about half of those were black, in a state where blacks make up just 15 percent of the population. That means unarmed black people were nearly eight times as likely to be shot as by police than whites.

MUST READ, PART 2 — FLORIDA EMBRACES ONLINE HIGHER EDUCATION, EVEN AS POLITICAL DIVISIONS RUN DEEP via Jessica Bakeman of POLTICO Florida — In the first in a multi-part POLITICO series on the policies and politics behind the increasing move toward online education at the state’s public universities, Bakeman looks at the deep divisions among politicians and policymakers about whether virtual courses and degree programs can be accessible, affordable and high quality. The piece looks at Gov. Rick Scott’s push to move to a system of virtual education, while Senate President Joe Negron, one of the state university system’s biggest backers, continues to have a “strong wariness and skepticism” toward online education.

GUITARS OUST MINARETS AS HARD ROCK REDOES TAJ MAHAL CASINO via Associated Press Rock ‘n’ roll and guitars — lots of guitars — are in as the Hard Rock chain re-does Atlantic City’s former Trump Taj Mahal casino. The company owned by Florida’s Seminole Indian tribe on Wednesday unveiled its $375 million plan for the shuttered casino resort, which it bought last month from billionaire investor Carl Icahn, and plans to reopen by summer 2018. It will draw on the world’s largest collection of music memorabilia to help brand the new resort, with a decided New Jersey slant … “There will not be one — and underscore the word ‘one’ — piece of design, architecture, minaret or anything left over from the Taj Mahal,” Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen said. “We are removing it all.”

AMAZON PICKS OFF NFL THURSDAY NIGHT FROM TWITTER via Mae Anderson of The Associated Press – The e-commerce powerhouse will stream NFL Thursday Night games this season via its Amazon Prime video service, replacing Twitter. The live-streams of the games will be available to the estimated 65 million members of Amazon Prime, which costs $99 per year and also includes other perks like free videos, books and shipping. That means that technically, the games won’t be free to stream, but they will still be carried by broadcast networks CBS or NBC, as well as simultaneously on the NFL Network … it’s a one-year deal worth close to $50 million … about five times what Twitter paid for the right to stream the games last year.

IT LOOKS LIKE A BERRY GOOD YEAR FOR FLORIDA BLUEBERRY FARMERS via Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times – There’s a sweet spot, after Chilean imports and before the Georgia harvest, in which Florida’s southern high bush berries are not just the only game in town. They’re the only game on Earth. This is not an accident. Scientists have worked with Florida growers for decades developing varieties that will ripen right when there isn’t competition. This year, they appear to have nailed it. In short, it’s an early season, having started near the beginning of March. And the yield is looking strong — maybe 20 million pounds, experts project. According to Alto Straughn, who has 750 acres of blueberries in north Florida and is co-owner of 230 acres in Georgia, this year’s season started 10 to 14 days early. “We picked 100,000 pounds last week,” he said. “That’s unheard of. Prices are really high right now… Last year everything was three to four weeks late.”

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY BUFFET LUNCH MENU Thursday’s Italian Day at the Governors Club with Tuscan white bean soup; Sicilian caprese salad – tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, red onion, chopped parsley & olive oil – Italian green salad – iceberg, romaine, red onion, Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, pepperoncini – seasonal greens; three dressing sections; beef steak pizzaiola; rosemary chicken; potato gnocchi with tomatoes, olive oil and basil; roasted garlic eggplant and grilled vegetables.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to former Tribune’er Rosemary Curtiss, former Rep. Jim Frishe, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Carolyn Johnston, Chelsea Murphy, and the Tampa Bay Times’ Jeremy Wallace.

Sunburn for 4.5.17 – Hope has returned to the Florida Legislature

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

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


When the final history of the 2017 Legislative Session is written, it is very possible that Tuesday, April 4, marked the turning point in the annual lawmaking period. Because of what transpired yesterday, it’s much more likely that the House and Senate gavel out on time rather than go in to an extended session or have to call for a special session to hammer out a budget agreement.

With Senate President Joe Negron and Sen. Rob Bradley agreeing to scale back the project’s acreage while still storing between 100 billion and 120 billion gallons of water by increasing the reservoirs’ depth to 14 feet, it’s now possible to game out how the 2017 Session concludes.

News of the compromise was first reported by the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas. And as soon as her story flashed across the Twitterverse, capital insiders knew a turning point had arrived.

“The amendment is just a recognition, again, of what the No. 1 goal of this legislation is. And that is to have additional southern storage to reduce and, hopefully, one day eliminate the discharges,” Negron said. “That’s the indispensible component of this issue.”

By “discharges,” Negron meant what Bradley calls the toxic, algae-laden “guacamole water” that issued from the lake in June, sickening both people and the tourism economy along waterways.

The total cost of the plan would shrink from $2.4 billion to $1.5 billion, saving money by building the project on land already owned by the state, or where private landowners agree to sell or lease to the state.

Honestly, none of those details are important to anyone not living near the Caloosahatchee River. What is important is that the Senate President appears ready to deal.

Richard Corcoran‘s House should and will go along with Negron’s new plan because it a) does not include any bonding during the first year and b) doesn’t include exercising an option to purchase land from U.S. Sugar.

In exchange, the House should get its top priorities: a lot of funding for charter schools and not much funding for Enterprise Florida or VisitFlorida. The House will also probably get some sort of legislation that puts a hurting on the judicial branch, while both chambers — each led by attorneys inclined to support the trial bar — will back a host of other legislation — AOB “reform,” workers’ comp — that basically favors the folks at the Florida Justice Association over the good people of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, believe it or not, clearing the impasse over the Lake O. proposal may also pave the way for something to be done about gambling. A court ruling on Tuesday — one that could lead to more gaming expansion, if only by default — is the latest reminder that bureaucrats and judges are regulating the gambling industry, not lawmakers. With some extra bandwidth afforded by Negron’s willingness to compromise on Lake O., it’s possible another compromise could be reached on the Seminole Compact, slots, and the so many other issues which have been left unattended by the Legislature.

Horse-trading will abound on any number of issues.

Of course, it’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows. There are a thousand different ways the 2017 Session could implode.

First of all, Governor Rick Scott says he will not accept a budget that zeroes out funding for Enterprise Florida. His ally in the Senate on this issue, Sen. Jack Latvala, is in charge of one-half of the appropriations process and could be an obstacle. But maybe Latvala goes along to get along with a low budget number for EFI if the House gives in to him on the rest of his budget priorities.

After all, what will it accomplish for Scott if he vetoes the budget only to see a unified Legislature override said veto?

U.S. SUGAR TAKES A VICTORY LAP (without rubbing Negron’s nose in it): “This amendment makes significant progress and demonstrates that the Florida Senate has begun taking seriously the concerns of residents from communities south of Lake Okeechobee. The decision to no longer take 60,000 to 153,000 acres of farmland out of production is a positive step forward. While the amendment improves the bill, there are significant concerns related to the arbitrary timelines for the southern storage reservoir, which appear to conflict with the current timing of the federally-authorized projects in the Integrated Delivery Schedule. We agree with Senator Negron that science should continue to guide this bill, and we look forward to providing additional input on developing science-based solutions that actually will reduce the harmful discharges and build real solutions that work for all of our communities.”

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 22; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 29; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 29; MLB All-Star Game – 97; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 150; Election Day 2017 – 215; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 253; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 277.

— “After 5 straight losses for governor, Democrats ready to try something new” via Joe Henderson for Florida Politics

— “Gwen Graham will have some explaining to do for Democratic base” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

CHRIS KING VOWS TO BRING ‘PROGRESSIVE ENTREPRENEUR’ SPIRIT TO GOVERNOR’S RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – King introduced himself to Florida Tuesday evening as the “progressive entrepreneur” promising to bring bring a head for hard work, return on investment and financial stewardship but also a heart to Tallahassee. King, a 38-year-old Winter Park businessman with no experience in politics, kicked off his campaign for the state’s highest office at an Orlando rally with 400 to 500 people, a musical warmup, several advance speakers and an ice cream truck, in the parking lot of the 11-story Hillcrest Hampton House, an affordable-housing senior tower his Elevation Global Initiative company developed.

King’s 27-minute speech placed him squarely in the center of most Democratic issues and values, from environmental protection [“I would put scientists back in charge of environmental agencies;”] to affordable housing [his business speciality;] from minimum wage increases, to investing far more in public education [“I will be a champion and advocate for public education;”] social and legal equality for all, to expanding health care access and investment in mental health. “If you’ve come here tonight and you are an advocate for public education or environmental protection or housing, or health care, I’m with you,” King said. “I want to be too.”

ADAM PUTNAM SAYS HE WILL PREVENT THE CALIFORNICATION OF FLORIDA via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – In a fundraising letter sent out last week and signed by Putnam from his political committee, Florida Grown, California is described as a “failed big government model” that “powerful and angry special interests” want to apply to Florida. “Unsustainable debt, disastrous environmental regulations, unfunded pensions for public employees, and massive government work projects they can’t afford are a recipe for disaster,” the letter warns its readers. “I will work day and night to prevent that. The crippling left-wing policies of their Golden State must never take root here in our Sunshine State!” The letter never explicitly says in what capacity Putnam would prevent the Californication of Florida. Although Florida Grown has already raised $9.4 million, Putnam hasn’t officially declared to run for governor in 2018.

HOW FLORIDA BECAME GROUND ZERO FOR NATION’S PRESCRIPTION OPIOID CRISIS via Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham of The Washington Post –  Florida’s lax laws, dishonest doctors and unscrupulous pharmacists had turned the state into ground zero for the nation’s prescription opioid crisis. One distributor that caught the attention of the DEA for sending drugs to Florida was KeySource Medical, a regional company based in Cincinnati. In 2010, it sent 41 million tablets of Mallinckrodt-made oxycodone to Florida, documents show. That was nearly 2.5 pills for every man, woman and child in the state. The DEA accused KeySource in June 2011 of trying to conceal the amounts of drugs it was shipping by splitting its orders and told the company to halt its oxycodone shipments. Mallinckrodt’s oxycodone cropped up again when the DEA looked at one of the nation’s three largest drug distributors, Cardinal Health, which was sending vast quantities to four pharmacies in Florida.

PROPOSAL TO DRUG TEST WELFARE APPLICANTS RETURNS TO FLORIDA via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – A divided House panel voted for a bill that would require applicants convicted of a felony drug charge or suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance to undergo a drug screening at their expense before receiving benefits. Rep. Chris Latvala, a Republican sponsoring the bill, said it was intended to ensure that people getting state funds are “not using that money for drugs. Under the bill, people applying for temporary cash assistance would have to pay up to $40 for the drug test. The state would not cover the costs, but it would reimburse those who pass the test. “I would assume they can borrow the money from a friend or a family member, but the state is not going to be responsible for paying for their drug test,” Latvala said. Democrats, however, decried the proposal, especially since a broader program had already been struck down by a federal court.

COURT RULING COULD RESULT IN EXPLOSION OF GAMBLING PERMITS via Florida PoliticsAn appellate court’s ruling promises to further muddy the legal landscape of gambling in Florida. A 1st District Court of Appeal opinion released Tuesday reversed the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and ordered the reinstatement of a South Florida casino’s application for a new “summer jai alai” permit. The department regulates gambling. Pari-mutuels, particularly in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, covet such permits because at a minimum they allow a facility to open a cardroom and offer simulcast betting. The decision promises to result in an wave of new applications, gambling experts say, and came on the same day the House was scheduled to take up the Senate’s already-passed omnibus gambling legislation for 2017.

HOUSE SEES SENATE ON GAMBLING BILL, RAISES THEM via Florida Politics The House amended the Senate’s gambling measure with its own bill Tuesday, setting up the legislation for conference. The difference between the two chambers’ approach was set up by Rep. Mike La Rosa, the St. Cloud Republican who chairs the Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee. He said the House effort “erects a firewall against the expansion of gaming in the future,” adding there would be “no more loopholes.” With the Senate OK with some gambling expansion, the stark contrast has led House Speaker Richard Corcoran to call a compromise this year “a heavy, heavy lift” and Sen. Bill Galvano to say he “couldn’t guarantee we’ll ultimately have a final resolution.”

PANEL APPROVES BILL TO REQUIRE GAMBLING WARNINGS ON LOTTERY TICKETS via Florida Politics – Lottery tickets, and places that sell them, could come with a warning: “Gambling can be addictive,” under a bill approved by the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries. Senate Bill 1370 may go where some Florida lawmakers are uncomfortable to follow, declaring the state’s lottery games to be a form of gambling. As a result, the bill got a few no votes, including one from Democratic state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville.

HOUSE AMENDS SENATE’S ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ BILL via Florida Politics The House on Tuesday began consideration of a Senate bill changing the state’s “stand your ground” law to make it easier to claim self-defense. But the House soon amended the measure (SB 128) to change the burden of proof to overcome self-defense to “clear and convincing evidence,” a lower threshold than the Senate’s “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The burden would be on “the party seeking to overcome the immunity from criminal prosecution,” usually prosecutors, requiring a separate mini-trial, of sorts.

CENTRAL FLORIDA REPUBLICANS KEEP UP CALLS FOR ARAMIS AYALA’S SUSPENSION via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – “What happens in all cases in the future that may qualify or may have aggravated circumstances for a death penalty case?” said Rep. Bob Cortes. “Will the governor have to step in and issue executive orders for each case in the future? Is this best serving the interests both of victims, defendants and the residents of the 9th Judicial Circuit?” Cortes said his call for her suspension has to do with respect for the law, not race. “I disagree that this has anything to do with [race]. If the state attorney had been white, black, Hispanic – I’m Hispanic myself so for me to be targeting her race? It has nothing to do with it.”

RICK SCOTT SAYS DECISIONS RELATED TO ARAMIS AYALA ‘NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICS’ via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “State Attorney Ayala’s complete refusal to consider capital punishment for the entirety of her term sends an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice,” Scott stated … When asked, Scott had the following response. “First off, this has nothing to do with politics. It has all to do with — think about the victims. This was about three weeks ago now when the State Attorney in Orlando said that she wouldn’t pursue the Markeith Loyd case to the fullest extent of the law. It just personally bothered me.”

FLORIDA’S VENGEFUL GOVERNOR via Randolph Bracy for The New York Times Scott’s executive orders appear to be without precedent in Florida … meant to punish the state attorney, Aramis Ayala, Florida’s first black elected prosecutor, for announcing she would no longer seek the death penalty because it was not in the best interest of her jurisdiction … Ayala rightly argued that capital punishment does not deter crime, nor does it protect police officers. Instead, it often leads to protracted appeals, and rarely delivers closure to the victim’s family. “Punishment is most effective when it happens consistently and swiftly,” she said. “Neither describe the death penalty in this state.” The governor’s action also got ahead of the normal judicial process. Pre-emptively calling the death penalty “justice” wrongly presumes the defendants should be executed without consulting the families of the victims or considering any mitigating evidence about the accused. While I may not agree with Ayala’s decision to reject the death penalty in all cases, I strongly affirm her right to make that choice. As a black man, I see the death penalty as a powerful symbol of injustice in which race often determines who lives and who dies, especially in Florida. Ayala demonstrated leadership when she made her decision. “An analysis of the death penalty must be pragmatic,” Ayala concluded. “It must be realistic and not simply theoretical, impulsive or emotional.”

LAWMAKERS HOLD EMOTIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE ABOUT DOZIER LEGISLATION — Sen. Darryl Rouson was joined by Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, Rep. Chris Sprowls, Rep. Tracie Davis, former Gov. Bob Martinez, USF Professor Erin Kimmerle, and former students of the Dozier and Okeechobee reform schools during an emotional 30-minute press conference Tuesday morning. The press conference gave former students a chance to tell their stories, and gave members a chance to make remarks and apologize for the abuses that occurred at the reform schools. “Today is the next step for this Legislature to honor their memory and to declare with honesty, conviction and clarity that these types of atrocities and tragedies should never occur again,” said Rouson.

‘SINGLE WORST CASE:’ BILL COMPENSATING BARAHONA TWINS’ SURVIVORS GETS COMMITTEE APPROVAL via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In a case of two young children who endured torture, sexual abuse, violence, murder and attempted murder by an adoptive family while the Florida Department of Children and Families did nothing, a House committee voted to support a $5 million settlement. The money would go to Victor Docter Barahona, now 16, who survived the physical and mental abuse, torture and attempted murder, and to other beneficiaries including blood relatives of his and his twin sister Nubia Docter Barahona, whose equally-horrific young life ended with her murder at age 10 in 2011. “This is for me the single worst case that I’ve ever seen,” said state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican, who sponsored House Bill 6523 along with state Rep. Katie EdwardsJorge and Carmen Barahona, who fostered the twins and then adopted them, are awaiting trial on first-degree murder and numerous other charges in a Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The 2011 case led to national outrage and alarm toward, and reforms of, the Department of Children and Families, including reforms pushed by Diaz.

FLORENCE SNYDER: WHY CHILDREN DIE — PART 2; CLUES IN THE CLAIMS BILLS via Florida Politics – Claims bills are the state’s reluctant, belated, grudging way of saying “we’re sorry” for the malfeasance and malpractice that ruined someone’s life. In a functioning system, simple mistakes and honest errors are caught quickly and generally capable of remediation for a sum less than $200,000. That’s the cap on damages that can be paid to an injured person without the legislature’s specific permission in the form of a claims bill. We do not have a functioning system. We have, instead, claims bills for victims who’ve spent years stonewalled by taxpayer-funded lawyers working for “leadership teams” whose political skills exceed their managerial competence. Sometimes, if the publicity gets bad enough, the state will admit wrongdoing, spare the victim a jury trial, and support (or pretend to support) a claims bill.

