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Sunburn for 5.23.17 – #PrayersforManchester; To veto or not veto; Trouble in Adam Putnam world; Josh Cooper is a world champ!

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 somber good morning from the decks of the Disney Magic, which is sailing into the Isle of Portland and, as we learned late last night, a nation rocked by the deadliest terrorism episode to strike Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings. That the attack took place at a concert performed by Ariana Grande, who grew up before our eyes as a member of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, has only served to further shake-up some of my fellow passengers.

At least 22 are dead, some adolescents, and more than 50 are injured.

Armed police stand guard at Manchester Arena after an explosion Monday. Police says there are “a number of fatalities” after reports of an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in northern England.

And, yet, as we cross the English Channel into this place (Dover) and at this time (days away from the 77th anniversary of the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’), there is no doubt that our English brothers and sisters will, as they always have, endure and prevail.

On some days, it’s just a slogan on a mouse pad or T-shirt, but today, we will all do our best to ‘keep calm and carry on.’


Could Attorney General Pam Bondi soon be drawn into the never-goes-away issue of what is (or isn’t) illegal gambling?

According to FlaglerLive, the Bunnell City Commission in Flagler County could soon ask for an opinion from her office on the legality of electronic instant bingo machines.

Shamrock Bingo, as was the non-profit Flagler Cats before it, have been fighting being labeled as a gambling hall, specifically “operating slot machines in violation of state law,” as the website says.

The bingo parlor at the heart of the issue is located in the Atlantis center in Bunnell.

In 2013, lawmakers generally outlawed Internet cafes, a sort of strip mall casino. Florida now prohibits any “device or system or network of devices” that plays like a slot machine.

The question is how close are instant bingo machines to slot machines.

Legislation filed this year would have allowed certain veterans’ organizations to “conduct instant bingo” using Class II gambling bingo-style slot machines. It died before Session’s end.

The bingo hall’s lawyer, “conceding the complexity in state law, … suggested either to have the city write an ordinance … or ask for an attorney general’s opinion on the matter,” the site reported.

“Even if the attorney general finds the machines legal, the city would not necessarily be under obligation to allow the machines,” it added.

The city commission voted to “seek out” an attorney general’s office opinion, pending a memo from the bingo hall’s attorney “of a more detailed rationale for electronic bingo’s legality.”

Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said the office had not yet received a request as of Monday.

***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***


If Rick Scott vetoes public school budget, here’s what happens” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A Scott veto would make him the toast of Florida educators — for the moment, anyway — and how could Democratic politicians or the teachers’ union fault him for demanding more money for schools? But Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the two main architects of this budget, won’t like being portrayed by Scott as secretly plotting to punish innocent children, so it’s a safe bet that tensions in Tallahassee would get worse. Maybe a lot worse … if Scott is willing to go that far, why not go all the way and veto the whole thing?

His sweeping veto would remind people who’s in charge, and if Republicans try to override his veto by two-thirds votes (likely in the House, less likely in the Senate), Scott has a new reason to campaign against “those politicians in Tallahassee,” one of his favorite sound bites. Words matter in politics. Scott has spent weeks traveling the state on a “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour, criticizing every aspect of the Legislature’s budget. How can he now possibly sign a budget he has spent so much time condemning? For the governor, it will soon be put-up-or-shut-up time. If Scott doesn’t veto the budget, what’s he been fighting for?

Op-ed – “Vetoing HB 7069 would hurt special needs children” via Lee Anne McGee for the Lakeland Ledger – Our youngest daughter, Emily, is 13 and in fifth grade. She has autism. She struggles with reading and speaking, and like many kids with autism, needs to work on social skills. We found a small, private school that specializes in reading. We applied and qualified for the new Gardiner Scholarship, which is already helping 7,500 students with special needs. We thought we were set. But suddenly, everything’s in limbo. State lawmakers included an additional $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship this year, enough to help Emily and more than 2,000 other newly qualified students. But House Bill 7069, the bill that includes the bump in funding, is at risk of being vetoed. Some groups want Gov. Scott to kill the bill because of other provisions they claim will hurt students. But if they succeed, there’s no doubt students like my daughter will be hurt. Maybe Emily would do fine in a big, public middle school. Maybe she’d toughen up. Maybe she’d be forced to progress faster on her social skills. But the opposite is also possible: that she’d be teased and bullied for being a little bit different. We don’t want to take that chance. The school we’ve picked out aims to help its students socially as well as academically. Building confidence is part of its mission.

LIBRE Initiative urges Scott to sign education bill — The national, conservative organization, kicked off a bilingual direct mail campaign Monday. The campaign targets voters living in 18 districts, including those living in districts represented by Speaker Corcoran, Rep. Manny Diaz, and Rep. Michael Bileca, President Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson

Mailers paid for by the Koch brothers-aligned LIBRE Initiative thank lawmakers for voting in favor of the wide-sweeping education bill and encourage Floridians to call Gov. Scott to sign the bill into law.

“A better education has the power to change the trajectory of a student’s life and build stronger communities across the Sunshine State,” said Cesar Grajales, the LIBRE Initiative’s coalitions director, in a statement. “We urge Gov. Scott to quickly sign this bill and remove unnecessary barriers to new charter schools so our students don’t have to remain stuck in schools that are failing to provide a quality education.”

Assignment editors – Miami-Dade public schools host town halls on the Legislature’s K-12 spending plan at 6 p.m. at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, 7460 SW 118th St. in Pinecrest and at 7:30 p.m. at John A. Ferguson Senior High School 15900 SW 56th St. in Miami.

Sorta related Facebook status of the day:


Bill watch – Gov. Scott was sent all 31 of the local bills that passed this Legislative Session. He has until Tuesday, June 6 to act on these. They include HB 647, which would dissolve the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. Eighty-six bills are now on his desk.

Cabinet meets today – The Governor and Cabinet meet to hear reports from state departments at 9 a.m. in the Cabinet Meeting Room. Among the issues to be decided include the selection of a new Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Noah Valenstein, currently the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, is the only candidate slated to be interviewed for the position.

Eric Eisnaugle makes departure official – The Republican from Windermere announced his resignation would come on the last day of the 2017 Legislative Session to accept an appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, but delayed the actual departure until late last week. With his now official resignation — spelled out in a letter last Thursday to Speaker Corcoran — Eisnaugle officially opens the way for the Florida Division of Elections and Gov. Scott to set dates for special elections in House District 44, covering western Orange County.

— POT, INC. — 

Was it actually John Morgan who had financial conflicts in marijuana implementation?” via Florida Politics – Morgan was at his Trumpiest earlier this month when he took to social media to savage his longtime aide-de-camp, Ben Pollara, over the failure of legislation implementing medical marijuana this Session … The ugly, public split … has left many observers asking what the real story was behind the breakup.

When asked directly, John acknowledged a business plan to acquire an existing grower, but when asked for more details he demurred, with a cryptic, barely-denial denial. The ownership structure of existing medical marijuana license holders is shrouded in secrecy — so public records won’t answer the question.

But here’s what we do know about Morgan’s connections to Florida’s authorized marijuana distributors: The Morgan-Pollara rift began on the last week of session, when Morgan called Pollara on three-way with Jake Bergmann, CEO of Surterra, one of the seven license holders. Representing Surterra is Michael Corcoran, the Speaker’s brother, who Morgan has described as a friend. Their other lobbyist is Billy Rubin, someone who Morgan has known since college.

The Morgan-Bergmann-Pollara call concerned the very issue that doomed medical marijuana this Session: retail caps. This issue divided medical marijuana interests into two camps: the “cartels,” i.e., existing licensees; and the “Have Not’s,” those that wanted access to the Florida market.

John hinted to — but stopped short of outright saying — that he was looking at potentially investing in or purchasing one of the current license holders.

Now all the above is highly circumstantial … but certainly suggestive.