BILL GALVANO DROPS SUPPORT FOR ANTI-HAZING PROGRAM HIDDEN IN STATE BUDGET via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily NewsGalvano, who chairs the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, was seeking more taxpayer money for the Educational Management Services’ anti-hazing program in next year’s budget. The program, based out of the Miami office of lobbyist Fausto Gomez, received $1.5 million this year tucked inside Florida Polytechnic University’s $34.5 million budget, a secret appropriation that was not identified in the state budget. But Galvano said he was withdrawing the budget request after learning … the program didn’t serve as many students as a similar anti-hazing program. “I reviewed the information we have on the program with staff,” Galvano said in a text message. “It does appear to have a very limited impact.”

GREG STEUBE’S BOOKING PHOTO PUBLISHING BILL CLEARS SENATE FLOOR via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – SB 118 … would require booking photos to be removed within 10 days if the subject of the photo requests its removal. An amendment was adopted on the floor that would allow the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to “administratively seal the criminal record of a person found not guilty or where the charges against that person have been dismissed,” according to Steube. The provision is in lieu of court-ordered expungement allowed in previous language.

HOUSE GETS ONE STEP CLOSER TO PASSING STATEWIDE REGS ON UBER, LYFT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Legislation to regulate transportation network companies (TNC) in Florida advanced on its second reading through the Florida House. The bill sponsored by Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant (HB 221) requires ride-sharing companies to have third-parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers. Although critics say that the measure should include Level II federal background check requirements, Sprowls said that database is smaller than the one that Uber and Lyft will have to use in Florida. “The National Certified Background check has up to 500 million records,” he said. The proposal would prohibit from becoming ride-share drivers if they have three moving violations in the prior 3-year period; have been convicted of a felony within the previous five years; or have been convicted of a misdemeanor charge of sexual assault, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, hit and run, or attempting to flee a law enforcement officer within the past five years.

DEMOCRATS FORCE LGBT RIGHTS VOTE ON HOUSE FLOOR via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Rep. David Richardson tried to add language to a bill regulating rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft (HB 221) that would prevent the companies from discriminating against drivers and riders, specifically listing “race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.” Democrats forced a recorded vote on Richardson’s amendment, which failed 70-44. “It’s not going to give me as a member of the gay community protection and afford me the opportunity to use a transportation network company,” said Richardson, one of two openly gay members of the Legislature. Sprowls said he was working with other lawmakers to require ridesharing drivers follow the same nondiscrimination laws as taxicabs and other public accommodations. However, those laws do not outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

VOTING ACCESS BILL WATERED DOWN AFTER REQUEST FROM DUVAL ELECTIONS CHIEF MIKE HOGAN via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Absentee ballots would be accepted at early voting sites under a proposal that has received unanimous support in two House committees and is scheduled for a floor vote in that chamber … But the measure was watered down in the Senate after a last-minute maneuver linked to Duval County Supervisor of Elections Hogan, who won election by defeating the legislator sponsoring the House bill. Sen. Aaron Bean said that at Hogan’s request he filed an amendment to Senate Bill 726 that allows supervisors of elections to opt out of the practice of accepting vote-by-mail ballots at early voting sites.

‘WHISKEY & WHEATIES’ MEASURE POSTPONED AGAIN via Florida PoliticsA bill that would allow retailers to sell hard liquor in the same store as other goods was temporarily postponed for the second time on the House floor Tuesday. Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila, who’s carrying the measure (HB 81), didn’t stay on the floor for questions after the daily session. As one lobbyist involved with the issue explained later, “The vote’s just that close.” A companion measure already has passed the Senate. It’s a top priority for Miami-Dade Republican Sen. Anitere Flores and big-box retailers, including Walmart and Target. But it’s opposed by Publix and a raft of independently-owned liquor store owners across the state. Dozens of them were in the Capitol this week, wearing T-shirts saying, “Save Jobs & Small Businesses: Vote No.”

CORRECTION: Tuesday’s Sunburn incorrectly reported Auburn University license plates, authorized in Senate Bill 1374, was approved by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee. In fact, an amendment removed the plates. The item also said state Sen. Dennis Baxley for presenting the bill. The bill was actually presented by Doug Broxson. We regret the errors.

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OPHTHALMOLOGISTS RELEASE NEW VIDEO IN EYEBALL WARS – A Facebook video produced by Florida Society of Ophthalmology president Dr. Adam Katz counters recent testimony from Florida Optometric Association chair Ken Lawson supporting HB 1037, the House Bill seeking to allow optometrists to perform laser surgery. The minutelong video disputes the optometrists’ claim that the “noninvasive” laser they seek only “stimulates” the eye. Katz then uses the laser to pop a balloon. “There are no minor procedures when it comes to the eye,” the caption says.


PSC APPROVES $62 MILLION RATE COMPROMISE FOR GULF POWER CO. via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The Public Service Commission bestowed its blessings upon a rate settlement that will allow Gulf Power Co. to raise prices by nearly $62 million per year, but give the utility less of a return on investment than it wanted. Gulf Power originally sought to charge its customers in Northwest Florida an additional $106.8 million. “I do believe the settlement represents a very fair balance of interests,” Chairwoman Julie Imanuel Brown said. “This settlement is rational and reasonable and, on balance, in the public interest,” Commissioner Donald Polmann agreed. The vote was unanimous.

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HAPPENING TODAY — GATOR DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Grab your orange and blue, and be on the lookout for Albert and Alberta Gator: It’s Gator Day at the Capitol. The annual event brings together University of Florida students, alumni, faculty, and administration to advocate on behalf of the university. There will be displays throughout the second and third floor rotundas and in the Capitol courtyard, and a “Gator Pride Spirit” contest. Want to participate? Wear your orange and blue and share a photo on Twitter with the #GatorDay hashtag.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Appropriations Committee will discuss its proposed $81.2 billion budget when it meets at 9 a.m. in 212 Knott. The Senate Appropriations will take up its proposed $83.2 billion spending plan when it meets at 10 a.m. in 412 Knott. The Senate only has the appropriations meeting on its schedule Wednesday, but the House has a few other things scheduled. The Ways & Means Committee will chat about fantasy sports when it meets at 9 a.m. in 17 House Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: LeadingAge Florida and nursing home advocates will hold a press conference to urge caution with a proposed prospective payment system plan at 8:30 a.m. in Room 333, the Capitol.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Health Care Association will hold a press conference support the proposed payment plan at 9 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi will attend the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Commemoration ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Cabinet meeting room at the Capitol.

ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Rep. Robert Asencio and Muslim leaders will hold a press conference to celebrate religious freedom and encourage civic engagement at 12:15 p.m. on the fourth floor outside the House chamber.

HAPPENING TODAY – ANNUAL RED MASS CELEBRATED — Catholic leaders from across the state will converge on Tallahassee to celebrate the 42nd annual Red Mass at 6 p.m. at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, 900 W. Tennessee Street. Participants are expected to include Reps. Kathleen Peters and Danny Burgess, as well as the state’s bishops and archbishops.


Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Circles of Care

Kenneth Bell, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: ASI Insurance Group

Jim Boxold, Andrew Ketchel, Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Metro Development Group

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: Evolent Health

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Second Sun

Marnie George, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Recyclers Association; Pinch A Penny

Michael Harrell, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Pinch A Penny

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

Ron Pierce, Natalie King, RSA Consulting: Goldcoast Eagle Distributing; Suncoast Beverage Sales

Paul Mitchell, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: ExamWorks

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: The Stacole Company, Inc. d/b/a Stacole Fine Wines

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Knowledge Services

JAMES BUCHANAN BLOCKBUSTER FUNDRAISING FOR HD 71 BID Buchanan brought in a monstrous $138,000 haul in his first month in the race to replace termed-out Republican Rep. Jim Boyd. Buchanan’s campaign says more than four-fifths of that money came from inside the district, which covers parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties. “One month into our campaign and the amount of support from every corner of our community has not only been encouraging, but overwhelming and humbling,” Buchanan said in a press release. Buchanan, whose father is U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, is going up against Bradenton attorney Will Robinson in the Republican Primary for the right-leaning seat. Robinson loaned his campaign $100,000 in February and has not yet reported March numbers.

JIM ROSICA TALKS SESSION, FAKE NEWS AND LEGAL BACKGROUND via Patrick Slevin of SL7 Consulting — Rosica, a statehouse reporter for, chatted with Slevin about everything from the 2017 Session to fake news, and how Rosica’s legal background helps him on the job. On how having a working knowledge of law helps him: Early on, maybe 2012, I was in a gaggle with a lawmaker about some bill and he was saying something that didn’t ring true. He then spouted the old saying, “I’m not a lawyer, but…” I had to pipe up and say, “Well, I am a lawyer, and…” That didn’t go over well. Bottom line: It does help me figure out the signal from the noise. …On favorite legislative issue:  I tend to like booze bills. There was the growler bill a few years ago, and now the fight over free beer glasses. For the record, I’m more of a brown liquor guy. But there’s craft distilling bills up this year too, so I’m covered. And of course, I may have been the first reporter to cover the whiskey and Wheaties bill when it was first filed back in 2014. On fake news: So really, the “fake news” thing is the agitation by some who don’t like a particular story or line of coverage. Reporters have always dealt with accusations of bias, fair or not. But I honestly don’t think we deal with it as much in Tallahassee as the D.C. reporters do. I know I don’t worry about it, and it doesn’t sway how I write any given story.”

RUTH HERRLE DEPARTS NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA via Florida PoliticsHerrle and the News Service of Florida have parted ways, according to those with knowledge of the separation. She had been publisher of the Capital-based news provider since 2008, her LinkedIn profile says. It’s owned by the same company that runs State House News Service in Boston. “Her leaving was a Boston-thing,” said one insider, in reference to the holding company, Affiliated News Services. The company previously announced it was “reorganizing its management structure and welcoming Will Galloway, founder of The Capital Steps tracking, to supervise further growth.”

***The Senate Prospective Payment System plan will protect Florida’s aging seniors by incentivizing quality care. Learn more about how this reimbursement plan will promote improvement in Florida’s skilled-nursing centers. Learn more here .***

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU Wednesday’s Governors Club lunch buffet comes from the Pacific Northwest with Washington State salmon bisque; Washington trio apple salad – chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, celery, red delicious apple, Fuji, green delicious – spinach pear salad – spinach, pears, tomatoes, red onion, sunflower seeds – seasonal greens; three dressing sections; Oregon herb rubbed tri-tip; California drunken chicken; potatoes & wild mushroom au gratin; lime asparagus and broccoli & cauliflower au buerre.

BABIES ROMEO AND JULIETTE MAKE DEBUT IN FLORIDA HOSPITAL via The Associated Press – Two sets of new parents were surprised to learn their babies were part of a Shakespearean connection at a Florida hospital just two weeks after another pair of infants premiered as Romeo and Juliet on the same day at a hospital in South Carolina. Juliette Crouchwas born Friday morning at Leesburg Regional Medical Center, northwest of Orlando. Hours later, Romeo Kidd made his debut down the hallway. “I was completely shocked by it,” Marie Crouch said, adding that she’d heard about the babies born March 19 in a Hardeeville, South Carolina, hospital. Baby Juliet in South Carolina is spelled as Shakespeare wrote the name. “I had no clue the same thing was going to happen to us,” Marie Crouch said. In spite of the hospital rules, the two central Florida families began searching for each other. “I was going to walk down the hallway and say, ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?'” Justin Crouch, Juliette’s father, said.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith, and Pinellas Co. Property Appraiser Mike Twitty.

Sunburn for 4.4.17 – Chris King launches; Gov. & Spkr.’s dueling op-eds; Packed day at Capitol; Brian Ballard upped

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

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


After more than a month of silent campaign building since he filed to run for governor, Orlando Democratic businessman Chris King is ready to come out into the limelight,

King announced he will be holding his campaign kickoff at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Hillcrest Hampton House in Orlando. That is a senior affordable housing community his company renovated.

He is one of two Democrats to announce their candidacies to run for governor in 2018, along with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. But the silent mode of King’s campaign staff building since he filed his paperwork in February has left him behind three other potential candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, and Orlando attorney John Morgan, when it comes to introducing himself, his views and his plans to Florida.

An advisory released by his campaign Monday morning says he “will call for a new kind of leadership, and movement of people ready for a new direction to ‘rise up so Florida can lead again.’”

That is consistent with the few remarks the developer of affordable and senior housing projects has made in the past.

“As many of you are probably aware, next Tuesday I will be launching my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and I look forward traveling all around this state getting to know so many of you,” King stated in a video presentation provided to a gathering of statewide Democrats Saturday night at the Florida Democratic Party’s DCCA Retreat.

“We can win this race in 2018, and I want to be the type of candidate that makes that possible and gets you excited again about what is possible in Florida,” King said.

King, founder and CEO of Elevation Financial Group, a private equity real estate investment company, characterized himself as a “progressive entrepreneur” in his video to the Democrats’ retreat.

In tweets he posted last week, he declared, “I’m running for Governor of Florida because politics as usual isn’t working.” He also tweeted, “Florida should lead the nation, but today we’re falling behind on jobs, wages, education, health care, and hope.”

So far, he’s putting together a team that includes Charlie Crist‘s former campaign manager Omar Khan to serve as his senior adviser, as well as adding other Barack Obama alumni Jeremy Bird, Hari Sevugan, Larry Girsolano, and Isaac Baker to his team.

— “Chris King looks to stand out in Democratic field for governor” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

FIRST LOOK: The Chris King campaign kickoff video, “Rise and Lead, Florida,” combines testimonials with a hint of King the family man. The Democrat’s pitch includes creating more jobs paying higher wages. The video also highlights his work in affordable housing. Here’s a look:


With King’s planned announcement today, we thought it a good time to check-in with the rest of the 2018 hopefuls — or likely hopefuls, as the case may be:

Gillum has spent the last month trying to boost his name recognition across the state, including hosting a roundtable about the Affordable Care Act in South Florida on Friday. Although the Tallahassee mayor has spoken at a few Democratic gatherings throughout the state, such as the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida in Tampa in early March, he didn’t attend the Florida Democratic Party’s County Chair Association Meeting in St. Petersburg this weekend. On Twitter, Gillum’s spokesman said he was getting “inducted into the FAMU Hall of Fame” and that was why he wasn’t at the event.” Although Gillum was first out the gate, he continues to be plagued email problems. Just last week, the Tallahassee Democrat reported another overtly political email sent from Gillum’s office surfaced, this time inviting people to a fundraiser for the Florida Democratic Party.

— When is Graham going to make her decision? Soon, or at least that’s what the former congresswoman has been saying for the past few months. During a meet-and-greet in Miami Beach in mid-March she said was going to make an announcement soon and wanted to make sure “everything is methodically planned out.” During a breakfast in Quincy last week, she said she was “in the planning stages right now, and we’ll have an announcement very soon.” So what does that mean? Well, the Tallahassee Democrat recently launched Our Florida, the state political committee expected to fund a 2018 gubernatorial run, and transferred $250,000 from her congressional coffers to the state committee. The committee is chaired by Stephanie Toothaker, an attorney with Tripp Scott who served as special counsel for Bob Graham, the former governor and U.S. Senator (and Rep. Graham’s dad). Now, the only thing left to do is wait for “soon” to roll around.

 Levine seems to be taking this idea of a listening tour seriously, traveling the state to attend several local Democratic meetings in recent weeks. In March, the Miami Beach Democrat traveled to the Manatee, Hillsborough, Pasco and Palm Beach counties to meet with Democrats and talk about issues important to them. He also sounded off on Airbnb’s attempts to flood the South Florida market, and shot back against state lawmakers looking to deregulate vacation home rentals. But … then again you have to wonder how much Levine is listening, when he’s reportedly blocking critics on social media. And he’s getting a bit of a Trumpian reputation for his off-the-cuff remarks on social media.

— Speaking of someone with a “yuge” social media presence: John Morgan hasn’t said yes or no, but he sure seems like he’s having a lot of fun considering it. The Orlando attorney has been toying with the idea of running for months, and a few weeks back even retweeted a story about former Sen. Jeremy Ring saying he planned to wait until after the 2017 Session to decide whether he’ll run for CFO saying “the feeling is mutual.” But Morgan, who backed the 2014 and 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendments, is getting a lot of press for someone who is just thinking about thinking about running. Last month, he was featured in a New York Times article about some folks pondering a run in a post President Donald Trump world.

But does all this early hype really matter? Sure, early announcements and shadow campaigns mean the potential to raise more dough and name recognition. But with 19 months until Election Day, the voters don’t really seem to give a hoot about the governor’s race.

A new poll from — conducted March 28 through March 29 by Gravis Marketing for The Orlando Political Observer — found 36 percent of Democratic voters said they were uncertain who they would vote for in the primary. The survey also showed many voters were still “uncertain” in several hypothetical head-to-head general election showdowns.

The poll found 24 percent of Democrats said they would pick former Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Democratic primary; while 23 percent said they would pick Gillum. Morgan received 9 percent support, followed Graham with 8 percent support, and Levine with 1 percent.

As for Republicans, they didn’t do much better: 63 percent of Republicans said they were uncertain who they would vote for in their primary. The poll found 21 percent GOP voters said they would pick Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, while 5 percent support went to former Rep. David Jolly and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Sen. Jack Latvala received 4 percent, followed by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker with 2 percent.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gillum will continue his campaign for Florida governor with a speech to the Florida General Baptist Convention, 10:30 a.m. at the Main Ballroom, Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista South, 4955 Kyngs Heath Rd, Kissimmee.

— “At County Chairs Retreat, Florida Dems plan to wage war with GOP in 2018 via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

CAN A MODERATE ‘OLD WHITE GUY’ BEAT CONGRESSWOMAN STEPHANIE MURPHY? via Peter Schorsch Florida PoliticsDavid Simmons, the 64-year old Seminole County state Senator, is considering his first congressional run at an age when most Americans are considering retirement. Simmons’ candidacy likely appeals to NRCC operatives who may be inclined to overlook his rather bland, dull, and prematurely aged look in light of his hefty bank account. However, can Simmons’ compassionate voting record withstand a bruising primary campaign likely to favor conservatives? In 2014, the Florida Legislature did something I thought impossible: It granted in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. Simmons was an unapologetic “yes” vote. That will make it tougher for Murphy to attack Simmons as anti-immigrant, but harder for Simmons to survive his primary. Similarly, Simmons backed Medicaid expansion in the Senate — effectively enlarging and entrenching Obamacare — a move that’s unlikely to endear him to conservatives but may insulate him from Murphy’s attacks … policy similarities offer Simmons a fighting chance — if he can make it out of the GOP primary.

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – ZUCKERBURG’S IMMIGRATION REFORM GROUP LAUNCHES FLORIDA CHAPTER via Florida Politics, founded by Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates among others, is gathering a coalition of business, community and faith leaders to push for immigration reform. The group favors equipping law enforcement with the tools necessary to stem further illegal immigrants from coming into the U.S. so they can focus on more dangerous criminals and security threats. The group also wants an overhaul for the legal immigration system so top-flight talent can come to the states and make the country more competitive in the global market. is also looking for lawmakers to create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants in the country without a criminal history. Their plan would give immigrants who pass a criminal background check, pay fines and go through a probationary period the opportunity to apply for full citizenship years down the line.

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 23; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 30; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 30; MLB All-Star Game – 98; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 151; Election Day 2017 – 216; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 254; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 278.

RICK SCOTT OP-ED: REPUBLICANS CANNOT GIVE UP ON HEALTH CARE via USA Today — Repealing the failure of Obamacare and replacing it with a plan that actually provides affordable and quality health care for families is something that I focused on long before I became Governor. In 2009, when I was a private citizen, I launched Conservatives for Patients’ Rights because I was concerned about the ramifications Obamacare could have for our nation. And, what I fought hard against immediately came true. Under Obamacare, costs have skyrocketed and families cannot keep the doctors they like.  Obamacare was sold on a lie, plain and simple. In the wake of the demise of the House Republican health care reform effort in Washington, some are saying we should quit trying to do anything about our nation’s health care system. Abandoning the effort to improve our nation’s health care system is not an option. … While efforts like tax reform are important to strengthening our national economy, our country will never see the kind of growth we need as long as Obamacare is in place. Our businesses and entrepreneurs will never fully thrive as long as they are burdened by the costs of Obamacare. Washington needs to stop worrying about getting a grand bargain done, and start delivering on their promise to help American families by repealing Obamacare.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtable at 10 a.m. Florida State College in Jacksonville’s Advanced Technology Center, Room T140, 401 W. State Street in Jacksonville. He’ll then highlight job growth at 2:15 p.m. at Boston Whaler, 100 Whaler Way in Edgewater. Media interested in attending should contact Susan Haywood from Boston Whaler at 386-428-0057 or

RICHARD CORCORAN OP-ED: SCOTT IS ‘A GOVERNOR WHO WON’T HELP US’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – “We’ve got problems in the Senate, and we’ve got problems with a governor who won’t help us take this burden off the backs of our small businesses,” Corcoran told the Times/Herald. “If the governor would get more active and start traveling the state, talk about the stuff that’s really going to cost us jobs.” Repeating a familiar theme, Corcoran said: “Handing over million-dollar contracts to Pitbulls and Emerils and the insider dealing that goes on is not how we bring tourism here.” After placing Enterprise Florida on the political chopping block, Corcoran now criticizes Scott for trying to rescue the program. Scott’s office issued a response that focused mostly on Corcoran’s effort to abolish Enterprise Florida. “It is important to know that the bills fast-tracked through the Florida House have been job killers and detrimental to Florida’s active military, veterans and their families by eliminating the Florida Defense Alliance,” the statement said.

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. As we reach the halfway point of session, GOP sponsored bills make up 77.33% of the total bills that have been placed on the calendar for a hearing in the Florida House.“

PAM BONDI’S OFFICE TO EMILY SLOSBERG: LOCAL GOVERNMENT CAN’T OUTLAW TEXTING WHILE DRIVING via Florida PoliticsThe Legislature can’t create an exception for Palm Beach County to make texting while driving in a school zone a primary offense there, Attorney General Bondi’s office said in a recent letter. The answer came in response to a question from state Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat elected last year. The letter, dated Feb. 3, was part of an Attorney General’s Opinions Digest released Monday. Slosberg wanted to know “whether the Legislature may provide express authority for the Palm Beach County Commission to pass an ordinance making ‘texting while driving’ in a school zone in Palm Beach County a primary offense.” Nope, said Lagran Saunders, director of Bondi’s Opinions Division. (It’s now a secondary offense, meaning a driver has to be pulled over for something else first.) “To enact legislation granting authority to Palm Beach County to solely enact an ordinance making texting while driving in a school zone a primary offense would be contrary to this express legislative intent of a uniform system of traffic regulation and would violate the Florida Constitution,” the letter said.

LEGISLATURE COULD ERASE PART OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TESTING LAW via The Associated Press – State senators crafted the proposal together amid arguments over how much testing should be allowed in the state’s public schools. The Senate Education Committee voted for the bill … The measure (SB 926) would eliminate four end-of-year exams that are now required in civics, United States history, geometry and Algebra II. The legislation would allow school districts to use pencil and paper tests instead of requiring students to take tests online. The bill also pushes back the date of when the state’s high-stakes test is given to the last three weeks of the school year. Florida’s main tests are now given anywhere from late February to early May.

LEGISLATORS PUSH FOR MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO AID ANTI-ABORTION GROUP via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – The Florida Pregnancy Care Network is a private, nonprofit tax-exempt organization created in 2006. It has supported clinics across the state that, according to a Senate bill, offer an array of “wellness services” intended to help pregnant women “improve health or prevent illness and injury.” The programs supported by the network do not include abortion referrals or adoptions … Now lawmakers want to carve out a special place in state law for the program, guaranteeing its funding each year and tucking it in a state agency for oversight. “If you are pro-abortion, you don’t like this bill,” said bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Bean. “If you are pro-life, you like this bill.” The Legislature approved $4 million for the network in the current budget.

SENATE PANEL PASSES MEDICAL MARIJUANA PLAN via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – With more dispensaries and more options for actually consuming cannabis, the plan approved by a Senate panel could be more in line with Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment than the far more restrictive House plan. The bill sponsor, state Sen. Rob Bradley said his bill “fully implements the will of the voters and does so without playing games or being cute.” But getting the House and Senate to come together and agree on a single version will be difficult. Even getting the Senate to a single version wasn’t easy. Five senators filed bills to regulate Florida’s medical marijuana industry, but Bradley’s bill, approved unanimously by the Senate Health Policy Committee, incorporated many ideas from the other bills in a flurry of amendments.

BOTTOMS UP: BEER, BOOZE BILLS CLEAR SENATE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics Let freedom pour: Bills aimed at changing beer and booze regulations in Florida have cleared their latest review panel. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee OK’d measures that would allow beer distributors to give free branded beer glasses to bars and restaurants, authorize beer companies to advertise in theme parks and let craft distillers sell more bottles directly to consumers … Now, it’s capped at “two bottles per person per brand per year at one location” … GOP Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota told fellow senators, “You can go to Wal-Mart and buy as many shotguns as you want. I just think the government telling a business how many pieces of product they can sell is archaic. It’s not good public policy.”

SENATE AOB REFORM BILL BARS INSURERS FROM CHARGING LITIGATION COSTS TO CUSTOMERS via Florida Politics — A Senate committee voted Monday to give the insurance industry more control over contractors operating under assignment of benefits agreements, but also to prevent them from factoring their litigation costs into the premiums they charge. HB 1218 would leave alone Florida’s one-way attorney fees, which requires insurance carriers to cover policyholders’ legal fees if the latter prevail in a legal challenge over a claim. But the bill would tighten regulation of the agreements, also known as AOBs. Banking and Insurance chairwoman Anitere Flores expressed disappointment that the bill’s many critics offered no amendments to make it better. She said she no longer was willing to accept insurers’ guarantee that their approach would reduce rates. “This is the issue du jour that property insurance companies have said is the rate driver. We went through sinkholes, we went through a variety of different issues. And as we have fixed those issues, the only people who  have been hurt have been consumers, and those who have benefitted are others,” Flores said.

— “Anitere Flores slams insurance industry for “smearing” her” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

SENATE PANEL OKS WORKERS’ COMP BILL OPPOSED BY INSURANCE INDUSTRY via Florida Politics – The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 7-1 Monday to approve legislation that would require workers’ compensation carriers to compete on price rather than propose premium levels through a common ratings agency, and that would allow workers to pay attorneys hourly rates if they take insurers to court.The ‘No” vote was by Sen. George Gainer, a Republican from Panama City. The next stop is the Appropriations Committee. SB 1582 by Rob Bradley … also would change the way compensation judges award attorney fees in litigation over claims. Attorneys could receive as much as $250 per billable hour. Bradley argued the measure would strike the best balance possible between workers and employers and insurers. “The old system cannot work anymore because the (Florida Supreme) Court said it’s unconstitutional. So we have to find another system,” Bradley said.

CLOCK RUNS OUT ON VACATION RENTAL BILL, BUT ITS ONLY TEMPORARY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – With nine minutes left in a two-hour hearing Monday, senators finally got around to the only bill that drew a crowd. The lack of time guaranteed that the meeting would end with no vote on the vacation rentals bill (SB 188), sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube that pits private property rights against local home rule in a tourist-friendly state that’s a big market for Airbnb and HomeAway vacation rental platforms. … Steube appeared to have no better than a 5-3 vote in the eight-member Senate Community Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Tom Lee.. While that’s enough to keep the bill moving, it falls short of a resounding endorsement. Lee said the bill would be rescheduled for the week of April 17, with next week’s abbreviated schedule devoted to the budget. “It will be back,” Lee said.

LIONFISH TAGGING, HUNTING PYTHONS, DESIGNATING REEFS: BILLS PASS HOUSE COMMITTEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – If anyone has ever tried to insert a passive integration transponder tag into a lionfish, they may have an idea of how seriously the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee is viewing control of invasive species. Under House Bill 587, lionfish become one of three invasive species animals, along with python snakes and tegu lizards, the state would seek to better control through a pilot project that includes state-sponsored hunting and fishing, and the requirement that pet shop owners tag any of the animals they sell. While Florida’s efforts to control pythons and tegu lizards are well-known, long-standing, and likely to use most of the $300,000 this bill would set aside for invasive species hunts, lionfish, native to Pacific Ocean coral reefs, are a different challenge altogether. Once released from someone’s aquarium, lionfish tend to make their way to the Great Florida Reef, where they attack and decimate native species of fish.

WHAT KEVIN CATE IS READING – AUBURN LICENSE PLATE PROPOSAL PASSES COMMITTEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Senate Bill 1374 chiefly focuses on efforts to honor veterans in Florida with various highway designations and license plates. It also includes a provision giving legislative approval of an Auburn University specialty license plate. The bill, touted for its veterans’ angles and with nary a word spoken about the Auburn plate during [its] committee meeting, was unanimously approved by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee. If the measure goes all the way through the Florida Legislature and gets signed by Gov. Scott, Auburn would become the first non-Florida college or university to get authorized for commemoration on the rear ends of Florida-registered cars and trucks.

JOE GRUTERS LAUNCHES AD TO HIGHLIGHT LEGISLATIVE WORK — The Sarasota Republican is has released a new advertisement aimed at highlighting some of the work he’s done during the 2017 Legislative Session. The 30-second spot focuses on his proposal to require employers to use the e-Verify system; bills dealing with abortion; and a proposal dealing with campaign finance reform. First elected in November, the ad features pictures of Gruters with his family, as well as a shot of Gruters with President Trump, who he was an early supporter of during the 2016 presidential election. Click on the image below to watch the video.

***The Senate Prospective Payment System plan will protect Florida’s aging seniors by incentivizing quality care. Learn more about how this reimbursement plan will promote improvement in Florida’s skilled-nursing centers. Learn more here.***

KEITH MILLER: FLORIDA’S SMALL BUSINESSES NEED PROTECTIONS IN STATE LAW via Florida Politics – Florida cannot continue to lose our small businesses, their investments, or risk taxpayer dollars due to unfair corporate franchisor practices. It is an all-too-common story where local business owners are at the mercy of the more powerful corporations and are taken advantage of. In this instance, the California-based corporation was issuing directives to the Florida owners based on California demographics and sales patterns which simply did not fit the Florida locations. When these locations were unable to comply with the unreasonable demands, and sales goals, they were left with no choice but to walk away from their businesses, leaving behind millions of dollars in property, equipment and supplies. Owning and operating a successful business is challenging enough without the constant stress and fear that everything you’ve worked for can be taken away in the blink of an eye. 23 other states have already enacted laws to provide greater protection for small business franchise owners and Florida should do the same. Similarly situated businesses in Florida, such as automobile dealers, agricultural equipment dealers and beer distributors are protected under Florida law.

FACT-CHECK: IS HOUSE ‘SANCTUARY’ BILL UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE IN THE COUNTRY? Via Allison Graves of PolitiFact – Rep. Larry Metz sponsored a proposal (HB 697) that would require county and local law enforcement agencies to comply with and support enforcement of federal immigration law or face stiff penalties. The bill has moved along party lines in a couple of House committee hearings. It needs a full vote in the House and approval in the Senate, where it has not been heard at all, before it can reach Gov. Scott’s desk and become law. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has raised strong objections. “It will be the only law of its kind in the nation,” Smith said. Several states have come up with bills targeting so-called sanctuary cities. Among them, HB 697 in its current form is indeed unique in terms of the severity of the prohibitions and penalties against state and local entities that choose not to comply with federal immigration detainer requests. The Texas Legislature appears to have the next-closest version of this legislation. We rate this statement Mostly True.

MAYORS TO LEGISLATURE: HANDS OFF OUR CITY HALLS via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – “I have never seen the assault on local government on all fronts — our ability to self-govern, our ability to pass laws that are appropriate for our communities — as I have in this legislative session,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told a crowd of about 300 at an Economic Club of Tampa lunch. Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said bills pending in the state House will eliminate the ability of cities use community redevelopment funds to promote growth in blighted areas, as well as the ability of local governments to address gun violence or protect the rights of LGBT residents. Speaker Corcoran has said city and county officials have allowed the proliferation of “runaway regulations.” Local officials and the state also have clashed over efforts to pre-empt cities from regulating vacation rentals.

HOSPITALS ORDERED TO PROVIDE SALARY AND LOBBYING DATA TO HOUSE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The House has advanced an $81.2 billion budget that would reduce payments to hospitals by more than $600 million next year. In what may be an attempt to bolster its political case for those cuts, the House is seeking information on hospital executives’ salaries and lobbying contracts. The deadline for hospitals to respond is by the close of business Friday, April 7. The request comes from House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s chief budget-writer, Rep. Carlos Trujillo. In emails sent out late last week by Trujillo’s staff director, JoAnne Leznoff, hospitals, including all members of the statewide Florida Hospital Association, are asked to provide extensive financial data, including: “Compensation received for all executive and administrative staff earning in excess of $200,000. Please provide the salary for each individual and associated job title.

SAFETY NET HOSPITALS DECRY MEDICAID SPENDING CUTS PLANNED FOR FLORIDA via Florida Politics – The cuts would undermine the state’s investments in training doctors, alliance members argued outside the Senate Office Building in Tallahassee.  Under the Graduate Medical Education Startup Bonus Program launched by Gov. Scott two years ago, teaching hospitals draw $100,000 bonuses for every residency they add in key specialties. New residencies totaled 313 this year. “We cannot train tomorrow’s physicians when every year our hospitals must re-evaluate their budgets,” said Lindy Kennedy, vice president for government relations for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance. … The pressure on hospital budgets is coming from all sides —Scott’s proposed budget would cut $929 million from the Medicaid share formula, paying 58 cents for every dollar the hospitals spend, alliance members said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Safety Net Alliance of Florida will hold a press conference to applaud trauma teams at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital, and Broward Health Medical Center for their heroic efforts in saving lives during recent mass casualty incidents at 10:30 a.m. in 231 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: First Lady Ann Scott and other state leaders will help launch Prevent Child Abuse Florida’s annual “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign at 10 a.m. at the Governor’s Mansion, 700 North Adams Street. She’s expected to be joined by Sen. Audrey Gibson, Rep. Al Jacquet, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll, Surgeon General Celeste Philip, ACHA Secretary Justin Senior, DJJ Secretary Christina Daly and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

HAPPENING TODAY — COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Government Operations & Technology Subcommittee will discuss a bill (HB 7071) that would revamp electric utility regulation when it meets at 8 a.m. in Morris Hall. The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a series of claims bills, including on (HB 6523) that would lead to paying $3.75 million in the settlement of the case involving Nubia and Victor Barahona when it meets at 8 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The Senate Judiciary Committee committee will consider a proposal (SR 1440) that would apologize for abuse that occurred at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Jackson County during its meeting at 9:30 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will discuss a bill (SB 1370) that would require warning labels be placed on lottery tickets when it meets at 4 p.m. in110 Senate Office Building.

HAPPENING TODAY – FSU DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Pull out your garnet and gold, it’s FSU Day at the Capitol. The annual event will celebrate Florida State University’s preeminence and “all things garnet and gold.” The university will have displays and information tables set up on the plaza level, and second and third floor rotundas from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a pep rally from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Capitol plaza between the old and new Capitol. The event will feature FSU President John Thrasher, performances by the FSU cheerleaders, members of the Flying High Circus, and a pep band.

HAPPENING TODAY — FLORIDA POLY DAY AT THE CAPITOL — The Phoenix are taking on Tallahassee! Florida Polytechnic University students, faculty, students and leaders will head to the state Capitol for Florida Poly Day. The day-long event is meant to focus on promoting the state’s newest university, and school officials will set up display booths from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Portico.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Environment Florida Research & Policy Center will release new data ranking Florida and other cities for installed solar power at 8 a.m. The report will be available at

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Bob Cortes will hold a press conference on State Attorney Ayala at 8:45 a.m. in 333 House Media Room. He’ll be joined by Reps. Mike Miller, Rene Plasencia, Scott Plakon and Jennifer Sullivan.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Darryl Rouson and Rep. Tracie Davis will hold a press conference to discuss their resolutions to acknowledge the abuses at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys at 11:30 a.m. on the fourth floor between the House and Senate chambers. They’ll be joined by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, former Gov. Bob Martinez, and former students of Dozier and Okeechobee Reform Schools.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Paul Renner will hold a press conference to highlight military-friendly bills from the 2017 Legislation at 12:30 p.m. in the 333 House Media Room. He’ll be joined by several members of the Legislature, including Sens. Jeff Brandes and Greg Steube.