Consider this final point: John is a capitalist. His bread and butter might be the law business, but this guy owns an advertising firm, billboards, hotels, amusement parks and has all sorts of other entrepreneurial ventures. Think about the pitches that come across his desk daily … consider how many of those over the past few years must have been marijuana related.

Meanwhile… “Drug Free America Foundation wants marijuana Special Session via Florida Politics – The Drug Free America Foundation is adding its voice to those calling for a Special Session on Medical Marijuana Implementation, according to a press release. “It is critical that our leaders call a special session to complete the unfinished business of implementing Amendment 2,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of the Foundation. “Moreover, it is short-sighted to think that the lack of legislation to implement Amendment 2 will stop the marijuana industry from operating.”


Florida Democratic Party announces staff changes – Stephen Bittel, the chairman of the state party, announced several key staffing changes, including the promotions of Roosevelt Holmes and Johanna Cervone, Monday.

Bittel Holmes has been promoted to the state party’s political director, while Cervone has been promoted to the organization’s director.

Other staff changes announced Monday:

— Georgette Brammer will serve as deputy finance director.

— Amir Ahmadiavin will serve as a communications specialist.

— Erika Ann Grohoski Peralta will serve as a field specialist.

Adam Putnam’s campaign endures first shake-up” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In an unexplained campaign shakeup, Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign parted ways with its newly named campaign manager and political director. The departure of campaign manager Kristin Davison and political director Jared Small came as a surprise following Putnam’s well-covered and expertly staged 10-day, 22-stop bus tour through Florida.

— Throughout Monday, Republicans began buzzing with word of internal divisions between Davison and Bevis, who worked for Putnam before the campaign, that led to the shakeup.

— Davison has a hard-charging style that didn’t mesh with the more feel-good nature of Putnam’s longtime circle of advisers and supporters, according to Republicans familiar with the dispute.

>>>Bottom-line question: Why did Putnam — who has built a genuine brand as ‘fresh from Florida’ — hire an out-of-state political operative to manage his campaign in the first place?

More than 600 backers joined Putnam for Suwannee Valley BBQ — Putnam wrapped up his 10-day, 22-city bus tour the same way he started it: with a barbecue. More than 600 people attended grassroots BBQ at the Gaylard Family Farm in O’Brien on Saturday, according to the Putnam campaign. “This is the heart and soul of the state of Florida,” said Putnam in a statement. “Hardworking families who have a lot going on this Saturday came out and brought their children out here to join our movement. This is what this campaign is all about. It’s a grassroots, conservative movement.” 

Supporters from all over Florida came to welcome Adam Putnam off the bus after 10 days traveling through the state. On the menu was BBQ chicken, green beans, potatoes, rolls, and ice cream.

Julian Castro backs Andrew Gillum for Governor — Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the race to replace Gov. Scott in 2018. Castro, who served as the Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017 under President Barack Obama, said Gillum has “worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.” In a statement provided by the Gillum campaign, Castro, who served as the mayor of San Antonio before becoming HUD Secretary, continued: “When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State. He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient.” Castro and Gillum will host a fundraiser in South Florida on June 3, according to Gillum’s campaign.

Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White jumps into gubernatorial race” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – White, who also leads Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida (RLCCEF) and the founder of the Liberty Catalyst Fund (LCF) which works “to educate voters on issues of liberty, freedom, constitutional integrity and limited government” and “promote candidates that demonstrate a commitment to these principles and oppose candidates that do not,” has been active in recent months, opposing Scott’s call for more funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “I’m running for Governor because I love Florida. I’ve been a Floridian since the day I was born. I can’t imagine living anywhere else,”

White wrote in an open letter to Floridians announcing his candidacy. “I grew up in Polk County, in the heart of the Florida citrus industry …  the reality is that times have changed. Florida is now the third largest state in the nation and is experiencing every advantage and disadvantage that kind of population growth inevitably brings. Growth presents opportunities and challenges. We need a government in Tallahassee that embraces the opportunities and rises to the challenges! Sadly, that’s not what we’ve been getting. I aim to change that.”

Best story of the day –Veteran Tallahassee shoe shiner files for gubernatorial run” via Troy Kinsey of Bay News 9 – Running up the middle … is an unassuming entrant who’s been walking the Capitol’s halls of power longer than any of his opponents: Tony Knox, a veteran shoeshiner about to mark his 30th year servicing the footwear of governors, legislative leaders and lobbyists. Knox filed to run for governor as a no party affiliation candidate last week. With no party, no political experience and no campaign funds – not yet, anyway – he would appear to be an underdog, multiple times over. However, over the course of thousands of shoe shines, he argues he’s learned more about state government than anyone else in the race, and he has a campaign platform he predicts will resonate with voters. “As Governor Knox (would) say, ‘I’m going to roll up my sleeves and teach you how to work,'” Knox said, in a riff on Scott’s ‘let’s get to work’ slogan. “I have a vision for the state that, No. 1, you’ve got to go to work. And the way you go to work is you shut down anything free for able-bodied people.”

Jose Felix Diaz to resign from House as part of SD 40 bid” via Florida Politics — The Miami Republican sent a letter to the Division of Elections on May 17 resigning from the Florida House effective Sept. 26. Diaz, who is running in the special election to replace Frank Artiles in Senate District 40, sent similar letters to Gov. Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Scott announced earlier this month the dates for the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned in April after he made national news after he accosted two black colleagues at a private club in Tallahassee. The special primary election is July 25, with a special general election on Sept. 26.

— Gov. Scott on Monday signed an executive order calling for a special election to fill the House District 116 seat being vacated by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. The special primary is scheduled for July 25, with the special general on Sept. 26 — the same days as the special Senate District 40 primary and general elections.

“Fourth Republican enters HD 44 race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican businessman Bruno Portigliatti announced his candidacy for what will be a special election this summer for House District 44 in the Orlando area. The 29-year-old Orlando resident is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC. He enters a race that already features Republicans Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, John Newstreet of Orlando and Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando. The Democrats are running Paul Chandler of Orlando.


Justices reject Florida appeal over death penalty” via the Associated Press – The Supreme Court has left in place a lower court ruling that said imposing a death sentence in Florida requires a unanimous jury. The justices on Monday turned away an appeal from Florida officials seeking to overturn the ruling last year from the state’s highest court. The Florida Supreme Court had struck down a newly enacted law allowing a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 out of 12 jurors recommend it. That ruling concluded that Timothy Lee Hurst — convicted of a 1998 murder at a Pensacola Popeye’s restaurant— deserves a new sentencing hearing.

“Hackers may have names of thousands of Florida gun owners” via the Associated Press – The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Monday they had discovered a data breach of the online payment system that processes payments for applications and permits. Agriculture Commissioner Putnam has ordered a review of the department’s cybersecurity measures. State law enforcement is investigating the breach, which authorities suspect originated from overseas. The agency stated that no financial information was obtained.

— The department also warned that the breach may have revealed the social security numbers of 469 customers. The agency plans on offering free credit protection for one year to these individuals.

KPMG breaks ground on global training center: Announces new jobs” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Gov. Scott came to town to welcome the $400 million KPMG global training center, which will join other corporate giants in one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. KPMG CEO Lynne Doughtie announced that the firm is bringing in an additional 250 jobs during the next three years to Florida in an expansion of their global tax and audit business. That’s in addition to the 80 new jobs that will be needed to run KPMG’s Learning, Development and Innovation Facility in Lake Nona. “It’s a big day in our state,” said Scott, who gave Doughtie an award for bringing more jobs to Florida. “Every job is important to a person, and these 330 jobs will change lives.”

Rick Scott makes like he knows how to use a shovel at the groundbreaking of KPMG’s new 55-acre facility in Orlando.