HAPPENING TODAY – STACEY WEBB ARTS FOUNDATION HOSTS INAUGURAL SESSION FUNDRAISER — The Stacey Webb Arts Foundation will host its inaugural session fundraise at 5:30 p.m. at the Southern Public House, 224 East College Ave.,  n memory of Webb, who died in 2015. All proceeds directly fund arts education for economic disadvantaged children. The foundation recommends a $30 donation.

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION MEETINGS IN SOUTH FLORIDA MOVED TO LARGER SPACE via Florida Politics Carlos Beruff, chair of the panel that is reviewing the state’s governing document, says he’s bumped this week’s meetings to bigger rooms “to maximize public participation.” The commission’s Thursday meeting will be at the Florida International University (FIU) Student Academic Success Center in Miami at 5 p.m. and the Friday meeting is now at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Acura Club (located in the FAU Stadium) in Boca Raton at 9 a.m. Full details are on the commission’s website. Additional public hearings will be announced soon. All hearings will be live-streamed by The Florida Channel.

FPL TO ADD ANOTHER 1,500 MEGAWATTS OF SOLAR OVER THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS via Florida Politics – The new power plants are in addition to the eight new solar facilities expected to come online by early 2018 and FPL said the new plants could save customers more than $500 million. The roadmap for the new facilities was filed with the Public Service Commission as part of the company’s 2017-2026 Ten Year Site Plan, which included the first-ever projection that solar power will outpace coal and oil combined as a percentage of the company’s energy mix by 2020. Details on where the newly announced plants will be located haven’t been finalized, though the company said a Miami-Dade plant looks promising for 2019.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION TO CONSIDER GULF POWER RATE HIKE – The Florida PSC will meet to discuss Gulf Power’s March 20 request for a proposed settlement reducing its rate hike to $62 million, down from an initial amount of nearly $107 million. Florida Industrial Power Users Group agreed to the settlement, and the Sierra Club announced it will not oppose it. The meeting begins 9 a.m. at the Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way in Tallahassee.

***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***

APPOINTED: Colonel John Domenech and Sheldon Suga to the District Board of Trustees of the Florida Keys Community College.

BRIAN BALLARD JOINS NATIONAL GOP FINANCE TEAM via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald Ballard, who helped finance Trump‘s upstart campaign in Florida, has joined the national ranks of the Republican Party … he was named one of the Republican National Committee’s regional finance vice chairmen. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel appointed Ballard and several others to top finance positions. “Together this team will employ their extraordinary talent and understanding of Americans across the country to maintain and build upon our unprecedented fundraising success,” she said in a statement.

SAVE THE DATE: Longtime Marco Rubio friend Jose Mallea is holding a fundraiser Monday, April 10, in his bid for House District 116. Special guests include the Hon. Andrew H. Card, Jr. and Rev. Kathleene Card. Event begins 6 p.m. at Mission DuPont Circle 1606 20th St. NW. in Washington D.C.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, opponents continue to line up against Senate President Joe Negron’s plan to buy land South of Lake Okeechobee. Gomes explores the role of agribusiness in Florida’s economy with the University of Florida Extension Scientist Alan Hodges. Plus, a possible budgetary food fight in the Legislature is expected over a plan to change how nursing home facilities get Medicaid reimbursements. Gomes interviews Emmett Reed, executive director of the Florida Health Care Association about his efforts to improve the quality of the state’s nursing homes.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU Tuesday’s Governors Club lunch buffet offers a touch of the Old South with she crab soup, remoulade slaw, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, traditional potato salad with bacon, fried chicken with whiskey BBQ sauce, herb roasted pork loin, macaroni & cheese casserole, mashed potatoes, succotash and broccoli & cauliflower casserole.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dave DeCamp, my fraternity brother turned great lawyer Jorge Gutierez, Dan Pollock, Mike Synan, and Kevin Sweeny‘s much-better half, Beth.

GONDOLAS COULD BE DISNEY’S NEXT NEW RIDE via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – A construction notice has given more fuel to the rumor that Walt Disney World is planning to build a gondola system connecting Epcot, three Disney resorts and Hollywood Studios. An official notice of commencement filed in Orange County for the construction of “foundation and building infrastructure” at six different locations could be the gondola’s route … Walt Disney World remains mum on the rumor. The proposed gondola would connect Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation and Pop Century resorts. It would help relieve an overloaded system of buses that transport guests around Walt Disney World Resort.

Sunburn for 4.3.17 – All eyes on Carlos Trujillo; WSJ dings Anitere Flores; House T-shirt non-con; David Simmons for Congress; Volunteer Month; King Arthur trailer

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica, although today we’re giving Gary Fineout of the Associated Press the lead…


With about a month left in the regular session, the Republican-controlled Legislature is on a major collision course over spending.

This past week the House and Senate released rival budgets for the coming year that reveal a wide divide between the two chambers on everything from taxes to schools to state worker pay raises.

The two sides don’t even have the same bottom line: The Senate’s overall budget is more than $85 billion, or roughly $4 billion more than the House proposed. The current state budget is nearly $82.3 billion.

Part of the reason for the disparity is that House Republicans sought aggressive budget cuts, aimed largely at hospitals and state universities. But the House budget also sets aside money for roughly $300 million in tax cuts, including a reduction in the tax charged on rent paid by businesses.

House leaders say they pushed ahead with deep spending cuts to help the state avoid possible shortfalls that are projected over the next two to three years by state economists. In describing the need for cuts, House Republicans have referred to a budget “deficit” even though state tax collections are actually growing.

“We have to make informed decisions, and we have to make tough decisions,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the House budget chairman. “We can’t be all things to all people.”

A big sticking point between the House and Senate will be over money for public schools.

The Senate is recommending a nearly $800 million increase for day-to-day operations that would boost the amount spent on each student by close to 3 percent. That contrasts with the House’s proposal that would increase the per student amount by 1.25 percent.

“The budget meets the needs of our growing state in a manner that reflects the priorities of the constituents who elected us,” said Senate President Joe Negron.

But a large portion of the Senate plan relies on an increase in local property taxes triggered by rising property values. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has vowed to block any proposal that relies on higher taxes.

Corcoran and other House Republicans have proposed steering large amounts of money into contentious programs, including an ambitious $200 million “Schools of Hope” plan that would offer money to charter school operators that set up schools near failing public schools.

Another wide area of disagreement: Money for economic development programs and tourism promotion that has already pitted House leaders against Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate has kept intact the state’s economic development agency known as Enterprise Florida and agreed to keep spending on tourism marketing close to current levels. The House is proposing to shutter Enterprise Florida, while slashing the state’s tourism ad budget by roughly $50 million.

“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe,” Scott said this week about the House proposal.

The House and Senate also differ on the need for across-the-board raises for state workers. The Senate is offering a raise of $1,400 to all employees making $40,000 or less, and $1,000 to those who earn more than $40,000. The House is recommending targeted pay raises to corrections officers and state law-enforcement agents.

The Senate is also proposing to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms. House leaders have said they are opposed to borrowing money this year but have not rejected the Senate plan.

ANITERE FLORES BETS ON WASHINGTON INTERVENTION IN HEALTH CARE BUDGET via Michael Moline of Florida PoliticsFlores has built a health care budget around $600 in federal money for indigent care that she concedes might never arrive. “If it doesn’t happen, look, we’ll have to reassess the situation,” Flores said this week during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “This is just the Senate’s version. There’s a whole other version that’s going on in the House,” she said. Pending negotiations with the House and Gov. Scott, “I think it’s important for us as a Senate to take a stand and day, ‘We’re going to do whatever we can to help our hospitals help make their case to the federal government,’” Flores said. “If we simply do nothing — if simply say, ‘Well, let’s just not even include it,’ that may not send the right message to Washington as far as the state’s commitment to hospitals and to Medicaid re-imbursement.”

HIGHER EDUCATION PROJECTS FAIL HOUSE’S STRICT NEW BUDGET TEST via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The budget — agreed upon in principle, and due in bill form this week — will call for something like $2.2 billion in spending cuts, according to House leaders, for a total expenditure of $81.2 billion. Among the biggest targets — because they rank among the single most significant expenses outside entitlements like Medicaid — is member projects, Rep. Trujillo said … These are programs that members hope to bring home to their constituents, and a lot of them wind up at universities and colleges. “Some of them might be parochial in nature. Some of them might not really have a state impact,” Trujillo said … “We were very aggressive in identifying those and removing them from the budget,” he said. The House is intent on ending the time-honored tradition of sneaking projects into the budget during conference committee negotiations. Rules change forced members to apply early for inclusion in the budget.

HOSPITAL FUNDING CUTS WOULD HIT ORLANDO AND MIAMI FACILITIES HARDEST via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Both the House panel and Scott recommended cutting supplemental payments to Florida Hospital by $49.9 million. The House health budget committee recommended cutting payments to Jackson Memorial by $28.3 million. The Senate recommended cutting supplemental payments to Jackson Memorial by $34.3 million and to University of Florida Shands in Gainesville by $16.8 million. Hospitals in Collier and Lee counties face cuts that, although smaller, still would have a “profound impact,” one spokeswoman said. These proposed cuts would move the House and Senate closer together, but there are still gulfs between the two chambers in terms of amount and method. The House panel, which is more ideologically aligned with the governor on health care, has proposed cutting $622 million from hospitals, whereas the Senate would cut nearly $260 million.

WHERE DID $1.3 BILLION FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING GO? THE LEGISLATURE TOOK IT. via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – For the 10th year in a row, the Governor and Legislature are proposing to sweep money from the affordable housing trust funds into the general revenue fund to spend on other purposes. Since the start of the Great Recession, that has added up to $1.3 billion. This year, the trust funds will collect about $292 million for affordable housing from the documentary stamp taxes on real estate transactions. The draft Senate budget released last week allocates $162.4 million of the funds into affordable housing while the House and Gov. Scott propose spending even less of the proceeds on housing — $44 million. “Housing is definitely a problem, but the issue is we aren’t going to just throw more affordable housing into South Florida,” said Rep. Trujillo, adding that he believes the program couldn’t absorb more than the House will give it. Besides, he adds, “the reality is there’s only a 60-day legislative session. There’s only so many issues you can tackle in 60 days.”

EDITORIAL: DON’T RAID AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUND YET AGAIN via the Bradenton Herald –The Sadowski Act, passed into law in 1992, pumps money into affordable housing programs statewide through the documentary stamp tax paid on real estate transactions. But those dollars are basically stolen by Tallahassee politicians more interested in funding their goals — by explaining the money was needed to balance the state budget. This year is like many others. The Legislature has yet to rob the Trust Fund bank, but Gov. Scott has set his sights on the easy money. His budget proposal, which he titled “Fighting for Florida’s Future” to “create opportunities for generations of Floridians,” sweeps about two-thirds — 77 percent — of the lawfully dedicated money supposedly going into the Sadowski fund back into his $83.5 billion state budget plan. Scott’s attempted heist amounts to $224 million earmarked for low-income housing from state and local housing funds this coming fiscal year — for his priorities. The political message is crystal clear. Housing for the poor is not a priority, not even a low one, not by any measure.

LEGISLATURE TO CONSIDER CUTS TO ARAMIS AYALA’S OFFICE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – State Rep. Scott Plakon, the Altamonte Springs Republican who has been extremely critical of Ayala since she announced her no-death-penalty stance. And when he engineered the line-item, $1.3 million budget cut that wound up included in the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee he made it clear the cut was a result of that stance. “She’s not prosecuting death penalty cases, so this is essentially the money to be used for death penalty cases,” Plakon said. Democrats and Ayala’s office have blasted that cut and charged that the Orange County Republican members of that subcommittee — Eric Eisnaugle, Mike Miller and Jennifer Sullivan — are putting their own constituents at public safety risk by slashing money for prosecuting criminals. “The impact of cutting $1.3 million and eliminating 21 positions would severely impact this agency’s ability to effectively prosecute crimes,” Ayala declared in a public statement.

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 24; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 31; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 31; MLB All-Star Game – 99; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 152; Election Day 2017 – 217; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 255; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 279.

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – POLL SHOWS 80% OF FLORIDIANS OK WITH VACATION HOME RENTALS via Florida Politics A new poll commissioned by the vacation home rental giant Airbnb shows that Floridians are overwhelmingly supportive of the idea of people renting out their homes to tourists. The poll found 80 percent support allowing Florida residents to rent out their homes through Airbnb and more than half think the rapidly-rising trend is good for the state. And the poll also found that surveyed voters would support taking away cities’ and counties’ abilities to regulate vacation rentals, leaving it up to the state, a question addressing two bills moving through the Florida Legislature. ….

… The key question about home rentals found 80 percent support and 20 percent opposition. And the support was within the margin of error of 80 percent for Republicans, Democrats, independents, and for voters in north, central and south Florida. Republicans and south Floridians offered the least support – 78 percent each. The question of whether the practice is good for Florida showed similar unanimity. Overall, 52 percent of those surveyed said it was good for Florida, 35 percent said it was neutral, and 13 percent bad. Republicans were slightly below those levels, at 49 percent good, 35 percent neutral and 16 percent bad. All other breakouts showed majorities thinking it is good. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they favored having the state, not local governments, registering rental properties; and 64 percent said they would support changing state law to prevent cities and counties from imposing restrictions on vacation homes.

— “Florida residents like vacation rentals” via Denis Hanks of the Sunshine State News

AIRBNBWATCH PUSHES BACK: “As the Senate Community Affairs Committee addresses vacation rentals activity this afternoon, AirbnbWATCH Florida encourages members of the committee to consider the property rights of those who want quiet neighborhoods before rolling back our laws to a time when short-term rentals were just a fraction of the problem they are today. AirbnbWATCH Florida believes it is time for all commercial lodging operators – and the websites they’ve used to enter every corner of our state – to play by the rules. Florida’s homeowners are counting on legislators to get it right.”

BLACK CLOUDS LOOM OVER THIS YEAR’S GAMBLING BILLS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – It’s long been a Capitol cliché, but there are few pronouncements on a piece of legislation as inauspicious as calling something “a heavy lift.” Yet that’s how Corcoran referred to the omnibus gambling bills now on their way to conference. They include a new agreement for continued exclusive rights for the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer blackjack in return for $3 billion over seven years. “It’s got a long way to go,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said …  Generally, the House holds the line on gambling expansion; the Senate is open to some expansion, including allowing slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties that approved a slots referendum. Having blackjack money for the upcoming $80 billion-plus state budget could mean an extra $340 million-$350 million. “It’s a heavy lift. There’s a reason it hasn’t been passed in decades,” Corcoran said. “But this is the first time, probably that anyone can recall, where you have two bills moving … That puts them in a posture to see where a negotiation goes … But I would still say it’s a heavy, heavy lift … We’ll see how it unfolds.”

DANA YOUNG, ENVIRONMENTALISTS STILL HOLD HOPE FOR FRACKING BAN IN 2017 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – House members now say the possibility of a fracking ban is dead for the 2017 Legislative Session. Young thinks it’s premature to administer last rites, at least just yet. “You never say never, but now we’re saying it looks like that will be next year,” Rep. Mike Miller [said] about his bill (HB 451) as the first month of Session ended … The reason for the impasse is the desire by some House Republicans for a scientific study to determine the potential impacts of fracking. “What I would say is, move a bill in your chamber that has a study and a ban in it,” Young says, “and then let’s let other members in on that and see where we end up.”

SENATE COMMITTEE GEARS UP TO HEAR BILL TO REGULATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Florida Senate Health Policy Committee will take up a proposal to regulate Florida’s medical marijuana industry … The bill, SB 406, would outlaw smoking medical marijuana and would limit medical marijuana for Florida residents only …  bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley … filed eight different amendments to alter his original proposal. One of the new amendments would create a coalition for medical marijuana research through Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Center and Research Institute, one of the top medical research centers in the state. The goal of the coalition, according to the amendment, is to conduct “rigorous scientific research,” and to “guide policy” for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for medical marijuana.

BEER GLASS BILLS COMING TO A HEAD via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bills are moving in the Legislature to allow beer distributors to give away glasses from brewers imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants. Now, they have to be sold. The House bill (HB 853) was first OK’d by the Careers & Competition Subcommittee last week on a 10-4 vote. Three Democrats and Republican Julio Gonzalez voted against it. The Senate version (SB 1040) was previously approved in the Regulated Industries Committee 10-zip. It’s up next in the Senate … in the Commerce and Tourism Committee. So what’s the problem? Proponents, including small businesses, say it’ll be a boon to them to cut down on glasses lost from theft and breakage. Take the often-cited example of the chalice-style glass for Stella Artois, “designed to release the beer’s flavor and aroma.” Global beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev owns that brand. And thus the opposition. Rep. Randy Fine, who supports the measure, nonetheless said the glasses could be “used as an inducement to create anti-competitive behavior, that there will be strings attached.”

JANET CRUZ’S ‘TOUGH HAUL,’ FRUSTRATIONS OF THE DEMOCRATIC HOUSE CAUCUS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Tampa Rep. Cruz … admits it’s been a tough haul. “I feel like we’re spending so much time on bills that in caucus meetings, we’ve grown to call them ‘dead bills walking,'” she says of how Session is going so far. “These are bills that are simply shots across the bow,” she says, specifically referring to Speaker Corcoran and his campaign to kill Enterprise Florida. The Speaker’s effort comes much to the consternation of Gov. Scott, who continues to travel the state to call out individual Republicans who have voted in support of the proposal to date. “They’re one executive branch taking shots at the other executive branch,” Cruz says. “And in my opinion, it’s all posturing to run for higher office.”

AFTER READING ABOUT ‘GROVELAND FOUR,’ JASON FISCHER FINDS A CAUSE via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-UnionFischer not only has decided he wants to help pass a resolution that could help exonerate and formally apologize to the Groveland Four, he is leading the charge for Republicans to back a bill that is stalled in the House. After reading a book about the Lake County case last weekend, Fischer asked Rep. Bobby Dubose if could join him in sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 631. Fischer also convinced nine other Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors. “I’m from Florida, and I had never heard the story before,” Fischer said about the case involving four black men accused of raping a white woman in 1949. It resulted in two of the accused being killed by police and two others receiving harsh prison sentences. They died after being granted parole but were never pardoned. The Orlando Sentinel reported that evidence that could have exonerated the men was hidden away for decades.

ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS FIGHT FINALLY COMING TO A SENATE COMMITTEE VOTE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Legislation addressing assignment of benefits abuse comes up in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee — and it’s not the version insurance and business interests like. The panel will hear SB 1218 by Sen. Gary Farmer, a trial lawyer from Broward County. A rival bill, SB 1038, by Dorothy Hukill and Kathleen Passidomo, has yet to be favored with a committee hearing. The Hukill-Passidomo bill would bar third parties holding assignment of benefits agreements from collecting attorney fees if they sue insurers. That’s a top priority for Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and the insurance and business lobbies.

OUCH –CATEGORY 5 FLORES” via the Wall Street Journal editorial board – Florida homeowners might want to remember the name Anitere Flores when they open their next insurance bill. The South Florida Republican … blocked an effort to stop a plaintiff’s attorney scheme that’s endangering the state’s taxpayer-backed catastrophic insurer and sending premiums skyrocketing. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. spent years building a fiscal surplus after the active 2004-05 hurricane season. Now the momentum is blowing in the other direction … Citizens attributes the red ink to “assignment of benefit” abuse … a practice whereby lawyers and contractors convince homeowners to sign over their right to sue insurers for certain kinds of home damage. Insurers typically settle these claims to avoid protracted and expensive court battles, and thanks to Florida law they’re on the hook for attorney’s fees too. Republican state Senators Hukill and Passidomo introduced a bill in February that would stop AOB abuse by ending attorney fee paydays, among other reforms. But Flores refused to allow the Hukill-Passidomo reform onto the committee’s agenda, effectively killing it for this legislative session. That’s a remarkable political choice given that Sen. Flores’s South Florida constituents are paying increasingly high premiums thanks to AOB abuse.

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HERSCHEL VINYARD: LISTEN TO WATER EXPERTS IN LAKE OKEECHOBEE DEBATE via Florida Politics – In my previous role as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, it wasn’t often I would find consensus on issues involving local water management districts, the state and federal government. But after years of studying the options to best reduce the occurrence of discharges used to lower Lake Okeechobee, those involved in these three levels of governance all agree that buying additional acres of land south of the lake doesn’t solve the problem. Instead, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the state, Florida’s Congressional Delegation, and the Florida leaders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remain firm on finishing the projects included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP. So, what are the water quality experts responsible for Everglades restoration and fixing Lake Okeechobee saying? Starting at the district level, SFWMD scientists and engineers earlier this month reported district modeling shows that storage north of the lake included in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project (LOWP) – which includes solutions such as a 250,000 acre-foot above-ground northern reservoir and 110 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells – will “reduce the total discharge volume to the estuaries by more than 60 percent.”

WHY CHILDREN DIE: IF EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBLE, NOBODY’S RESPONSIBLE via Florence Snyder for Florida Politics – “Foster care kids are our kids. They are our kids,” said Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader in support of legislation making it easier for youth in state custody to obtain a driver’s license. You hear that line a lot — a lot — from “leadership” at the Department of Children & Families (DCF), and from the flacks who wear the skirts behind which “leadership” hides. It means nothing. It means less than nothing. Latest case in point: Lauryn Martin-Everett. The 16-year-old spent half her life as one of “our kids” before hanging herself by the neck until dead in a “children’s shelter” which gets money from the “community-based care” which gets money from the DCF which gets money from the state Legislature to “parent” tens of thousands of infants, toddlers and teens in “out-of-home care.” DCF’s “leadership” is not talking, but thanks to what little is left of Florida’s public records law, we know that the state adopted Lauryn out to some “forever family” that later returned her in a fit of buyer’s remorse. Florida has never paid more than lip service to the idea of recruiting and retaining the kind of highly competent, highly qualified social workers who would not, on their worst day, be fooled or bullied into letting infamous child abusers like Jorge and Carmen Barahona adopt a goldfish, let alone four of “our kids.”

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH – The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would require high school students to earn a half-credit in personal financial literacy during its meeting at 11:30 a.m. in Reed Hall. The House Higher Education Appropriations Committee will discuss a bill that would require colleges and universities to provide information to students each year about students’ loans during its meeting at 3 p.m. in 212 Knott.  The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would help juveniles expunge their records after the complete diversion programs for misdemeanor offenses at its meeting at 3 p.m. in Morris Hall. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will discuss a bill that would allow beer distributors to give free branded glassware to bars and restaurants during its meeting at 1:30 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will tackle a bill to revamp the state’s workers compensation insurance program during its meeting at 4 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. Medical marijuana is on the agenda when the Senate Health Policy Committee meets at 4 p.m. in 412 Knott.

HAPPENING THIS WEEK – SAFETY NET HOSPITAL CAPITOL DAYS – The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida will hold its annual Safety Net Capitol Days from April 3 through April 4. The two-day event will include two media events to discuss proposed hospital reimbursement cuts and gains in addressing Florida’s physician shortage. The organization will hold a press conference to discuss Medicaid hospital reimbursement and the physician shortage at 1 p.m. Monday in the Senate portico. Speakers include Steve Sonenreich, chairman of the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida; Dr. Jonathan Ellen, the chairman of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance, and Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. On Tuesday, there will be a media availability to applaud trauma teams at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital and Broward Medical Center for their efforts to save lives during recent mass casualty incidents at 10:30 a.m. in 231 Senate Office Building.

FRANCHISE GROUP TWEETS TONE-DEAF OPPOSITION TO ‘FLORIDA SMALL BUSINESS ACT’ via Florida Politics – A couple of months ago, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced supporting the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750), which seeks to “promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors” … that hasn’t set well with the International Franchise Association, which took to social media to make its case … A series of tweets on the group’s page (@Franchising411) blasted several lawmakers, calling on them to reject SB 750 and its House companion (HB 1069). But something was not quite right. Behind each image of a Florida legislator was a map of California, not Florida …  it would be reasonable to assume IFA could spring for a staffer with some basic geographic knowledge, or at least hire a person (anyone) who knows the difference between Florida and California. Ironically, the worst of these misguided tweets is one the few that got it right — with Florida in the background, that is. Sent March 30, the tweet in question asked supporters to contact Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill … Who is not in Tallahassee but contending with a more pressing issue — radiation treatments for cervical cancer.

T-SHIRTS CAUSE CLOTHING KERFUFFLE IN FLORIDA HOUSE via Florida PoliticsOn Thursday, members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus wore purple T-shirts with the slogan, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate.” Rules Chair Jose Oliva … soon put the kibosh on the sartorial messaging. Take the T-shirts off, the offending members were told, or turn them inside out. The reason: They violate House decorum. After the session, Florida Times-Union reporter Tia Mitchell tweeted a photo of Rep. Lori Berman with, yes, her T-shirt turned inside out. “‘A woman’s place is in the House & Senate.’ But the Sgt at arms says her tshirt is not (forced to turn inside out),” the tweet said.

DAVID SIMMONS 98 PERCENT SURE HE’S CHALLENGING STEPHANIE MURPHY IN 2018 via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – … after meeting with members of the National Republican Congressional Committee and exploring other options. “I’ve given it a lot of thought.” Simmons told the Observer … “I’ve met with the NRCC and I’m 98 percent headed towards a run in the 7th Congressional District.” Simmons was the featured speaker at the Florida Federation of College Republicans Annual Meeting at the University of Central Florida, which is also part of the 7th District. “The first thing this district needs is a Republican Congressperson. I think that’s critical.” said Simmons before referencing the work he was currently doing in the state Legislature to improve the region.

— “Scott Fuhrman seeks rematch against Illeana Ros-Lehtinen” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Hearld

— “Democrats and the state Senate – the 2016 failure and 2018 hopes” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze

KATIE EDWARDS WON’T RUN FOR AG COMMISSIONER; INSTEAD PUSHES NO TAX ON TAMPONS via Buddy Nevins of Edwards appeared to be positioning for a statewide run when Commissioner Adam Putnam left office next year because of term limits. Instead, she will run for a fourth term in the Florida House and continue to pursue legislation like ending sales tax on menstrual products. Despite representing one of the most urban counties in Florida, Edwards’ resume is stocked with solid agriculture credentials. Before winning office in 2012, Edwards was executive director of the Miami Dade Farm Bureau. She is currently the top Democratic on the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee.

DEMOCRAT DEBRA KAPLAN FILES TO RUN FOR HD 31 via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsKaplan, 64, is a former cable-TV Emmy-award-winning political reporter in Connecticut, and Apopka and former public relations agent, who said she strove to remain politically independent until recently, and then worked on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns. She calls herself a political moderate on most issues due to her life experience, yet an avowed feminist. “I’ve worked in the fields. I’ve worked in factories. I’ve worked in the dietary department of a hospital, pushing trays. I’ve waitressed. I’ve done backbreaking work. And I’ve been a journalist and public relations person and a promotions person,” she said. “I know what it’s like to sit around a kitchen table with a pile of bills when you’re not making a lot of money and trying to make things work. I understand what that feels like.”

ONE FOSTER CHILD HANGING STIRS ANGUISH; THE OTHER IS BARELY NOTICED via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald Lauryn Martin-Everett tied a blue patterned scarf around her neck and hanged herself from a doorway at a troubled Florida Keys youth shelter. In the 13 weeks since Lauryn died, her parents have asked no tough questions about what led the 16-year-old to submit to her sorrow. Her parents have asked virtually no questions at all. Legally, her “parents” were the state of Florida. As a foster child, Lauryn was a ward of the state. A “child fatality summary” by the Department of Children & Families on Lauryn’s short life and unexpected death is less than three pages long. Only four paragraphs are devoted to her eight-year odyssey through the state’s child welfare system. A website DCF developed three years ago to bring transparency to the grim business of child death makes no reference to Lauryn Martin-Everett. DCF released the report … along with a short statement: “We remain deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this child.” Jessica Sims, a DCF spokeswoman, said the agency would not discuss Lauryn’s death, or her many-year history with the department — and will not release her foster care file. Because DCF has determined that Lauryn did not die as a result of abuse or neglect, details of her case cannot be disclosed to the public, the agency said.

POWERFUL READ – ORLANDO FAMILY LEARNS TO FIND LOVE, LIFE, RICHNESS IN DEATH via Scott Maxwell the Orlando Sentinel Roger and Susan Chapin are waiting … for their daughter to die. With hospice nurses present, they have begun the final chapter inevitably associated with Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare degenerative condition denying Blair’s 80-pound body the digestive functions she needs to live. You might expect the house to be filled with mourning. In many ways, it is. But the Chapins also spend their days giving thanks for all the love and light Blair brought into their lives — for how much “richer” they are because of her. That was how Roger described it when telling his younger daughter, Grey — a sophisticated 13-year-old who’s fiercely protective of her big sister — that the end was near. “We cried together,” Roger said. “We talked about her body giving up, how it’s tired and she’s ready to go to heaven. But we also talked about how much richer our lives have been because of Blair.”


Brian Bautista, Impact GR: Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Inc

Matt Bryan, David Daniel,  Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff,  Smith Bryan & Myers: Tetra Health Management Florida LLC

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Boveda, Inc.; Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

Nicole Graganella, Trevor Mask, Colodny Fass: Relating to Relief of C.M.H. by the Dept. of Children and Families

Mike Haridopolos: Union Supply Company, Inc

Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers; Tetra Health Management Florida LLC

Mike Rogers, Southern Advocacy Group: Florida Weatherization Network; St. Johns Housing Partnership, Inc.

Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Inc

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Blue Head Land & Cattle Co., LLC

APPOINTED: Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard to the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court; Judge Tanya Davis Wilson to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court; Andrea Watt McHugh to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court; Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court; Ana Maria Garcia to the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Court; Jared E. Smithto the Hillsborough County Court.

APPOINTED: Luke Buzard to the Early Learning Coalition Hillsborough County, Inc.; Kristin Incrocci to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority; Susan Dolan and Douglas Burnett to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District; J.C. Stoutamire to the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, Region Two; Martha Lanahan to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation; Amy Gowder to the Florida Defense Support Task Force.

AT&T, MOTOROLA CHOSEN FOR FIRSTNET, NATIONWIDE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMS NETWORK via Florida Politics – The U.S. Department of Commerce and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has announced AT&T was chosen to build and manage the first nationwide wireless broadband network for America’s police, firefighters and emergency medical services. FirstNet is a federal initiative to create a single platform as the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated exclusively to public safety. Estimated costs for this public-private partnership is as much as $46.5 billion. Through the initiative, AT&T and Motorola — selected over a group of rival providers, including Melbourne-based Harris Corp. — will be called on to deliver an interoperable network for first responders, using upgraded technology for improved communication with each other and across agencies at the local, state and national levels.

MIAMI HERALD CONTINUES TO MAKE STAFF CUTS WITH NO END IN SIGHT via Random Pixels – There are daily indications of the deep trouble now facing the Herald. The paper once employed a staff of more than 30 photographers statewide. But now the Herald and El Nuevo Herald share a combined staff of 7 photographers. A quick check of this morning’s “A” section of the paper shows zero staff-produced photographs. The irony here of course is, that on the same day the Herald publishes a full-page ad asking its readers to #SupportRealNews, the managing editor sends out an email announcing the layoffs of two more staffers. But the Herald’s problems are not just on the news gathering side. After writing this post, I heard from no fewer than three friends who still subscribe to the paper. One is a retired Herald staffer. All three tell me that getting the paper delivered is a hit and miss proposition. Says one: “Of course I haven’t had my paper delivered since March 7 … I’ve had a range of ‘managers’ email me and take calls … I’m about to give up and cancel it … shouldn’t be this difficult to drop a paper on a doorstep.”

VOLUNTEER FLORIDA KICKS OFF FLORIDA VOLUNTEER MONTH WITH #30UNDER30 – As part of Florida Volunteer Month, Volunteer Florida has announced #30Under30, an initiative to recognize Florida volunteers under the age of 30. Through this initiative, Volunteer Florida will highlight one volunteer a day under the age of 30 throughout the month of April. Check out the #30Under30 service leaders here. In partnership with Volunteer Florida, Comcast will air a statewide PSA encouraging Floridians to volunteer in April and throughout the year. Click on the image below to watch the PSA.

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CRAYOLA BOOTS DANDELION FOR BLUISH CRAYON YET TO BE NAMED via The Associated Press –Crayola announced Friday, National Crayon Day, that it’s replacing the color dandelion in its 24-pack with a crayon in “the blue family.” The company says it will leave it to fans to come up with a name for the replacement color. It’s only the third time in Crayola’s long history that it has retired one or more colors, and the first time it’s swapped out a color in its box of 24. Other colors that previously got the boot include maize, raw umber and orange yellow.

HALL OF FAME COACH VS FUTURE HALL OF FAMER FOR NCAA TITLE via Ralph Russo of The Associated PressRoy Williams has been here before. Just last year, in fact. And five times altogether, playing for the NCAA championship. Twice he got to celebrate winning the final game of the season with the Tar Heels, pushing their total to five tournament titles. For Mark Few and Gonzaga, this is all new. Just getting to the Final Four was a first, and now they are one victory from lifting the trophy. If it came down to history, tradition and experience, North Carolina would run away with Monday’s NCAA championship game. If only it were that easy for the Tar Heels. The 66-year-old Williams called Few one of his best friends in coaching and said he was stressed out hoping that his poker buddy would finally break through and reach the Final Four this year. The last time they played each other in the NCAA Tournament was 2009, when the Tar Heels eliminated the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16. Since the Zags graduated from upstart to national power, there have been lots of early exits in the tournament.

INSIDE TWITTER’S OBSESSIVE QUEST TO DITCH THE EGG via Harry McCracken of Fast Company –  A lot has changed since the Twitter egg debuted almost seven years ago. For one thing, the company’s design philosophy has evolved. Quirky is out; straightforward is in … the egg has taken on cultural associations that nobody could have anticipated in 2010 … it’s become universal shorthand for Twitter’s least desirable accounts: trolls (and bots) engaged in various forms of harassment and spam, created by people so eager to wreak anonymous havoc that they can’t be bothered to upload a portrait image. The egg’s unsavory reputation has been hard on Twitter’s image. It also hasn’t done any favors for users who stuck with the default avatar out of innocence rather than malevolence. Some members have grown emotionally attached to their eggs or want to maintain a low profile; others simply haven’t gotten around to changing them, or have had trouble figuring out how to do so … Starting today, however, the egg is history. Twitter is dumping the tarnished icon for a new default profile picture–a blobby silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, intentionally designed to represent a human without being concrete about gender, race or any other characteristic. Everyone who’s been an egg until now, whatever their rationale, will automatically switch over.

‘KING ARTHUR’: FINAL TRAILER UNSHEATHES CHILDHOOD, DRAGONS AND LED ZEPPELIN via Greg Evans of Deadline Hollywood – We get a once and final look at the once and future king in the latest trailer for Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. With Charlie Hunnam in the title role and Jude Law as his treacherous uncle Vortigern, the film hits theaters May 12. This trailer – the final in a series that kicked off at Comic-Con last summer – delves a bit more into young Arthur’s hard-knock boyhood, full of brawls, cobblestone alleys and one pretty bad haircut. After his father is murdered and his Uncle Vort steals the crown, the rightful heir bruises his way to that fateful moment with a sword stuck in a stone.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two great Floridans, Brian Burgess and Billy Schmidt.