I-395 signature bridge standoff is political palanca at its best” via Elaine deValle of Political Cortadito – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his pals on the County Commission are trying to sell us a bridge. Not just any bridge. His buddy’s bridge. Recent hand-wringing over the selection of a firm to design and build an iconic, new signature bridge over Biscayne Boulevard along I-395 has cast a spotlight on just how Gimenez uses the office of county mayor to benefit his friends and family members. The beneficiary this time (again) is Pedro Munilla, who is cousins (or something) with the mayor’s wife and CEO of Munilla Construction Management … MCM was one of five firms that bid on the $800 million “signature bridge” project, in partnership with Fluor Enterprises. But it was ranked second by a Florida Department of Transportation selection committee after a process that has taken, on and off, about 25 years. Archer Western/De Moya was ranked first. One week later, Gimenez wrote a letter asking the FDOT, which is providing $600,000 and overseeing the project, to delay the contract so that the county could weigh in (read: so that Munilla can get a second chance). And he’s using some of his pocket commissioners, like Sally Heyman — well, to be honest, the Munillas write a lot of checks — to try slow the process down.


The latest on Ballard Inc. via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida– Trump’s longtime Florida lobbyist, Ballard, has expanded his practice globally and just signed a $1.5 million contract with the government of Turkey, which will be represented by the firm’s new big hire, former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler. Ballard Partner’s Turkey contract comes on the heels of two other international clients signed by the firm: A March 6 $900,000 contract with the Dominican Republic and an April 1 $240,000 contract with the Socialist Party of Albania, the ruling party in the Balkan nation. “I’m excited about the firms growing international practice and look forward to working with this important US and NATO ally,” Ballard, who still speaks to Trump on occasion after representing the Trump Organization for years in Tallahassee, said in a brief written statement. The contract with Turkey is the firm’s highest profile foreign client and could be its most controversial amid unrest in the nation under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Josh Cooper, the Swinos big winners at World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest — Cooper, the founding partner of Strategic Information Consultants and a competitive barbecue chef, and his competition BBQ team The Swinos took home first place in the “exotic” division for their Oscar-style, bacon wrapped bison center cut filet at the World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest during Memphis in May. The team also took home sixth place in the seafood division, 13th in the chicken division, and 19th in the mustard sauce division, said Cooper in a message. Cooper, who is set to compete on MasterChef when it premieres May 31, was joined by David Lee, a partner at Fabrizio, Lee & Associates and a few others.

Josh Cooper celebrates his win for his entry in the “exotic division” of the World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Personnel note: Jerry Parrish joins FloridaMakes board – The industry-led nonprofit “aimed at strengthening the state’s manufacturing sector” announced the addition. Parrish is the chief economist and director of research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. In that role, he is the lead on TheFloridaScorecard. org, an online database that provides Florida leaders and local stakeholders with the data needed to measure progress. He is also responsible for conducting in-depth analyses on economic trends, Florida’s industry clusters and on solutions to help secure Florida’s future. He has many years of experience in management roles at international manufacturing companies.

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda —  On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, both Gov. Scott and former Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll share a strong support for President Trump. Despite their connection, Carroll tells Gomes she has still not heard a word from Scott following her first resignation, but she would accept Scott’s apology when or if he decides to give one. Carroll also talks with Gomes about Trump’s first official trip abroad as president, and she compares her missteps with the press to Trump’s battle with “fake news.” Gomes also talks Greenberg Traurig Government Law & Policy Director, Leslie Dughi about how the insurance industry fared during Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session.

Happy birthday to our friend, Rob Johnson, of The Mayernick Group and Kevin Reilly.

Sunburn for 5.22.17 – Decision time for Rick Scott; Speaker’s race drama; Phillip Levine floats indy run; Fla Dems circular firing squad; Laura Lenhart’s new gig

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

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

Good morning from the Promenade Bar on Deck 3 of the Disney Magic. Current location is 46.20.36 N, 10.42.59 W. Course is 48 degrees. The nearest land is Brest, France. On Saturday, we visited the Azores, which is simply one of the most beautiful places on this Earth. The highlight of the exclusion was taking a 4×4 along the rim of the dormant volcano overlooking Lagoa das Sete Cidades – two small, ecologically different lakes connected by a narrow strait.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Lagoon of the Seven Cities.

The legend of how Lagoa das Sete Cidades came to be (which some believe finds its origins with the fall of Atlantis) is worth reading. It’s a day at sea before arriving Tuesday in the Isle of Portland, home to Stonehenge.


Gov. Rick Scott has some decisions to make this week.

Should he he codify a prohibition against shark finning established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and OK a proposal making it easier for cottage food operations to sell and accept payment for goods over the internet? And will this be the week he finally pulls out his veto pen?

The Governor has until Tuesday to act on nine bills, including a bill (HB 185) to provide foster families free annual passes to Florida State Parks; and legislation (HB 711) that reduces state vessel registration fees for vessels equipped with an emergency position-indicating radio beacon. Scott needs to act on eight more bills — including a bill (SB 18) to compensate Victor Barahona $3.75 million in an abuse case that took the life of his twin sister, Nubia — by Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Scott is applauded as he speaks in the House of Representatives for the joint session on opening day of the 2017 Florida Legislative Session at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

Scott also needs to act on a bill (SB 106) that would remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods by Wednesday. The oft-referred to “whiskey and Wheaties” bill passed by slim margins in the House and Senate, and opponents to the measure have spent weeks urging the Naples Republican to veto the bill.

With so many people lining up against the bill, it remains to be seen whether Scott will act on the bill. Opponents, including independent liquor stores, are calling the proposal a job killer, something that could sway Scott, the “jobs” governor, to pull out his veto pen.

So, what will it be: With he sign it into law, veto it or just let it become law without his signature?

Tick tock, Gov. Scott.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will attend a groundbreaking at 10 a.m. for KPMG Learning, Development and Innovation Facility on Lake Nona Boulevard in Orlando. He’ll then highlight job growth at 2 p.m. at  Sunoptic Technologies, 6018 Bowdendale Avenue in Jacksonville.

***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***


“Is the Florida Legislature broken?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald: It was 9 p.m. on the night after the Legislative session was supposed to have ended and Sen. Tom Lee got a phone call. ‘What have you done?’ asked a former chairman of the board of governors for the University of South Florida.

The Republican from Thonotosassa and former Senate president who had helped broker negotiations with the House over a K-12 education reform was perplexed by what he heard. He had no idea that Senate President Joe Negron had consented the day before to making it harder for USF, Lee’s hometown school, to become the state’s third ‘preeminent’ university by imposing strict new graduation standards. The changes were part of a budget deal Negron had reached with House Speaker Richard Corcoran the day before, and, while it was pivotal to resolving the impasse that had sent the session into overtime, it could cost USF millions of new dollars each year. …

So began the fallout over what has become another controversial ending to a legislative session in which the House speaker and Senate president exploited a loophole in the rules and dictated the terms of 15 take-it or leave-it policy bills that would be subject to no amendments. As legislative leaders lurched from representative democracy to autocratic control, the strategy raises questions about whether the system on which the Florida Legislature is built is flawed or broken.

>>> To answer Mary Ellen’s question, no, the Legislature is not broken. Her story is only the latest example of her letting her bias seep into her reporting. She doesn’t like conservative Republican policies and she frames her reporting from that perspective.

Most of public wants veto of HB 7069, Gov. Scott’s office indicates” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – By a margin of at least 3-to-1 so far, Floridians are telling Gov. Scott they want him to veto a controversial $419 million K-12 public schools bill House Republicans pushed through at the end of session, according to information requested from Scott’s office … In the 10 days since lawmakers approved HB 7069, the state’s Republican governor has been inundated with roughly 10,000 emails, phone calls, letters and petition signatures urging him to either sign or reject the bill. Both sides have been vocal, but the cries from the opposition — advocates of traditional public school — have been greater in number so far, based on tallies provided by Scott’s office.