Sunburn for 3.31.17 – Poll shows Fla. voters optimistic; Meat-ax budgeting; fracking bill dead; Joe Redner’s pot suit

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

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


A new poll from Public Opinion Strategies found Florida voters are feeling the most optimistic about the direction of the state than they have in nearly a decade.

The poll of 600 registered voters was conducted from March 1 through March 5 for the Florida Hospital Association. The findings were part survey that looked at Florida voters’ feelings toward Medicaid.

According to the March survey, 50 percent of voters said they think “things in Florida are generally headed in the right direction;” while 33 percent said they thought things “are off on the wrong track.” Those numbers mirror a January 2007 survey, which found 51 percent of Floridians thought the state was headed in the right direction.

But the numbers from this year are starkly different from six years ago, when a November 2011 survey found 65 percent of Floridians said the state not on track. At the time, just 22 percent of Floridians thought the state had positive trajectory.

Floridians good vibes about the the direction of the state don’t necessarily translate to great approval ratings for the state’s leaders. The survey found 45 percent of Floridians approve of the job Gov. Rick Scott is doing; while 41 percent said they disapproved.

The survey has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Scott saw overwhelming support among Republicans at 72 percent. But when it comes to independents and Democrats, Scott is upside down: 64 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents said they disapprove of the job the Naples Republican is doing.

The Florida Legislature doesn’t fare much better: 41 percent of voters said they approved of the legislative branch’s actions, compared to 34 percent who disapproved. The survey found 58 percent of Republicans said the liked the legislative course; while 49 percent of Democrats said they disapproved of the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Independent voters seem to have mixed feelings about the Legislature. According to the poll, 36 percent of independents said they disapproved of the House and Senate, while only 32 percent held a favorable opinion.

In short, Republicans like Republican control. Democrats pretty much hate it. And independents can’t really make up their minds. Par for the course, right?

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DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 2; NFL Draft – 26; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 34; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 34; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 155; Election Day 2017 – 220; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 258; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 282.

RICHARD CORCORAN: RICK SCOTT IS A GOVERNOR WHO WON’T HELP US via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – “We’ve got problems in the Senate, and we’ve got problems with a governor who won’t help us take this burden off the backs of our small businesses,” Corcoran told the Times/Herald. “If the governor would get more active and start traveling the state, talk about the stuff that’s really going to cost us jobs.” Repeating a familiar theme, Corcoran said: “Handing over million-dollar contracts to Pitbulls and Emerils and the insider dealing that goes on is not how we bring tourism here.”

$81.2 BILLION HOUSE BUDGET AIMS THE MEAT-AX AT MEMBER PROJECTS via Florida Politics – State spending would shrink significantly under the budget being prepared in the Florida House, with much of the savings coming at the expense of projects sought by house members. “We go from a $1.2 billion deficit to an almost $1.1 billion surplus. In the year after, we go from a $1.8 billion deficit to a $1.3 billion surplus,” Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo said during a news conference. … That adds up to around $2.2 billion in cuts, for a state budget worth $81.2 billion. Budget subcommittees killed one-quarter of the projects members wanted to bring home to their districts, saving $700 million, Trujillo said. … “Across the board, in every single silo, all my sub-chairman have done an exceptional job of identifying areas where they could save money,” Trujillo said.

WINNERS, LOSERS UNDER NEW HOUSE RULES FOR HOMETOWN PROJECTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – When it comes to hometown pork barrel spending in Florida’s next budget, this should be a good year for Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties for two reasons: Key members of House Speaker Corcoran‘s inner circle are from Miami, and the Senate’s lead budget-writer is Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater. But projects must clear new hurdles this session, and some clear winners and losers are emerging. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz is the runaway winner with 23 projects eligible to be in the House budget. Rep. Jeanette Nunez got 13 projects through a committee, and so did Rep. Halsey Beshears who represents 10 small, rural counties in North Florida … Rep. Liz Porter steered 11 projects through a committee. At the same time, Rep. Kathleen Peters … who supports Enterprise Florida, filed 18 projects and four got through committees. Rep. Brad Drake, the pro-Enterprise Florida Republican who filed the most projects, got six heard out of 45. Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit founded by Sen. Lauren Book … is eligible for another $1 million from taxpayers.

SENATE PASSES 2017 GAMBLING BILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Sen. Bill Galvano, the chamber’s shepherd of this year’s legislation, told fellow lawmakers he couldn’t promise that “we’ll reach a state of resolution” this session. That said, he expects the House and Senate to go to conference on their respective bills, which are significantly different. Galvano later told reporters the bill represents $340-350 million in potential revenue for the 2017-18 budget, and this year, every bit helps. Senate President Negron, in a statement, said he was “pleased” that the bill “honors the will of our fellow citizens in the eight counties that have approved referenda to expand the availability of gaming options.”

MATT GAETZ: FIX FLORIDA’S EVERGLADES, AVOID DISTRACTION OF COSTLY LAND BUY via Florida Politics – At the heart of the current debate over fixing Lake Okeechobee is whether additional land should be purchased by the government using state and federal dollars through a bonding scheme that relies on future generations paying off the debt. At a time when 42 percent of all land in South Florida is already owned by the government, we should be looking for ways to get government out of the real estate business – not deeper into it. And with Washington so focused on cutting costs, there simply isn’t enough money to buy more land, especially for projects for which land has already been acquired by the government. Instead, the dollars committed by Congress and the state should be going toward projects that the science says can provide communities with tangible benefits for flood protection, storage and water treatment – the most quickly and at the best price.

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

HOUSE APPROVES CRACKDOWN ON PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN PRO SPORTS STADIUMS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – CS/HB 77, by Bryan Avila, would forbid the construction, renovation, or improvement on any pro facility “on public land leased from the state or a political subdivision thereof.” Cities and counties could sell public land to teams only at fair market value. Teams would have to assume public debt undertaken for their facilities if they move away. Coconut Creek Democrat Kristin Jacobs said she liked the idea but warned of unintended consequences. She pointed to negotiations with a new owner of the Florida Panther that required Broward County to upgrade the scoreboard, club room, and other amenities at the BB&T Center. “This bill would preclude that investment by Broward County. And if, in fact, the county could not go forward and make these investments to attract a new owner, guess what? You’d have no team. You’d have a big, hulking, empty facility that costs the taxpayers.”

HOUSE PASSES LOBBYING AND GOVERNMENT ETHICS LEGISLATION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – HJR 7001 is a proposed constitutional amendment to extend the lobbying ban for legislators and statewide elected officers from two years to six years. HB 7021 strengthens the financial disclosure requirements of local government officials and requires local government lobbying registration. HB 0479 makes a wide range of changes to government auditing provisions, most notably requiring government entities to create internal controls to prevent “fraud, waste and abuse” which the bill attempts to define.

LEGISLATIVE PANEL PUSHES FOR ANTI-ABORTION COUNSELING SERVICES via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – A House panel has advanced a bill that puts state money into the operation of anti-abortion counseling services. The House Health and Human Services Committee pushed the bill (HB 969) to the full floor … The bill is meant to structure a 12-year-old pregnancy services program offering women free counseling and prenatal services from a pro-life perspective. The pregnancy center would also provide services including physician referrals, flu and tetanus vaccines and medical screenings. State Rep. Lori Berman said the move would put women’s lives in danger, and that state money should not go to religious purposes. While religious content is not allowed in these pregnancy centers, some of the service providers that have been contracted in the program are part of evangelical Christian networks, like Heartbeat International.

UNION-DECERTIFICATION BILL CLEARS FLORIDA HOUSE ON A 75-41 VOTE via Florida Politics – The House approved legislation that would require the decertification of any public employee union unless at least 50 percent of the eligible workers in a unit pay dues … Democrats call it union busting. “It amazes me that we constantly come up with bills that are disguised, but that actually weaken the unions,” Broward Democrat Richard Stark said. “In this day and age, we forget how important unions were in keeping America great. They had a lot to do with the rise of the middle class in this country,” he said. “And we need to respect unions and stop trying to come in with back-door ways to weaken them.” Sponsor Scott Plakon insisted the point was accountability.

UCF-HCA HOSPITAL DEAL GETS COMMITTEE OK via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel – The joint venture between UCF medical school and the for-profit hospital chain HCA took another step on toward building a 100-bed hospital in Lake Nona. The Facilities Committee of the Florida Board of Governors unanimously approved the deal. The public-private venture will go in front of the full board for a final vote. The approval is only part of the process before the hospital can break ground on a 25-acre land next to UCF College of Medicine. The joint venture received initial approval from the state agency that oversees health policy and planning. But that decision has been appealed by Florida Hospital and is going through a hearing process, which is a separate process from the Board of Governor’s approval.

***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.***

LEGISLATORS STALEMATE ON STUDY KILLS FRACKING BILL via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – A bill that would ban fracking in Florida is dead this year, with the state House and Senate unwilling to agree on whether a scientific study is needed before considering an all-out prohibition. House bill sponsor Rep. Mike Miller said he still thinks the state should have some sort of a fracking ban, but the study would ward off lawsuits brought by property owners who feel their rights have been violated. He said House leadership would not let his bill move forward without the study. “I think there’s a leadership situation where we have concerns about property rights issues and things the Senate sponsor may not agree with,” Miller said.

ARE HOUSE REPUBLICANS MAKING HEALTH CARE MORE ‘FREE MARKET’ OR ‘UNFAIR’? via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The Florida House took steps toward the future Corcoran wants, passing two components of a free-market health agenda the chamber has pushed in recent years: HB 161 gives people and employers the option to negotiate and contract directly with a doctor for primary care services. It passed 107-6. HB 145 allows surgical centers to keep patients for a full 24 hours and creates new recovery centers that can care for them 72 hours after surgery. It passed by a 79-34 vote, as most Democrats rose to oppose the bill. Direct primary care will “make our health care system stronger,” said Rep. Mike Miller, who sponsored the legislation last year and helped push HB 161 this year. Agreements with doctors aren’t insurance and don’t qualify as a health plan under Obamacare, but lawmakers believe it will increase access to preventive care. Opponents argued that new options for surgery and recovery will make it harder for hospitals to survive. Hospitals rely on private insurance to help cover losses from Medicaid, which pays less, and charity care for patients who can’t afford to pay at all.

HOUSE FLOATS OVERHAUL OF STATE SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – PCB EDC 17-03 aims to ramp up the intervention system for traditional schools that struggle under the state accountability and testing program. It would expand early warning requirements on student performance into elementary grades, and overhaul the responses for schools that cannot overcome the obstacles. School districts would be directed to declare educational emergencies for schools with grades below C, allowing them to renegotiate contract terms to eliminate programs seen as standing in the way of academic improvement. For schools facing required turnaround plans, the choice of a district-managed option — the most popular one currently used — would be deleted. Districts would have to choose among reassigning students to other schools, closing the campuses and reopening them as charters, or hiring an outside operator.

UNLESS THERE ARE CHANGES, JOE REDNER SAYS HE’LL SUE OVER LEGISLATURE’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics– Advocates of Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana in Florida, have been expressing disdain for HB 1397, moving through the Legislature this Session, sponsored by Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues … Opponents denounce the bill as currently written, primarily because it bans smoking, vaporizing and eating of medical marijuana. It also requires patients recertify with the state every 90 days and compels patients to sign an “informed consent” document warning them about the dangers of marijuana use and reminding them that it is illegal federally. In the past, [United for Care campaign manager BenPollara said he knows organizations and individuals who may sue if the ultimate legislative product has those elements. Tampa adult entrepreneur and gadfly Redner confirmed he would be one of those individuals. “We have a constitutional amendment, and I loooove the court system,” Redner said. “I cannot wait to sue the state Legislature. Please don’t pass a good law!” he joked about the efforts of Rodrigues, who is pushing the main medical marijuana bill in the Florida House.

HUNDREDS RALLY AT CAPITOL IN SUPPORT OF EMBATTLED ARAMIS AYALA via Florida Politics – A church atmosphere prevailed as some 300 people converged on the state Capitol Thursday to protest Gov. Rick Scott’s removal of Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala from the murder prosecution of Markeith Loyd. The protest, organized by Color of Change and Equal Justice USA, included denunciations of the Legislature for threatening to strike $1.3 million from Ayala’s budget. Organizers said they’d collected 130,000 petition signatures seeking Ayala’s reinstatement. … Participants acknowledged that Loyd stands accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend and a sheriff’s deputy. But they insisted that Ayala alone holds prosecutorial discretion over whether to seek the death penalty. … “Whether you agree or not with State Attorney Ayala’s opinion, she was independtly elected by the 9th Circuit, and she has the right to make that decision,” said Sen. Randolph Bracy, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee.

***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***

MARCO RUBIO SAYS HACKERS TWICE TARGETED HIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN via USA Today – The remarkable revelation on Thursday was made even more extraordinary by the setting in which it was disclosed: a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing looking into Moscow’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign and President Trump’s victory. Rubio told committee members that both tries were unsuccessful. Rubio divulged the attempted hack following comments from an national security expert that Russian operatives tried to undermine the campaigns of presidential candidates viewed as hostile to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Did Russia help Donald Trump win GOP primary by sidelining Marco Rubio?” via Newsweek

COULD RICHARD CORCORAN BE THE NEXT GOVERNOR? via Don Gaetz for the Pensacola News-Journal – First, it’s not his turn. Notwithstanding a recent exception, Republicans take turns. Next time was supposed to be CFO Jeff Atwater’s turn. But, despite a splendid tour of effective public service and very nice poll numbers, Atwater is going home. Moving through the chairs are others who’ve dutifully served in office after office, making the rounds, slapping the backs, eating the rubber chicken dinners. It’s their turn, they say, before Corcoran. Second, he doesn’t have big money. When the price of election, as set by the current governor, is $73 million personal cash plus a bunch more from very interested friends, Richard Corcoran doesn’t have it. Third, he continues to whittle a stick he jabs, cheerfully and repeatedly, into the laser focused eye of the aforementioned governator, who, in turn, has laid down a free fire zone on Speaker Corcoran and anyone within a thousand feet of him. Fourth, there is the ancient curse of Marcellus Stearns. Stearns was Speaker of the House from 1869 to 1872. He wanted to be Governor but instead of moving right into the big chair he had to wait three years until he was finally elected chief executive in 1875. He pronounced a curse on all future presiding officers – if he couldn’t do it, no future Speaker could ever move directly from the Rostrum of the House to the Governor’s Mansion. (Actually, I don’t know if he pronounced a curse but it seemed like a good “alternative fact.”)

ANDREW GILLUM, MAYORS: STATE PREEMPTION HURTS LOCAL VALUES via Florida Politics – For the past few years, state legislators in Tallahassee have steadily eroded the ability of towns, villages, cities and counties to govern. They’ve passed new laws to prevent citizens from having their say through local government. And now, they’re threatening to silence local voices with fines and other punishment. It’s called preemption. And it’s a threat to our democracy. State lawmakers don’t like when our communities pass ordinances to preserve quality of life, protect our environment, promote public safety, improve wages and sick leave, regulate utility infrastructure, development and vacation rentals, and restrict threats to public health. They don’t like when cities and counties govern according to their own values. So, they strip local authority with ill-advised preemption. But you know better. When you vote in local elections, you’re voting for local problem solvers. You’re voting your values. You know what’s best for our communities — not out-of-touch state legislators, hundreds of miles away.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gillum will hold a round table discussion with ACA navigators at 9:30 a.m. at the Epilepsy Foundation, 1200 NW 78th Ave, #400 in Doral.

DAVID RIVERA FILES TO RUN FOR OFFICE AGAIN via Patricia Mazzei and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Rivera, a former state legislator and congressman turned perennial candidate, filed … to run for House District 105, currently represented by term-limited Rep. Carlos Trujillo– who holds the position that once made Rivera so powerful in Tallahassee: budget chief. A recount November determined that Rivera had lost the House District 118 seat to a first-time candidate, Democrat Rep. Robert Asencio. Another Republican, Ana Maria Rodriguez, has also filed to seek the seat. By the time the 2018 election rolls around, Rivera may no longer be dogged by a federal criminal investigation into the 2012 congressional election. He is suspected of orchestrating an illegal campaign finance scheme against one of his rivals in the Democratic primary. The statute of limitations for prosecutors to charge Rivera will expire later this year, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has shown no signs of an upcoming indictment.

HEAVY-HITTER TOBY OVERDORF FILES FOR HD 83 via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News – Overdorf, 47, serves on the Republican Party of Florida Executive Committee and is familiar to many Republicans around the state. He is running on a platform of pro-growth economic policies that promote job creation, greater economic prosperity, and the completion of necessary environmental restoration projects. … Overdorf is probably as qualified to serve in Florida elected office as anyone, say party-entrenched Republicans who told Sunshine State News they have seen “his energy, intelligence and common sense” up close.

FEDERAL OFFICIALS: MANATEES NO LONGER CLASSIFIED AS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the federal government are taking manatees — which have long been considered endangered since the first endangered species list came out in 1967 — down a notch to merely “threatened.” Federal officials called it a success story for the Endangered Species Act. The action was driven by a lawsuit by the libertarian group Pacific Legal Foundation, representing a group in Crystal River that opposes new protections for manatees there.

WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – RECORDS SHOW A SQUALID BEGINNING FOR TODDLER WHO LATER DIED IN FOSTER CARE via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – On the day two child welfare investigators turned up unannounced at the home of little Aedyn Agminalis, a machete, a hookah, a sex toy and a liquor bottle were lying on the living room floor. Four more sex toys and a used condom sat on a chair. In the bedroom where the toddler slept, fecal matter was smeared on the walls, the carpet, the crib and his blanket. His parents kept a cat litter tray in his room. It had not been cleaned for several days. The “deplorable” conditions found at the Brandon apartment in September were revealed in a report recently released by the Florida Department of Children and Families. They resulted in the boy going into foster care. Three months later and just weeks from a likely adoption, the 17-month-old died after suffering head trauma. Foster mom Latamara Stackhouse Flythe was arrested Feb. 20 on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse. Biological parents Brynn and Artha Agminalis were also arrested a few weeks later and charged with child neglect. Both pleaded not guilty.

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


Ed Briggs, RSA Consulting: Community Champions; Miracles Outreach; Uniti Fiber

Pete Buigas, Buigas and Associates: NeuroScience Centers of Florida Foundation, Inc.

Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: ISF, Inc.

Chris CarmodyJoe SalzvergRobert “Bob” 🙂 Stuart, GrayRobinson: Government Payment Service, Inc.

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: P & G Investors, LLC

Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Caregiver Services, Inc.; Weedmaps

Yolanda Cash Jackson, Becker & Poliakoff: CIOX Health, LLC; Coalition of Franchisee Associations

Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: HomeAway; Miracles Outreach; Uniti Fiber

Allison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husband & Daughton: The Florida Bar Business Law Section

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: Key Health Medical Solutions, Inc.

Jerry Lee McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Opportunity Fund, Inc.

Eli Nortelus, David Roberts, Nortelus Roberts Group: Solidaridad Sin Fronteras

Ron Pierce, RSA Consulting: Miracles Outreach; Uniti Fiber

Bill RubinMelissa AkesonAmy BiscegliaHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Weedmaps

Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: Coalition of Franchisee Associations

PERSONNEL NOTE: ONE EIGHTY CONSULTING WELCOMES SAM VERGHESE – One Eighty Consulting Inc., a leading procurement and governmental affairs firm in the Southeast, has hired Verghese, the former Secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. Verghese’s background includes having served as Chief of Staff for the agency overseeing Florida’s 1 million business license holders (DBPR), Senior Staff Director for the Florida House and the Director of External Affairs for Gov. Scott in the Executive Office will allow him to serve 180’s current clients as well as grow the firm in new directions. In 2014, Verghese was appointed as the youngest agency head in Florida history at his Department (DOEA) and later went on to earn confirmation from the Florida Senate … He was also an appointee to the Career Source Florida board of directors which implemented numerous job creation initiatives to boost Florida’s economy.

HAPPENING TODAY – FUNERAL SERVICES FOR BRIAN DASSLER PLANNED – Funeral services for Dassler, the deputy chancellor of educator quality, are scheduled for 3 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. Dassler died on March 20, he was 38. Dassler grew up in Broward County, where he graduated from Cooper City High School. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree from the University of Florida. In 2006, he was named Teacher of the Year in Broward County, the nation’s sixth largest school system. He was the youngest teacher to receive the award. There will be a post-service reception at The Edison Restaurant immediately following the service. A memorial service honor his life and accomplishments will take place in Broward County at the end of April. The family has request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Brian Dassler Memorial Scholarship established by the Broward Education Foundation, and The Brian Dassler Transformation Leader Memorial Fund set up by The UF College of Education.

HAPPENING SUNDAY – ORCHESTRA SUNDAY AT TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH — Trinity United Methodist Church will hold its annual “Orchestra Sunday” during the 11 a.m. worship service Sunday. The service will include 25 to 30 minutes of music by a 28-piece professional orchestra. Legislators, staff and anyone staying in Tallahassee over the weekend is invited. The church is located at 120 W. Park Ave.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Political Analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller joins Dr. James discuss whether “patriotism is more than cheap platitudes.”

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch will go one-on-one with Jim DeFede to talk health care, Russia and President Donald Trump.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Guests on this week’s episode include House District 61 Democrat Sean Shaw, Politifact Deputy Editor Katie Sanders, WTSP investigative reporter Noah Pransky and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa: Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart will discuss topics including funding (or defunding) Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and the state’s overall budget outlook; Anne Packham from the Primary Care Action Network and Republican political analyst Frank Torres will talk health care legislation; and News 13’s David Bodden and PolitiFact reporter Allison Graves will examine President Donald Trump’s dubious wiretapping claims.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Host Kent Justice will sit down with Clay County Superintendent of Schools Addison Davis and Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yorden will sit down with Dr. Ed Moore, the president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, an association of 28 private, not-for-profit colleges and universities.

UNIVERSAL RELEASES VOLCANO BAY TICKET PRICES via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – … with a one-day ticket running $5 more than Disney’s two competing water parks and $8 more than SeaWorld’s Aquatica. And while the price difference is not significant, Universal is touting its newest water park as the highest-tech water ticket in town. The park that towers over Interstate 4 will offer Tapu Tapu allowing guests to wait in virtual lines for rides and the ability to control some of the rides’ components through the technology. A one-day ticket to Volcano Bay is $67. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach cost $62 for a one-day visit, while SeaWorld’s Aquatica single day ticket is $59. A Volcano Bay Express Pass starts at $19.99 per person and lets guests bypass the water park’s virtual line experience. A Florida resident 3-park multiday ticket includes admission to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay for $199 for adults.

 HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two great Floridians, Eric Edwards and Dave Mica, Jr.

Sunburn for 3.30.17 – Don’t touch Medicaid, Florida voters tell pollster; Hot takes on Putnam, Latvala and Susan Glickman; Pam Bondi in D.C.; CRC meets; ‘It’ trailer!

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

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


If there’s a budget crisis looming in Florida, voters sure as heck don’t know about it.

A new survey, commissioned by the Florida Hospital Association and shared exclusively with, finds 76 percent of registered voters did not feel the state budget was in a crisis. The results of the survey, conducted by the highly respected Public Opinion Strategies from March 1 through March 5, comes as state lawmakers issue their initial budget recommendations, which could take as much as $621.8 million away from hospitals in the coming year.

The House has proposed cutting the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million, or a total of $621.8 million once the federal match is factored in. The Senate has recommended cutting $99.3 million, or a $258.6 million total cut.

But those cuts go against what Floridians want. According to the survey of 600 registered voters, Floridians have the most favorable opinions of both Medicaid and Medicare the association has recorded in six years. The most recent survey found 56 percent of Floridians said they had a favorable opinion of Medicaid; up from 47 percent in a November 2011 survey.

But voters just don’t want more money for Medicaid, it’s one of their top funding concerns. When asked about funding priorities, 61 percent of voters said they thought the funding for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to lower-income children, the disabled elderly and pregnant women, should be increase.

There is broad support for increased spending, with 57 percent of voters who live in House districts that went to President Donald Trump and 66 percent of voters living in districts that went to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying they supported increases to the program.

There’s also a strong consensus that state legislators shouldn’t shift funds that could be spent on Medicaid to other priorities, like the state’s colleges and universities, tax cuts for businesses, or tourism promotion. A solid majority of voters in each media market said the state Legislature should keep the money for Medicaid.

The highest support for keeping the cash for Medicaid came from the Jacksonville area, where 80 percent of respondents said they wanted legislators to keep money for Medicaid programs. The Fort Myers media market — which includes Gov. Rick Scott’s hometown of Naples — had the highest percentage of people saying they should shift the funds, with 20 percent of respondents saying they would tell their lawmaker to use it for something else.

So what about those folks who said Florida’s budget was in crisis mode? Even they think seem to think shifting state funds away from Medicaid isn’t a great idea. According to the survey, 69 percent of Floridians who said they thought the budget was a crisis said they would tell their legislator to keep funding for Medicaid.

With the House and Senate appropriations committees expected to vote on their proposed budgets next week, the question is this: How much impact will what Floridians say they want when it comes to Medicaid funding have on the state budget?

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

HOUSE, SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEES TO VOTE ON BUDGETS APRIL 5 via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider its proposed budget for the next fiscal year April 5, Sen. Jack Latvala told members of the chamber … The House Appropriations Committee is also scheduled to vote on its budget April 5. The proposals will then go to the respective chamber floors for consideration by all members.

ENTERPRISE FLORIDA, VISIT FLORIDA AMENDS CONTRACTS WITH RICK SCOTT ADMINISTRATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The amended contracts Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida have with the Scott administration require the groups to post on their websites more detailed financial information, including tax returns, public records training for their employees, offer more procurement notice, and it puts in place salary caps for employees. Under changes to the Enterprise Florida contract, any intent to award a contract $1 million or greater must be posted on its website five days before execution. For Visit Florida, that threshold is $500,000. The amendments also don’t allow Enterprise Florida employees to have salaries higher than the governor, while Visit Florida can’t use more than $120,000 in taxpayer money to go toward any employee salary.

SENATE PLAN GIVES RICK SCOTT JOB INCENTIVE MONEY, BUT THERE’S A CATCH via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott would get the $85 million he has asked the Legislature for to continue to hand out job incentives to companies to move to Florida, but with a big caveat, under a plan the Florida Senate rolled out … the Senate would allow just $45 million of that to go to new job incentive projects. And on Visit Florida, the state’s embattled tourism marketing agency, the Senate would give $76 million, close to what they received this year. While not exactly how he requested it, Scott has to like the Senate plan more than the House’s plan which would eliminate all funding for the tax incentive programs and would cut Visit Florida’s budget to just $25 million.

EVERGLADES RESERVOIR PROPOSAL COMING BACK — WITH AMENDMENTS Negron‘s proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir will be brought up next week before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate’s budget chief announced … But another senator, Rob Bradley, sponsor of the proposal in Senate Bill 10, said the legislation likely will undergo changes to address environmental groups’ concerns about the bill language. Environmentalists are concerned about language in the bill as rewritten by a Senate committee two weeks ago that would direct water and land conservation funding to water supply projects as some powerful interest groups want. Bradley said the bill language still is being reviewed but added, “There will be some amendments that address that, and I think some of the folks who were concerned will be pleased with.”

SENATE ISSUES DRAFT $3.8B ENVIRONMENTAL BUDGET, MILLIONS HIGHER THAN HOUSE via Florida Politics – Among the legislative asks from the Senate is $275 million for Everglades restoration – compared to $165.7 million from the House. Another $50 million for springs restoration, while the House is seeking only $40 million. There is also $22.6 million for Florida Forever for land acquisition under the Florida Communities Trust program, the same program would get $10 million from the House for local government grants to buy land for parks and wildlife corridors as buffer zones for water resources … Beach restoration projects would get $100 million — a priority project for Sen. Latvala — as opposed to $30.1 million in the House plan; $64 million would go to water projects versus $20 million from the lower chamber.

NO MONEY FOR LAKE O IN HOUSE BUDGET via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm – The budget also would reduce Everglades and springs restoration funding compared with what the Legislature allocated last year. It also cuts money for the Florida Forever program, which buys land for habitat preservation and parks. There’s no money for muck removal in the Indian River Lagoon, either. However, the House would boost funding to get homeowners off septic tanks, which can pollute waterways, and to connect them to sewer systems with $25 million in aid to local governments. Gov. Scott has asked for $40 million for conversions in areas affected by algae blooms, such as the lagoon and St. Lucie River.

— “House chairman proposes killing funding for legal fight over water” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

SENATE COMMITTEE SUGGESTS MORE THAN $600 MILLION IN HIGHER-ED MONEY via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Higher Education Appropriations Chairman Bill Galvano outlined a Senate plan to increase spending for the 12 state universities by $313 million, or an 11 percent increase, while also boosting student scholarships and financial aid by $320 million, or 61 percent … This is a stark contrast to the deep cuts — $110 million from universities — suggested by the House earlier in the week. The Senate plan would provide $75 million to universities under a “world class scholars” program designed to attract top-level professors and researchers. Another $55 million would be distributed, recognizing top graduate programs in law, medicine and business. The Senate proposal includes a $180 million boost in the Bright Futures program, which would bring funding to $397 million in the 2017-18 academic year.

GAMBLING BILL READIED FOR FLOOR VOTE IN SENATE via Florida Politics – Sen. Bill Galvano on Wednesday took questions on this year’s omnibus gambling legislation (SB 8), which is now ready to voted out of the chamber. But the vast differences between the Senate and House bills guarantee the chambers will be going to conference, which Galvano alluded to on the floor. “There are negotiations that would have to take place going forward,” he said. The bill also was amended to remove language outlawing advance-deposit wagering (ADW), a kind of off-track betting in which the gambler preloads an account with money, like a prepaid card. The bill is among several on the agenda for the Senate’s Thursday session, set to start at 10 a.m.

— “No one is showing cards yet, but a gambling compromise could be coming” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

BILL ON PUBLIC RECORDS ABUSES PASSES SENATE via Associated Press – A bill that would crack down on abuses of Florida’s public records law passed the Senate. The bill (SB 80) was approved 38-0 on Wednesday. It aims to target those who file numerous records requests in order to file lawsuits and receive attorney fees or settlements. But it keeps a provision that requires judges to award attorney’s fees if records are improperly withheld. And it gives judges latitude to award attorney’s fees against those who file needless lawsuits. The bill, which was sponsored by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, also has a requirement that those who file requests must notify an agency at least five days before filing a lawsuit for the purpose of obtaining attorney’s fees. A similar bill is moving in the House.

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

RICHARD CORCORAN TALKS OF ‘CONSEQUENCES’ AT PRAYER BREAKFAST via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay TimesCorcoran spoke at the annual legislative prayer breakfast at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee. The yearly event is sponsored by the Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition, part of the national conservative group founded and led by Ralph Reed and based in suburban Atlanta. “It’s that truth that you tap into and you say, ‘I will fight for truth,'” Corcoran said in a brief speech. “And I will stand, regardless of the consqeuences, and that doesn’t happen without your prayers and your support.” About a dozen legislators attended, as did two justices of the Florida Supreme Court, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson. The coalition’s executive director, Tim Head, urged attendees to flood Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson with emails and calls to urge him to reverse course and support Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. The crowd applauded when Head predicted that Trump could appoint up to five justices if he serves two terms as president.

STATE MAY SHIFT STUDENTS AWAY FROM FAILING SCHOOLS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Calling it an “emergency,” Florida may agree to spend up to $200 million to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The idea crafted by Speaker Corcoran and other top Republicans in the House is this: Offer up money to help build “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods, many of them in urban and poor areas. The schools would be within 5 miles of or in the zones of existing traditional public schools that have repeatedly earned low grades under the state’s school grading system. “No longer will we rob children of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “Now every single child will be afforded an opportunity of a world class education.”

HOUSE AMENDMENT TURNS THE TABLES ON JUDGES IN REDISTRICTING CASES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee voted along party lines to change the implementation of the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the constitution, which subjected the Republican-led Legislature to years of litigation and an embarrassing admission that they intentionally drew districts that favored incumbents and parties in violation of the law. Under the amendment added to HB 953 by Rep. Larry Ahern, any challenges to a redistricting map would have to occur within 60 days after the maps are passed, effectively short-circuiting the time challengers can obtain records and documents to prepare a case. The bill also suspends any litigation that occurs 71 days before candidates qualify for election and freezes the districts in place until after the election. And, in an attempt to turn the tables on the judiciary if it must resolve a dispute over the maps, the bill subjects judges to cross-examination.

HOUSE PASSES 12-YEAR TERM LIMITS FOR JUSTICES AND JUDGES via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The measure, which would be the first of its kind in the country, has been criticized by business groups and conservative and liberal lawyers. To make it into the state constitution, it needs to pass the Florida Senate, where it has not been given a single committee hearing, and gain 60 percent of voters’ support. Rep. Jennifer Sullivan says the amendment (HJR 1) would give greater accountability to the judicial branch. Supreme Court justices and judges serve until they are 70 years old and face voters every six years in a yes-or-no merit retention election. “Today, we have a judiciary that is legislating from the bench,” Sullivan said. “It is not accountable to the people.”

— “Orlando Rep. Eisnaugle, up for judgeship, votes against term limits for judges” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

TWEET, TWEET: @SShawFL: I personally know that #judicialtermlimits are bad. Judges are already accountable to voters via merit retention races – I lived thru 2.I personally know that #judicialtermlimits are bad. Judges are already accountable to voters via merit retention races – I lived thru 2.

COMMITTEE APPROVES PLAN TO CHANGE FRS via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Government Accountability Committee approved a  measure that would place newly hired public employees in an investment 401(k) styled-plan if they fail to make a choice within six months of being hired. Now, when no decision is made the workers are placed in a traditional defined-benefit pension plan. The Florida Retirement system is the pension plan for state employees along with workers in 186 cities, independent hospital and special districts. It has about 630,000 active members. The House has explored ways to eliminate the defined-benefit option for new hires since at least 2011. The Senate has consistently backed the current plan.

HOUSE GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS BUDGET PROPOSES IT RESTRUCTURE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – House and Senate budget subcommittees on government operations released draft budget plans that both offered about $2 billion for the next fiscal year but differ on how to handle information technology. About $648 million would go to the Department of Management Services under the House plan, but comes with a substantial restructure of how the state handles information technology — terminating the Agency for State Technology — outlined in a conforming budget bill HB 5301. It creates a 7-member Office of Technology and Data Solutions within DMS instead and requires the state to privatize services with companies that offer cloud data storage services.

BILL TARGETING PUBLIC-EMPLOYEE UNIONS ADVANCES TOWARD FINAL HOUSE FLOOR VOTE via Florida Politics – A proposal that could decertify public employee union chapters across Florida moved closer to a final House vote Wednesday, as its sponsor denied it was “union busting.” Sponsor Scott Plakon, a Republican business owner from Longwood, argued his bill was about transparency and democratic principles. “This empowers the majority who may not be paying dues,” he said. “Should a very small minority be able to impose their will on people who don’t want to be a part of it?” he wondered aloud at one point in the debate. HB 11 would require the decertification of any public employee union unless at least 50 percent of the eligible workers in a unit pay dues. … Democrat John Cortes, a retired corrections officer from Kissimmee, was blunt. “Is this some kind of form of union busting?” he asked. … The bill would make unions more responsive to members, Plakon said.

BAN ON PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR PROFESSION SPORTS FACILITIES CLEARED FOR FINAL HOUSE VOTE via Florida Politics – Two days after the Oakland Raiders won NFL approval to move to Las Vegas, the Florida House set a final floor vote on a bill that would ban professional sports teams from building or refurbishing stadiums on public land. CS/HB 77, by Bryan Avila, says “a sports franchise may not construct, reconstruct, renovate, or improve a facility on public land leased from the state or a political subdivision thereof.” … The sale of public land for sports stadiums must be at fair market value. Furthermore, teams would have to assume public debt undertaken for their facilities if they move away.