Rick Scott on schools bill: ‘If people want to get involved, get involved’” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Scott said he had not yet heard that two charter schools in Hialeah were offering parents an incentive in exchange for letters supporting a massive K-12 public schools bill. “I was not informed somebody was doing it that way, but if people want to get involved, get involved,” said Scott, who added that he encourages constituents to engage with elected officials. Asked more broadly for his take on HB 7069, Scott said he wants “to make sure every child has the opportunity to get the education they deserve, whether you go to a traditional public school or a charter school.” Scott has not yet given any inkling as to his plans for vetoing parts or all of the budget.

Neither HB 7069 nor the main budget act have yet reached Scott’s desk. Once they do, he’ll have 15 days to either sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature.

All aboard the gambling gravy train” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – It wasn’t their intention, but Florida Supreme Court justices’ Gretna decision sure started the engine on the Legislature’s 2018 gravy train. When the high court affirmed that the Legislature, not the voters, have the authority to decide whether pari-mutuels can add lucrative games … All of a sudden, it’s Happy Hour for President Negron, House Speaker Corcoran, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, House Government Accountability Chair Matt Caldwell, not to mention the next President and Speaker waiting on deck — in fact, any legislative leader chasing cash for a higher-office run in 2018. Gaming interests are the gravy train. Period. Gambling bills die so legislators and lobbyists can resurrect them, inviting the roar of special-interest campaign donations for their political committees in an election year. At the end of the session, when lawmakers fail to enact anything, the gravy train turns from a train into a cruise to nowhere.

Big-box chains, others make one last push for ‘whiskey & Wheaties’” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Costco now is joining Wal-Mart, Target and others in one last push to get Gov. Scott to sign a bill to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Their Floridians For Fair Business Practices coalition released a tranche of letters sent to Scott encouraging him to OK the legislation (SB 106) … They also include representatives of Whole Foods Market, the Distilled Spirits Council and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. It could be an uphill fight—as of Wednesday, the Governor’s Office reported 2,649 emails opposed to the bill and 315 supporting, as well as 3,245 people who signed a petition against the bill. The office also took 177 calls against and 123 for, and 569 printed letters opposed and seven letters in favor—all from pro-bill coalition members, spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.

Susie Plakon honored for role in passing HB 883 for memory disorder clinic” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Plakon, wife of state Rep. Scott Plakon, was honored Thursday for inspiring HB 883 for the creation of a memory disorder clinic at Florida Hospital – a victory for a woman who is herself battling Alzheimer’s disease. The Florida based hospital unveiled a plaque declaring, “Florida Hospital proudly honors Susie Plakon for her courage and inspiration to help pass HB 883. The Maturing Minds Clinic was created to address the growing need for care of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.” … “That was a really nice moment this morning,” said Scott Plakon.


A majority of GOP freshmen met this weekend at a Central Florida law firm to discuss the 2022 Speaker’s race.

Held at Vose Law Firm in Winter Park, the meeting gave members in attendance a chance to hear from four likely candidates — Reps. Byron DonaldsRandy FineJamie Grant, and Paul Renner — ahead of a June 30 vote to decide the class leader. The meeting, according to a House member present, was called by Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican, who wanted to have a candidate forum ahead.

— Each candidate was given 15 minutes to speak, before the floor was opened up to questions from members.

— Matt Dixon reported that Reps. Frank WhiteJayer WilliamsonAlex MillerJackie ToledoErin Grall and Don Hanhfeldt were not in attendance.

— The class agreed to vote by secret ballot, and a proposal to knock out the lowest vote-getters if more than two candidates are running, essentially survivor-style balloting, appears to still be under consideration, according to a House member in attendance.

— Some members indicated Grant and White, who was believed to be considering a run for Speaker, could be in trouble because of what has become known in the caucus as “text-gate.”

— Speaker Corcoran told Dixon he did not believe the meeting violated the Republican caucus rules. “While I was not in Orlando, my expectation is that the members of the freshman class conducted themselves In a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of our Republican Conferee rules.”

Bottom line: Grant and White need lock themselves in a room until they determine which of them has the best chance to be Speaker.


“Patrick Murphy raises cash, but undecided about political future” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Former U.S. Rep Patrick Murphy has continued to raise campaign cash amid speculation about his political future, but he says he’s made no concrete decisions. “I want to stay involved to do what I can to stay involved and help like-minded Democrats,” Murphy told POLITICO Florida Thursday. “I miss public service, but I don’t miss the House much, especially with Trump and all.” … Despite uncertainty about his political future, Murphy has again started raising money for PEM PAC, a political action committee that uses his initials as its title. The committee has not raised any money since the 2016 election cycle ended, but is again sending fundraising emails.

Adam Putnam, Jack Latvala make public appearances in Pensacola” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal – Putnam met with small-business owners … at Dog House Deli in downtown Pensacola. Meanwhile,  Latvala told the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club during a lunch at Skopelos at New World Landing that he was considering stepping into the governor’s race and would make a decision by August. “I’m leaning in the direction of running,” Latvala told the News Journal after the lunch. “But I have some other people I want to talk to before I decide and go out on the road and meet with people.” Both Latvala and Putnam said they were unhappy with the cuts to education spending that passed the Legislature during the 2017 session. “I feel 95 percent positive the governor will veto that bill,” Latvala said. “I’ve asked him to veto that bill. Then we start over with the House on the defensive because it’ll be their priority that got beat.”

Shot – Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times reported over the weekend that a political committee the Clearwater Republican runs was to meet on Treasure Island with a group of top political consultants.

Chaser – A source going to the dinner described the dinner as “no big deal” and just a dinner with Latvala and five of his consultants and employees.

The real story – Senator Latvala’s mother passed away peacefully Saturday night and the dinner, whatever its purpose, was canceled.

Adam Putnam hosted a roundtable discussion with small businesses in Pensacola. Later, he greeted supporters in Destin and headlined the Jackson County Republican Party’s Reagan Day Dinner.

Philip Levine opens door to running as independent for governor” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Maybe Levine was just trying to be provocative, earn a little extra attention as he mulls a run for governor. Maybe he was just spitballing an unlikely idea before the Tampa Tiger Bay luncheon … But the Miami Beach Mayor and close friend of Bill Clinton said he is keeping the door wide-open to running for governor as an independent candidate. “There’s one assumption that you made there – that somehow if I ran for governor I would be a Democratic governor,” Levine, a Democrat, responded when asked how he would work with a GOP-dominated Legislature. “Too much is about Democrat and Republican. It needs to be about the people. … Maybe possibly it’s time we do something different.”

— Levine has been one of the biggest Democratic fundraisers and donors in the state, but he describes himself as a “radical centrist” and noted that successful mayors usually don’t govern based on partisanship but on getting things done.

— Key Levine quote: “I’m a Democrat right now, and I hope that I stay in the Democratic Party. I love the Democratic Party. But you know what’s interesting? I actually like the Republican Party, and I like a lot of Republican ideas, and I like a lot of the people in the Republican Party as well. I think that’s where we need to go as a country – and start in a state like Florida and make that decision that we’re going to change and do it the right way.”

Simone Marstiller considers run for Attorney General” via John Lucas of the Capitolist – Calling it her “dream job,” the former 1st District Court of Appeal Judge says she is “weighing her options” for a possible candidacy for Florida Attorney General. “I am a public servant at heart and am exploring ways to continue serving the State of Florida,” Marstiller said. “But I’m not at a decision point yet.” The Tallahassee Republican began her legal career working for the state in 1996 in various legal capacities after graduating from Stetson University College of Law. In 2001, she was named assistant general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush. After leaving to work as general counsel and later interim secretary for the Department of Management Services, Marstiller returned to the Governor’s Office to serve as deputy chief of staff for Bush and later as the state’s chief information officer. Marstiller is no stranger to the Office of Attorney General. Former Attorney General Bill McCollum appointed her associate deputy attorney general in 2007. Three years later, while serving as the executive director of the Florida Elections Commission, Gov. Charlie Crist tabbed Marstiller to serve on the 1st District Court of Appeal. She served on the appeals court for six years.