DAVID RICHARDSON WINS NARROW APPROVAL TO SHIFT OVERSIGHT OF PRIVATE PRISONS TO A SINGLE AGENCY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Numbers don’t lie and Florida’s private prisons are not saving money as promised, according to an investigation by legislator and retired forensic auditor Richardson. Part of the reason, he believes, is that the agency in charge of monitoring the contracts has no experience in prisons so the private prison vendors have for years “hoodwinked” the Department of Management Services, which supervises their contracts After nearly two years investigating and auditing state prisons, Richardson won a small victory and persuaded a House committee to shift oversight of the seven private prisons in Florida into a single agency to increase accountability and end what he says is a culture of finger-pointing when troubles emerge. “I want one agency accountable and we will call them when things go wrong,” said Richardson, as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 7-6 to move oversight of the state’s seven private prison from the Department of Management Services to the Department of Corrections.

‘WHISKEY AND WHEATIES’ BILLS STALLS IN HOUSE via Florida Politics – The House sponsor of the bill to allow retailers to sell hard liquor in the same store as other goods temporarily postponed its consideration Wednesday. The bill was set to be discussed during the daily floor session. “We’re still trying to work out some differences between the Senate and the House bill,” said Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila, adding “it’s still an ongoing conversation.” Avila explained that the sticking point was a provision relating to gas station convenience stores. Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami-Dade Republican, has complained that “thousands of local gas stations” who might want to sell spirits would be shut out by the bill because it requires 10,000 square feet.

ALIMONY LEGISLATION DEAD FOR 2017, SPONSOR SAYS via Florida Politics – Good news for opponents of this year’s alimony overhaul, and bad news for its supporters: The bills are dead for the year. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Naples Republican who’s carrying the Senate version (SB 412), on Wednesday said the chair of its first committee of reference has refused to hear the bill. Rene Garcia chairs the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs. “Chairman Garcia determined that he was not interested in hearing it and I respect that decision,” Passidomo said. “I don’t think leadership weighed in on it.” … Passidomo also noted the House bill (HB 283), sponsored by Lakeland Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton, also has not gotten a hearing. And with House subcommittees wrapping up work this week, that virtually dooms the legislation there.

COSMETICS INDUSTRY HOPEFUL THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM FOR REFORM BILL via Florida Politics — Cosmetic manufacturers are hopeful state lawmakers will take action this year to eliminate a policy requiring them to get approval before taking a product to market, a lengthy process that industry officials say goes above and beyond federal requirements. The industry has been pushing for the change for several years now, but think a recent report from the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability bolsters their calls for change. The report also included an industry satisfaction survey, which included responses from 57 of the state’s 129 permitted cosmetic manufacturers. The survey found 46 percent of respondents said they have considered moving their manufacturing facility to another state. The three reasons for wanting to relocate were regulatory requirements, skill of workforce and tax rates. … State lawmakers have taken note of the concerns, filing legislation for the third year in a row to remove the premarket approval requirement. The bills (SB 114 and HB 211) would remove the requirements that manufacturers must register products with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics.

HEALTH CARE WORKERS GET EXTRA PROTECTION ON THE JOB via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A person who attacks a nurse, doctor or other health care worker or volunteer while on the job could face stiffer charges and penalties under a bill that cleared a key legislative subcommittee … HB 1207 by Rep. Daisy Baez would provide more protection for health care workers by raising assault to a first-degree misdemeanor, battery to a third-degree felony, aggravated assault to a second-degree felony and aggravated battery to a first-degree felony if the crime occurs in the workplace. “As a former social worker and health care executive, I have seen health care workers subjected to many instances of on the job violence at the hands of those in times of great distress,” Baez said in a news release. According to the Florida Nurses Association, health care workers faced more than four times the rate of violence incidents than in private industry. About 80 percent of serious violent incidents are patient-related.

LOCAL BAR OWNERS SUPPORT FREE ALCOHOL GLASSWARE BILL via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Local bar owners support a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to receive free branded glassware from beer and malt beverage distributors — a position that pits them against at least one major brewery. “Glassware is a significant cost driver to my small business, especially when taking breakage and theft into account,” Mike Ferrara, owner of Cabos Island Grill and Bar in Tallahassee, said in a prepared statement. It would be too expensive to buy the different types of glassware for each type of beer served at Cabo’s, he said. HB 853, by Rep. Tom Goodson, would give Ferrera and other small bar owners an opportunity to get free glassware for the different beers they sell, up to three cases of 24 pieces of glassware for up to three malt beverage brands – or about 216 pieces of glassware a year.

TWEET, TWEET: @MichaelAuslen: The Florida House just cheered for themselves because all 120 members are here today. They’re all supposed to be here every day…

GWEN GRAHAM SMACKS FLORIDA LEGISLATURE OVER FRACKING via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay TimesGraham is taking shots at Republican legislators over a bill that would allow Florida Power & Light to charge customers for investments in natural gas fracking operations in other states and also for not yet moving on a House bill that would ban fracking in Florida. “Out of touch politicians in Tallahassee are moving to allow fracking in Florida — and they want to make Florida families pay for it. I’ve spent years fighting to stop fracking because I know our water and state’s unique geology could be harmed by even limited fracking,” Graham said in a statement. “We must stop Republicans from passing this bill and finally ban fracking in Florida once and for all.”

TOP OP-ED: KEEP FLORIDA COMMUNITIES SAFE, PRESERVE FLORIDA’S STRONG BUILDING CODES via Craig Fugate for the Tampa Bay Times – While it was an incredibly difficult lesson to learn, Florida appropriately responded to this disaster by strengthening commercial and residential building codes across the state to make certain that, to the best of its ability, Florida prevented the type of devastation that was left in the path of Andrew in 1992 … I remember accompanying President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush on a tour of the state during 2004. The president asked the governor why one home was so badly damaged, while the one next to it, which was even more exposed, had minimal damage. The governor simply answered, “Building codes.” Right now, Florida remains a leader in the application of strong building codes and standards to protect families, businesses and visitors. But Florida must remain vigilant to ensure our communities are safe and resilient. Unfortunately, a set of bills, Senate Bill 7000 and House Bill 901, would significantly weaken the state’s current building codes. This regression would come at a steep and devastating cost — devastating to communities, families and businesses, as well as Florida’s economic well-being. With weaker building codes, after a natural disaster more families will be displaced and businesses will be closed for longer periods of time, preventing people from getting back to work. Not to mention the real problem of insurability. The total cost of homeownership is greatly reduced when a strong, unified code, such as the current one, is in place. Diminishing or weakening the codes will only serve to increase the price of insurance on consumers.

ON SO-CALLED FUNDING CUTS, ADAM PUTNAM DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH via Florida Politics Ag. Commissioner Putnam is shocked — shocked — that the House flatlined funding for his department’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. He also was gobsmacked over what he called a “political assault” on Fresh From Florida … “Our wildlife and open spaces can’t be just another chip on the political poker table,” he added. You might want to fold ’em, Commish. A House spreadsheet suggests that all the House is doing is returning funding to pre-Speaker Steve Crisafulli days.

WAS JACK LATVALA AGAINST ENTERPRISE FLORIDA BEFORE HE WAS FOR IT? via Florida Politics Latvala has backed Gov. Rick Scott in his defense of Enterprise Florida—but that wasn’t always the case. The Clearwater Republican, who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, had some choice words for the public-private economic development organization back in 2015 … “They’re asking for $85 million for ‘tools’ (but the) percentage of corporate contributions has declined and state budget allocations have increased … Why do they want (more state) money when others could use it, when other communities have very worthwhile projects?” Latvala said at the time. “It’s just irresponsible.” Click on the image below to watch Latvala’s comments from 2015. 

— “Can Susan Glickman ever shoot straight?” via Florida Politics

HAPPENING TODAY – CARD DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Families from the seven Center for Autism & Related Disabilities centers throughout Florida will in the capital city Thursday for CARD Day at the Capitol. The day-long event gives families a chance to meet with their local legislators to talk about their needs. There will be a staffed information table set up in the Senate Courtyard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a luncheon scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

***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***

PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER HAS GREAT ADVICE FOR RICK SCOTT — PART 2 via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay was the first public official to urge Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis. That was, and remains, the Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute, and McKinlay’s choir is, thankfully, growing. Last week, Palm Beach County’s Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath tossed his robe into the ring. In his plea to Scott, Colbath noted that last year’s local death toll was in the hundreds, and each overdose call to the Fire Rescue folks costs taxpayers about $1500. The price paid by first responders can run much, much higher. Colbath is no bleeding heart, big-government, soft-on-crime snowflake. Experience as a prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer shapes his view from the bench.

ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a roundtable with community leaders about economic development programs focused on the state’s military and defense communities at 9 a.m. at the VFW Post 424 Tampa, 105 West Broad Street in Tampa. He’ll then travel to South Florida where he’ll talk with community leaders about Zika preparedness during a roundtable discussion at 3 p.m. at the Florida Department of Health Palm Beach, 1150 45th Street in West Palm Beach.

WHITE HOUSE APPOINTS PAM BONDI TO PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION TO DEAL WITH NATION’S OPIOID EPIDEMIC via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – She … will be joining Trump and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the White House for an announcement regarding the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic. “I am honored to be appointed to the president’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission,” she said in a statement. “Thousands of Americans each year die from drug overdoses. I want to thank the President of the United States, Governor Christie and many others for caring about this deadly epidemic.” Bondi is also hosting a “Women’s Empowerment” panel at the White House.

Pam Bondi attends a meeting on opioid addiction in the White House with President Donald Trump, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and others.

MIKE HUCKABEE’S MISSION: TO KEEP THE WORLD FROM ‘SPOILING’ via Florida PoliticsNow that he’s dispensed with the possibility of running for political office again, former GOP presidential candidate Huckabee says he just wants to be a cultural “preservative.” Huckabee – a Christian minister, former Arkansas governor and now Walton County resident – spoke to reporters before his appearance at Wednesday’s Legislative Prayer Breakfast in Tallahassee … On Wednesday, he referred to a passage in Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Christians “seek to have an influence and a preservative effect on the culture,” he said. “Salt in the first century was a preservative” … “What (Jesus) meant was, if the world is rotting, putrefying, spoiling, you’re supposed to keep that from happening,” Huckabee said. “It’s not the secular world’s fault that things are going astray, it’s our fault. If the salt isn’t doing its purpose, to preserve, then things will get worse.”

PROGRESSIVE GROUPS SLAM CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL’S ‘LACK OF TRANSPARENCY’ via Florida Politics – A coalition of progressive interests, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, on Wednesday chided the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) for leaving the public in the dust—and in the dark. A CRC spokeswoman, however, later said its “No. 1 priority is to ensure that the public is actively involved and engaged.” Pamela Goodman, the League’s president in Florida, spoke at a news conference on the steps of the old Capitol in Tallahassee. The commission, which meets every 20 years to review and suggest rewrites to the state’s governing document, was throwing up “roadblocks to public engagement,” Goodman said. The first public hearing was Wednesday night in Orlando.

— “Crowd comes out for 1st Florida constitution hearing at UCF” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

STUDY: FLORIDA TAXPAYERS HAVE THIRD HIGHEST RETURN ON INTEREST via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times – According to a study released by WalletHub, Florida residents pay relatively low taxes compared to the quality of government services they receive. The rankings were based on the caliber of each state’s services for its residents in categories including education, economy, health, infrastructure and pollution and safety. Based on the overall quality of services, Florida clocked in at a worse-than-average 34th in the country. Florida’s highest individual rank — 17 — was for education, which was judged on the quality of school systems, the state public university system and the graduation rate for public high schools. The Sunshine State’s lowest-ranked category — 41 — was for its economy, which was determined by the annual job growth rate, economic mobility, unemployment rate, underemployment rate, people living below the poverty line and the median annual household income.

CITIZENS INSURANCE WARNS OF $27.1 MILLION LOSS DURING 2016 via Florida Politics – Citizens Property Insurance Co. is losing money for the first time in a decade because of water loss claims, assignment of benefits abuse, and rising litigation costs, the company said Wednesday. Staff at Florida’s insurer of last resort told its board of governors that they expect to post a $27.1 million loss on the year. … Citizens is seeking legislation this year attacking assignment of benefits, or AOB, abuse. In the House, an AOB bill has passed its first committee test. Senate legislation is scheduled for a committee hearing next week.

BUSLOADS OF ‘HUNDREDS’ PLANNED FOR ARAMIS AYALA RALLY IN TALLAHASSEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The “Ride For Aramis,” events will conclude with a 12:30 p.m. rally on the Duval Road steps of the Florida Capitol. Organizers, which include the NAACP, Latino Justice, Florida Council of Churches, Orange County Black Voice, the Eighth Amendment Project, Color of Change, Equal Justice USA, and Let Your Voice Be Heard Orlando, said they will be bringing in busloads of Ayala supporters and death penalty opponents from Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

FCTA CAPITAL DATELINE ONLINE TALKS LEGISLATIVE SESSION WITH PETER SCHORSCH — FCTA President Brad Swanson talks with EEM President Peter Schorsch about key House and Senate dynamics, and what to expect as key differences are hammered out in the remaining weeks of the 2017 Legislative Session. The two men talk budget, beer glass legislation, the Seminole Compact, and the latest issue of INFLUENCE Magazine.


Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: Public Information Notification Systems

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Miami Worldcenter Holdings

Hayden Dempsy, Greenberg Traurig: UMB Bank n.a. solely as trustee for Santa Rosa Bonds, series 1996

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: City of Homestead

Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting: Brandt Information Services, Inc

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Aviat U.S.

Jeremy Kudo, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe: DISH Network

Tara Reid, Straegos Public Affairs: American University of Antigua (AUA)

Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, Inc.

Jeff Sadosky, Forbes Tate Partners: Adapt Pharma, Inc.

Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: CHSPSC, LLC

Larry Williams, Larry Williams Consulting: Nassau County Council on Aging

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

IOWA SENATOR WANTS ANSWERS ON FLORIDA ALF SEX TAPE via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The case of a Florida assisted living facility employee who was charged with shooting video of two residents having sex and posting it on Snapchat has caught the attention of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Grassley fired off a letter Wednesday to the Bristol Court Assisted Living Facility 3479 54th Ave. N in St. Petersburg, the ALF that formerly employed Alexis Gloria Rebecca Williams, 20. Williams, who was arrested last week, told detectives that she recorded the video of the two ALF residents engaging in consensual sex and posted it on the social media site “for her own amusement,” a Pinellas County sheriff’s spokesman said. “This reported behavior, perpetrated against one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, is absolutely abhorrent,” Grassley wrote to the administrator of the Bristol Court ALF.

SPACEX USED – ERR, ‘FLIGHT-TESTED’ – ROCKET SET TO LAUNCH via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – SpaceX is set to launch a recycled Falcon 9 rocket … marking the first time a rocket used once to put a spacecraft into orbit has been landed, refurbished and put on the launch pad to be used again. SpaceX’s first customer for such a rocket, the Luxembourg-based SES satellite company, prefers the term “flight-tested” to the word used. The Falcon 9 rocket with the SES-10 communications satellite is set to launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, with a launch window that opens at 6:27 p.m. and running through 8:30 p.m.

DISNEY MOVING SOME METAL DETECTORS TO TRANSPORTATION AND TICKET CENTER via Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel – The center, commonly known as the TTC, is a major hub for Magic Kingdom visitors. People driving to the Magic Kingdom park at TTC, then board monorails or ferries to cross Seven Seas Lagoon and reach the attraction. Currently, visitors can board the monorails and ferryboats without going through bag checks or metal detectors. Guests arriving at Magic Kingdom via the monorail or ferry won’t have to go through security once they get to the theme park itself. However, the Magic Kingdom will still have some bag checks and metal detectors for visitors arriving by other transportation, such as buses.

FANS CAN LOOK FORWARD TO SOME MAJOR CHANGES IN NFL GAMES via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press – At the busy league meetings … owners passed several rules changes, adopting resolutions they believe will speed the game and improve player safety. The team owners were apprised of ways the overall time of games can be shortened. Much of that will come through a reduction in the number of commercial breaks per quarter. But a change in handling officiating of video replays also will serve that purpose, as well as provide more consistency in making calls, the league believes. Referees will now watch replays on the field using Surface tablets, eliminating “going under the hood” to watch on television monitors. There are plenty of other things fans can look for in 2017: “Leapers” trying to block field goals or extra points have been outlawed. Made permanent was the rule disqualifying a player who is penalized twice in a game for specific unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Crackback blocks by a backfield player who goes in motion no longer are legal. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for committing multiple fouls during the same down with the purpose of manipulating the game clock will be instituted.

THE NEW ‘IT’ TRAILER IS HERE TO GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES via Michael Gold of The New York Times – “It,” for the unfamiliar, tells the story of a group of children in a town in Maine who come together after people in the neighborhood begin to disappear. This brings them in direct conflict with Pennywise, a clown who captures children and devours them. The new adaptation — due in September — appears to double down on the circus horror. The trailer offers a sense of foreboding almost immediately. Dark skies, a rainstorm and a muted color palette all suggest something ominous lurking just offscreen. Even if you know what’s coming, it’s terrifying when Pennywise, this time played by Bill Skarsgard, pops up from the sewers. The preview never gets less creepy. There’s always tension in the sustained string chords of the soundtrack, and it imbues everything with suspense and darkness. At one point, even a red balloon appears unbearably sinister. “What are you afraid of?” The trailer ultimately asks. As if it doesn’t already know.

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – It’s “Viva Italia” at the Governors Club Thursday with Italian wedding soup; grilled vegetable salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; Caesar salad – hearts of romaine, parmesan cheese, Kalamata olives, Caesar dressing – baked ziti; chicken tetrazzini; tortellini marinara; broccolini and fave beans.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Pinellas Democrats chair Susan McGrath, and our friends Trent Phillips and Dywan Washington.


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