“Daisy Baez leaves Democratic race for Florida Senate” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — State Rep. Daisy Baez’s short-lived candidacy for the Florida Senate came to end Friday, doomed politically by a crowded Democratic primary and the likelihood that she’d be attacked as a carpetbagger. Baez dropped out of the race for Senate District 40 just 19 days after it began, citing her ailing mother’s deteriorating health. “My life today is a direct reflection of my mother’s decision to immigrate to this country and work multiple jobs to ensure that I could live the American Dream,” Baez, who is Dominican-American, said in a statement. “Just after announcing my intention to run for the Florida Senate, my mother’s health deteriorated and it became clear to me that spending time with her now is of the utmost importance. As her daughter, caring for her is my number one priority. Therefore, I will not pursue a campaign for the Florida Senate.”

Robert Asencio won’t run in SD 40 either — Asencio announced  he would not be throwing his hat in the race to replace Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. While Asencio called the special election a “tremendous opportunity,” he said he needed to be “cognizant of the fact (he has) only recently been elected to state office.” He went on to say there are many critical issues in the Florida House he wants to tackle. “Despite having passed several bills in the House as a freshman and the overwhelming support to run for Senate, I am dedicated to this office and to fighting for the people of House District 118,” he said in a statement. “This is my community, my home, and I am proud to continue to serve as their Representative in the Florida House.”

“Scott Boyd declines HD 44 race, backs John Newstreet” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The special election race for Florida’s House District 44 became clearer Friday morning when former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has decided to not run and will back Republican John Newstreet instead. “Solid guy, absolutely the best qualified individual for this position,” Boyd declared of Newstreet in a message to Newstreet, the chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, entered the race Thursday, challenging former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski for the Republican nomination.

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 racevia Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

“Citing ‘assault on home rule,’ Kathleen Peters won’t seek fourth term” via SaintPetersBlog — Citing Tallahassee’s battle against home rule, Treasure Island Republican Kathleen Peters has decided against a fourth term in the Florida House, opting instead to seek the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County Commission. “After the legislature launched an all-out assault on local government and home rule this year,” Peters said in a statement. “I found myself reflecting on my community priorities and where I feel I can have the greatest impact. … After long consideration, I have decided to change course and run for County Commission, District 6.” A former mayor, Peters was initially elected to House District 69 in 2012, representing Gulfport, South Pasadena, and several South Pinellas County beaches. She had campaigned on reforms to the Florida mental health system and repairs and improvements to Pinellas County’s failing sewer system.

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018 — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for House and Senate in 2018. Republican Brigitte Smith, a longtime nurse and Army veteran, has challenged Ocala Republican Rep. Charlie Stone in House District 22. Smith unsuccessfully ran for Marion County Commission in 2016. Stone was first elected in 2012. Democrat James Schulman has filed to replace Rep. Michael Bileca in House District 115. Schulman is the co-founder and managing partner of The Found Gen, a Coral Gables-based marketing firm. He joins Republicans Vance AloupisCarlos Gobel, and Carmen Sotomayor in the race to replace Bileca, who can’t run again because of term limits. Republican Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck, a lawyer at Miami-based Palomares-Starbuck & Associates, has filed to run in the special election to replace Artiles in Senate District 40.


Marco Rubio has little to say about Donald Trump, but a lot about the media” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Florida senator, who turns 46 next weekend, was considered a possible nominee for President of the United States less than 15 months ago, but he’s now just a sideshow in the circus that is the Trump presidency, and he’s getting frustrated about it. Speaking at the Pinellas County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Rubio touted his bill to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs … gaining some momentum in the Senate. He said it simply wasn’t sexy enough, without mentioning why the national press is so focused on what Trump has been saying and tweeting, and what his staff is telling the press every day. “It’s not being posted because nobody clicks on those stories, because the stories that get all the clicks are the stories about something controversial and explosive,” he said, adding that, “I’m not here to beat up the press but just because somebody told you something doesn’t mean that’s what happened.”

Spotted: Florida GOP Chairman and state Rep. Blaise Ignoglia in the Oval Office for a meeting of Republican swing state party chairs with President Donald Trump

Andrew Gillum takes swipe at top FDP staffer as campaign eyes anti-establishment lane” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Gillum issued a blistering statement hammering Florida Democratic Party President Sally Boynton Brown for her remarks this week about the Democratic party base in Florida. Brown said that “this is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we’re in now: I believe that we’re in a place where it’s very hard to get voters excited about ‘issues,’ the type of voters that are not voting.” Responding, Gillum said that “for too long, we’ve been guided not by principle but by the so-called politically practical — a belief that we need to avoid issues, sprint to the center, and be a blank slate that shirts with the wind. … That’s why we keep losing.” When asked about Gillum’s statement, Boynton Brown, who was hired in April from the Idaho Democratic Party, issued her own statement apologizing. She said she did “not articulate” her thoughts correctly. “I apologize for my comments and I in no way meant to demean voters in Florida,” she said. “Issues are the backbone of our democracy and the Democratic Party.”

Cue the Democratic circular firing squad:

— “Analysis of the Sally Boynton Brown Controversy” via Sean Phillippi of the Florida Squeeze

— “The Democrats Elitism and Obsession With Identity Could Kill the Party’s Chances For Revival” via Kartik Krishnayer of the Florida Squeeze

— “Sally Boynton Brown, Rich AND Poor Democrats care about issues” via Leslie Wimes for Sunshine State News

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Gainesville considers renaming Corrine Brown transit center” via The Associated Press – Gainesville city leaders are considering removing the name of former U.S. Rep. Brown from a transit facility in the town following her conviction on federal fraud charges … the Gainesville City Commission considered whether to remove Brown’s name from a Regional Transit System facility, but decided to consider the move at a later meeting. Brown helped secure federal funding for Regional Transit Center in Gainesville, and the facility was named in her honor.

Did panel members’ Facebook chat about reservoir break Florida Sunshine law?” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – Facebook conversations about a proposed Lake Okeechobee reservoir appears to violate Florida’s sunshine laws because it involved three members of a South Florida Water Management District advisory board …  Nyla Pipes of Port St. Lucie, Newton Earl Cook of Tequesta and Mikhael Elfenbein of Englewood — all members of the Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) — talked to each other about the reservoir in posts, comments and replies on Pipes’ Facebook page in April and May. Only a court can decide whether they broke the law, “but this definitely appears to be a violation,” said Barbara Petersen, head of the First Amendment Foundation … “If they’re talking back and forth about an issue, that’s a meeting; and by law, it has to be announced beforehand and be open to the public.” They can express their opinions on social media, she said, but “they just can’t talk with each other on Facebook about commission business.” State law forbids two or more members of an elected or appointed board from discussing matters that may come before them for action outside of a public meeting that has been announced in advance. The law includes advisory panels like the advisory commission; and according to a 2009 Florida Attorney General’s opinion, it includes Facebook conversations.

Officials worry about drug overdoses at hurricane shelters” via The Associated Press – Local officials are raising concerns about drug use at hurricane shelters, saying they aren’t equipped to care for addicts, unaccompanied minors and others with other medical needs. Nearly 16,000 people in nine counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade evacuated to shelters during Hurricane Matthew. Six evacuees seeking refuge at a Delray Beach high school during Hurricane Matthew overdosed on drugs as the dangerous storm approached South Florida. Bags brought to shelters by evacuees are typically not searched. In another county, a bus full of teenagers from a residential addiction-treatment center was left at an American Red Cross-run shelter without adult oversight. “Many of the people from sober homes came with supervision, but some came and were just dropped off,” Delray Beach Fire Rescue Capt. Kevin Saxton, [said]. “There were witnesses seeing people shoot up.”

“Tobacco decision cheers one former judge” via Takeaways from TallahasseeA U.S. appeals court ruling that federal law doesn’t bar smokers from using a landmark Florida Supreme Court decision from proving damages gave a smile to one former Florida judge … The appellate decision included a 226-page dissent from Judge Gerald Tjoflat … That had former 1st District Court of Appeal judge Simone Marstiller (mentioned above as a possible AG candidate), now in private practice, tweeting, “#DissentsIWontBeReading.” … In 2010, Marstiller wrote the opinion in a case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) that was “the first so-called ‘Engle progeny’ case to reach a district court of appeal following the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Engle v. Liggett Group.” Marstiller’s holding: “We find the trial court correctly applied Engle and Mrs. Martin produced sufficient independent evidence to prove RJR’s liability for her husband’s death.”


First on #FlaPol – “Tom Delacenserie to resign as Florida Lottery Secretary” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Delacenserie is resigning effective the beginning of June… The move was confirmed by the Governor’s Office, which provided a copy of his resignation letter. The letter did not mention his plans but Delacenserie wrote that he “enjoyed all of my 17 years with the Florida Lottery but none more than the time spent under your leadership.” Delacenserie has overseen the growth and escalating sales of Lottery products, leading to the “strongest start ever to the final quarter of the fiscal year, with record sales for the month of April totaling more than $528 million,” a recent press release said. The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which among other things pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships.

“Jon Wheeler to retire as 1st DCA clerk” via Florida PoliticsWheeler, clerk of the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal, will retire this October, the court announced Friday. The 73-year-old began as the court’s clerk in December 1990, the third person to hold the position. The court was one of the original three state appellate courts created by the Legislature in 1957; until then, the state Supreme Court handled all appeals. The job is daunting: The 1st DCA is “one of the largest appellate courts in the country both in terms of number of judges (15) and number of cases filed annually (6,011 in 2014-15),” and its “geographical jurisdiction (32 counties in north Florida) is the largest in the state,” its website says. “I’ll be trying to spend some time with my wife (of 51 years, MaryLynn,) after spending all my time in my profession,” said Wheeler, a licensed attorney, in a phone interview. “I need to give back to her.”

Appointed – Nicole Attong and Patricia A. Lipovsky to the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Ralph Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: Lincoln Marti Community Agency

Leonard Collins, Broad and Cassel: U.S. Submergent Technologies

Personnel note: Laura Lenhart joins Frontier Communications — Lenhart will serve as head of government and regulatory affairs operations for Florida, the company announced last week. “We are delighted to welcome Laura as a strong addition to the Frontier team,” said Allison Ellis, Frontier’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, in a statement. “As we continue to execute our growth strategy in Florida, Laura’s regulatory and government affairs expertise will be a valuable asset in ensuring that state and local policies continue to encourage investment in and expansion of critical telecommunications products and services.” Lenhart previously worked as a public affairs strategist at the Moffitt Cancer Center for nearly three years and as the governmental affairs coordinator for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. She has both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University. Lenhart will be based out of Tampa.

— ALOE — 

Congrats to Mackenzie and Taylor Biehl on their weekend nuptials. Michelle and I were sorry to have missed the wonderful occasion.

Mackenzie Hellstrom and Taylor Biehl.

Fans thankful to see ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ a final time” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – This weekend, the most famous American circus ends its 146-year reign as one of the world’s biggest big tops. Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would take its final bow this year. On Saturday afternoon, under cloudy skies, fans streamed into the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York to pay their last respects to the iconic show. “I am sad that it’s going to be over,” said Melissa Angevine of Walton, New York. She and her husband drove four hours with their two kids Saturday to see the show “It’s a pastime that no longer anybody gets to enjoy anymore, unfortunately. Everybody’s in their tablets and not really going out and seeing different kinds of entertainment anymore.” Saturday evening’s circus was an extravaganza of big cats, motorcycle stunts, clowns performing death-defying stunts, ice skaters, buckets of popcorn and Mongolian contortionists — and that was just the first half of the show. “I’m becoming an adult today,” said 46-year-old Heather Greenberg, of New York City. “I can’t go to the circus with my daddy anymore.”

This weekend, the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus ended its 146-year history as an iconic live circus extravaganza. Fans attended one of the Ringling Bros. final performances Saturday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum in New York.

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

SeaWorld Orlando to develop new Sesame Place land by 2022” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising –Orlando provides a prime opportunity for the family-friendly addition, which will be a renovation of Shamu’s Happy Harbor play area. SeaWorld admission and revenues have been on the decline since the release of the documentary “Blackfish,” which criticized the park’s care of its animals. The new land is an attempt to boost those numbers. “We share Sesame’s goal of educating and entertaining generations of children, and the extension of our partnership furthers SeaWorld’s mission to provide guests with experiences that matter,” said Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld … “We are thrilled to be able to grow the presence of Sesame Place theme parks in the U.S. and help our company diversify its brand portfolio and expand into new areas.” The new license agreement extends SeaWorld’s 37-year partnership as Sesame Workshop‘s exclusive theme park partner in the United States through 2031, with a second Sesame Place theme park scheduled to open no later than mid 2021 in the U.S.

Happy birthday belatedly to U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Speaker Tom Feeney, William Arnold, James Blair, Matt Brockelman, Matt Mitchell, Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez, and Steve Uhlfelder. Celebrating today is Rep. Dane Eagle and the amazing Eileen Stuart.

Sunburn for 5.19.17 – No slots for you! No money for you, elex supervisors! HD 44 spec. election heating up; Scott Plakon did what?

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

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

Good morning from Cove Cafe on Deck 9 of the Disney Magic. The WiFi is strong here and so is the coffee, which is much needed after a late Pirate Night. Current location is 36.40.65 N, 31.30.78 W. Course is 80 degrees. The nearest land is Horta. The ship is 286 nautical miles from Ponta Delgado. It’s our sixth straight day at sea — the last before our first excursion.


Senate leadership’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Gretna racetrack slot machine case yesterday brings to mind a scene from the 1997 flick, “Cop Land.”

Poor Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone) is practically begging NYPD internal affairs investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) to reopen the IA case into corrupt cops who control his sleepy New Jersey town just across the Hudson River.

De Niro’s character ain’t having it: “Listen … I offered you a chance when we could have done something, I offered you a chance to be a cop, and you blew it! You blew it.”

Lawmakers blew it this year when they missed an opportunity to finally wrap their arms around gambling in the state and pass a major overhaul.

But in the Bizarro World that is the Capitol, Senate President Joe Negron and Sen. Bill Galvano, the presumptive president for 2018-20, don’t see it that way.

Senate President Joe Negron confers with Sen. Bill Galvano during a budget conference in the Knott Building Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Indeed, Thursday’s decision denying slots to Gadsden and other counties that passed local slots referendums “upheld the authority of the Legislature to determine the future of gaming in Florida,” their statement said.

Yes, the same Legislature that suffers from a history of fail when it comes to gambling. Every year, lawmakers tee up some gambling law overhaul, and every year it dies.

Including this year, when the Senate wouldn’t back down on its insistence that slots should be expanded to pari-mutuels in counties that approved them in referendum votes. The House, under the leadership of Speaker Richard Corcoran, opposed such a move.

The statement also took pains to pay homage to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has a gambling deal that could have allowed them to reduce or eliminate payments to the state if their exclusive right to offers slots outside South Florida was broken.

“The Legislature now has every opportunity to shape gaming policy for our state in a manner that respects both the authority of local referendums and the ongoing relationship with the Seminole Tribe, without the underlying concern that a court ruling could suddenly upend productive negotiations,” Negron said.

Added Galvano, also president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States: “This confirmation of legislative authority removes a significant obstacle in our negotiations with the Seminole Tribe, providing clarity that as we move forward the Legislature, rather than the Courts, will determine what expansion looks like and where it takes place.”

That is, unless a proposed constitutional amendment gets on the ballot that would give voters exclusive control of gambling expansion in the future. But that’s another story.

For now, guys, you had the chance. You blew it.

“Florida Supreme Court rules against Gretna track, slots expansion” via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsA unanimous Florida Supreme Court ruled against a North Florida racetrack seeking to add slot machines. The 20-page decision, released Thursday, means that gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed local referendums allowing slots also will not be able to offer them. In doing so, the court upheld a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that agreed with state gambling regulators who denied the track a slots permit. In sum, the ruling comes as a loss for the state’s pari-mutuels and a win for gambling expansion opponents. If it had gone the other way, the decision might have led to the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

Gretna considering its next move via Creek Entertainment spox Sarah Bascom: “We are disappointed the Florida Supreme Court did not agree with our interpretation of the law and because of this ruling, we are now unable to create new jobs. We are considering our options on how to proceed.”

No Casinos gets to crow via John Sowinski: “We scored a partial victory with this ruling today and intend to score a complete victory with the Voters in Charge initiative in 2018. The people of Florida should have the final say on whether or not to legalize casino-style gambling. Our state’s history shows that without this bright line, the result will be more of what we have been seeing in recent legislative sessions – gambling interests will continue spending unprecedented sums on lobbyists, lawyers and campaign contributions in an attempt to turn Florida into the next Atlantic City.”

***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***


Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will announce April job numbers and highlight job growth at 1 p.m. at LATAM Airlines, 6500 NW 22nd St. in Miami. Scott is then scheduled to present Cuban dissidents Sirley Avila Leon and Pedro Corzo with the “Governor’s Freedom Award” at 5:30 p.m. at The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, 1200 Coral Way in Miami.

Bill watch – Thirty-seven bills were sent Thursday to Gov. Scott, including HB 141 on craft distilleries, HB 299 on the Central Florida Expressway Authority, and HB 6515, a claim bill related to FSU football player Devaughn Darling, who died in 2001 during preseason training. The Governor now has till June 2 to sign or veto them, or let the bills become law without his signature. Counting Thursday’s measures, Scott now has 55 bills on his desk.

House Speaker hopes Governor won’t veto controversial education bill” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – Corcoran visited the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation and said he was hopeful the bill will survive Scott’s veto pen. “I haven’t spoken to him, but I don’t know, there’s still a lot of time,” said Corcoran after a meeting at Florida International University. “Hopefully it’ll go well.” The massive K-12 public schools bill, which drew sharp criticism from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents … is part of the 2017-18 budget. It includes a $234 million bonus package for most teachers and some top principals and a $140 million “Schools of Hope” program to help struggling traditional public schools and bring in private charter schools to give parents in these areas an alternative. “I know a lot of these superintendents, they’re good guys, but I wish they would focus more on not building $20 and $40 million Taj Mahal buildings,” Corcoran said. “What’s more important than beautiful buildings is beautiful minds, and this bill is about building beautiful minds. And to the extent that they can cut those buildings down in size and take that money and pour it into the classroom, which is what this bill does, I would love to have their support.”

Richard Corcoran: Miami lawmaker ‘crashed against gates of hell’ by supporting schools bill” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon had an unlikely and influential ally showering him with praise in his legislative district: Speaker Corcoran. “He [Hardemon] doesn’t care who’s got power. He doesn’t care what the status quo is. He doesn’t care whether he gets elected,” Corcoran said in brief remarks onstage for the groundbreaking of the Liberty Square redevelopment project, with Hardemon at his side. Hardemon was the only Democrat in either the House or Senate to vote in favor of HB 7069. “He doesn’t fear. What he cares about is his community,” Corcoran said, before touting a key provision of HB 7069 that’s meant to help neighborhoods like Liberty City.

Talk about a nothing burger story – “Corcoran’s brother is lobbyist for marijuana grower opposing dispensary caps” via Michael Auslen and David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times – Surterra, one of Florida’s largest medical marijuana growers, is banking on opening 55 dispensaries in the next five years as part of a plan to bring in more than $138 million in sales by 2021 … To push its agenda in Tallahassee, Surterra hired three lobbying firms this year. One of their lead lobbyists is Michael Corcoran, brother to House Speaker Corcoran …

— Corcoran says he was never once lobbied by his brother on the marijuana bill.

— Asked if he ever had a conversation with his brother about the caps, Corcoran was blunt: “No. Nope.”

Money quote from the Speaker: “Why don’t you write about how Richard killed the gaming bill and his brother has a gaming client? Why don’t you write about how Richard took it to the hospitals and his brother has a hospital client? … I don’t care who lobbies me. I’m going to always do the right thing and damn the consequences.”

Election experts begged lawmakers for new tool to fight voter fraud, but got nothing” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Ignoring pleas from county election experts across the state, lawmakers ended the 2017 session last week without passing a law that would improve the reliability of voter rolls by making it easier to find voters who are registered to vote in Florida and another state or who are registered in Florida and died in another state. “It’s a shame, with all of the concern about the accuracy of the voter rolls,” said Chris Chambless, supervisor of elections in Clay County and president of a statewide supervisors’ association. Their priority was a three-page bill to let Florida become the 21st state to join a national compact known as the Electronic Registration Information Center or ERIC. The bill breezed through the House without opposition, then stalled and died in the Senate.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Amy Mercado say special session needed to end cannabis legal limbo” via Scott Powers via Orlando Rising – “We are here because 71 percent of Florida voters approved the constitutional right to medical canabis. But we also are here because unfortunately once again Tallahassee politicians have thwarted the will of the people and they have refused to implement Amendment 2, medical cannabis,” said Smith, of Orlando. “They should be ashamed … While the out-of-touch, old-fashioned, conservative majority in Tallahassee continues its hand-wringing over whether or not cannabis is actual medicine… or whether they can actually get over themselves and listen to the voters, qualified patients are dying, qualified patients are waiting,” he continued. “And there is no question that the governor, the Senate president of the senate and the speaker of the House need to be leaders and officially call for a special session and demand that the Legislature implement the will of the voters immediately.”

“Florida League of Cities slams telecom bill” via Florida PoliticsThe Florida League of Cities on Thursday asked Gov. Scott to veto a measure it says will “deprive cities of their authority to regulate the use of public rights of way.” The bill (HB 687), sponsored by St. Cloud Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa, pre-empts to the state the regulation of telecommunications companies putting “small wireless facilities in rights of way.” Such equipment, including antennas and related equipment, can be as big as a kitchen refrigerator. “The bill may leave local governments minimal ability to control the aesthetics of their public rights of way, but it effectively hands significant control to the wireless industry,” League Executive Director Mike Sittig said in a press release.

Sean Shaw bill for 2018 would stop raiding of Sadowski Housing Trust Fund” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Shaw says he will file legislation … to block what has become an annual ritual of the Legislature, even if the likelihood of the bill’s passage is dubious. “I’m willing to dedicate one of my six slots to that, just to have the discussion,” he says, referring to the rule that House members can only file six bills in a legislative session. The Sadowski funds come from a locally collected doc stamp on real estate sales transactions that is sent to the state. Seventy percent of that is sent back via the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) to all 67 counties, based on population, to primarily aid low-to-moderate-income residents with buying a home. The other 30 percent goes to the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL), which the state uses as an incentive for developers to build affordable apartments. Last year, lawmakers took $200 million out of the trust, cutting Scott’s original proposal of almost $240 million. The year before, the Legislature allocated $175 million of the $255 million that should have been spent on affordable housing. “The Sadowski Fund isn’t the only one that gets swept,” Shaw said. “It’s the one that means the most to me, but there are tons of funds that get swept into general revenue that are taken for specific amounts of money.”

Polk County commissioners snub local legislators” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger – Who needs Tallahassee? In a slight directed at local legislators, Polk County commissioners voted 5-0 … to not have the annual Polk County Day in the Capitol. The proposal was made by County Commissioner Todd Dantzler, who added in the motion that county commissioners will not ask for a joint legislative-delegation meeting before the session begins. The vote comes after a session in which legislators supported a broader homestead exemption. It will give voters the opportunity to increase the property-tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. But if it passes, cities and counties may be forced to cut services, raise taxes or a combination of both.


Here are the biggest financial backers of candidates running for Governor in 2018” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Adam Putnam’s Top 5: $605,000 – The Voice of Florida Business; $587,060 – Florida Power & Light; $550,000 – Florida Jobs PAC, a committee run by the Florida Chamber of Commerce; $525,000 – Associated Industries of Florida PAC; $465,000 – U.S. Sugar Corporation and South Central Florida Express Inc. Chris King’s Top 5: 1,062,000 – Chris King; $179,000 – Paul Morgan, a principal with King-founded Elevation Financial Group; 166,000 – David King, Attorney and Chris King’s father; $47,000 – Thomas Beck, accountant from Winter Park; $25,000 – Debbie Lawton of Winter Park. Gwen Graham’s Top 5: $250,000 – Graham for Congress campaign account; $50,000 – James Finch, former NASCAR racing team owner and construction company owner; $50,000 – Michael Singer, founder of the Temple of the Universe, a yoga and meditation center outside of Gainesville; $50,000 – Wayne Hogan, Jacksonville attorney and 2002 candidate for Congress; $25,000 – Five donors gave this amount. Andrew Gillum’s Top 5: $100,000 – George Soros, billionaire financier; $50,000 – Norman Lear, television producer and writer; $50,000 – Alex Soros, philanthropist; $50,000 – Tarra Pressey, Palm Beach Gardens; $45,000 – Attorney Sean Pittman, his law firm and investment company he runs.

Joe Abruzzo backs Andrew Gillum for Governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announced Thursday scored the endorsement of former state senator and current Rep. Joseph Abruzzo in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. “Only a few times in a generation do we have the opportunity to elect a leader like Andrew Gillum. He brings the integrity, experience, and energy to ignite the Democratic base,” said Abruzzo, who serves as the House Democratic Whip, in a statement. As Democratic House Whip, I can attest that Andrew has worked with the Democratic Caucus and will be ready to lead as Governor from Day One. He is the Democrat in this race who can rebuild our economy so that it works better for everyone in Palm Beach County and the Sunshine State.”

Third Gainesville City Commissioner endorses Gillum — City Commissioner David Arreola has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Arreola joins Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioners Adrian Hayes-Santos and Harvey Ward in backing Gillum. “I’m proud to add my voice to the growing chorus of local leaders in Gainesville and Florida who endorse Andrew Gillum for Governor,” said Arreola in a statement. “Mayor Gillum, a native of Gainesville, has shown us that fresh approaches to governing are just what Florida needs to move forward.”

Op-ed you won’t read in Sunburn –John Lewis endorses Gwen Graham, and that means what?” via Leslie Wimes for the Sunshine State News. Is Wimes’ job simply to dog the moderate, electable Democrat in any race where Republicans feel threatened?

— “Adam Putnam pitches ‘Florida exceptionalism’ in Jax Beach” via Florida Politics

On the road, Adam Putnam and his son, Hughes, stopped at Dreamette in Jacksonville for shakes and freezes.

Assignment editors: Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with a small business roundtable at 9:50 a.m. (CST) at Dog House Deli, 30 South Palafox Place in Pensacola. He’ll then attend a meet-and-greet with supporters at noon (CST) at Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer, 210 Harbor Boulevard in Destin. He’ll wrap up his day at 6 p.m. (CST) at the Jackson County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Graceville Civic Center, 5224 Brown Street in Graceville. Putnam will wrap up his 10-day bus tour on Saturday at noon at the Suwannee Valley Grassroots BBQ at Gaylard Family Farm, 7182 240th Street in O’Brien. Media interested in attending the BBQ should email by 8:00 p.m., May 19.

Assignment editors: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will speak at noon at Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center, 1610 N. Tampa Street in Tampa.

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Matt Caldwell was in Kevin Sweeny’s territory on Friday:

Ryan Yadav mulling Democratic run for AG” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — The Winter Park attorney said this week he is contemplating a Democratic run for Florida attorney general. “I have recently been contacted by people throughout the State encouraging me to run for Attorney General in 2018. I am seriously considering the venture and will make a decision over the summer,” Yadav declared in a message to “Based upon my qualifications, trial experience, and fire in the belly — If I run I will win!” Yadav ran unsuccessfully last year for the House District 30 seat. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes won re-election, beating him, 53 to 47 percent.

Now we have a race – “Kissimmee chamber chief John Newstreet enters HD 44 contest” via Scott Powers of Orlando RisingNewstreet, chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce and a former aide to U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Marco Rubio, announced he’s entering the House District 44 race going to a special election this summer. “I believe I’m prepared and qualified to successfully champion the conservative values that will grow our economy, strengthen our schools, keep our taxes low, cut job-killing regulations and protect our Second Amendment rights.” Newstreet enters a race in which former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski had established himself as the early front-runner, even before Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle resigned early this month to take an appointment from Gov. Rick Scott as a judge on Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

Legislative hopefuls eye 2018 — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates have filed to run for state House and Senate races in 2018. Democrat Ryan Rossi has filed to replace Rep. Bill Hager in House District 89. Rossi is a sales associate with William Raveis Real Estate Mortgage & Insurance, and studied political science and international relations at Florida Atlantic University. Hager, a Republican, can’t run again because of term limits. Democrat Stephanie Myers has joined the race to replace Rep. George Moraitis in House District 93. Myers is the director of the Broward County ACLU and a member of the Broward Progressive Caucus. She joins Jonathon May, who has already announced a run. Moraitis can’t run again because of term limits. In House District 109, Democrat Cedric McMinn has thrown his hat in the race to replace Rep. Cynthia Stafford. McMinn is a former Miami-Dade Democratic Party official and worked as an outreach director for former Gov. Charlie Crist. McMinn joins former state Rep. James Bush III in the Democratic primary. Stafford can’t run again because of term limits. LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ also reports Libertarian Spenser Garber has dropped his bid for House District 3. Garber was challenging Rep. Jayer Williamson, who will still face Democrat Preston Bartholomew Anderson in 2018.


Scott doesn’t let politics get in way of investing in firm that believes in climate change” via Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog – When Scott ran for Governor in 2010, he told a reporter he wasn’t convinced that global warming was real. In 2015, the Scott administration was reported to have told state employees to lay off using ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in official communications. Today, the governor’s office dodges questions about Scott’s position on the use of those terms, saying instead, “Governor Scott is focused on real solutions to protect our environment.” Still, the ultra-wealthy Scott hasn’t let his politics get in the way of making money. Through first lady Ann Scott, the governor has a substantial financial stake in a sizable mosquito control company that recently declared on its Facebook page that “mosquitos will only get worse thanks to #climatechange and ‘#globalwarming.”

Florida’s hurricane fund remains strong heading into season” via The Associated Press – Estimates prepared by Raymond James show the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund will have $17.6 billion available this year. This marks the second year in a row that the fund has more money than it would need to pay out if storms racked the state. The financial health of the fund is important because the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies to replenish it if the money runs out. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.” The fund has grown because Florida has avoided major hurricanes since 2005.

Citrus budget would restore tax cut” via Kevin Bouffard of the Lakeland Ledger –The first draft of the 2017-18 Florida Department of Citrus budget proposes eliminating a 3-cent tax abatement, getting a chilly reception from members of the Florida Citrus Commission. Executive Director Shannon Shepp told the commission, the department’s governing body, the 3-cent tax increase per box of juice oranges and grapefruit represented the end of a “tax abatement” commissioners agreed to a year ago. The First draft gave the commission a chance to discuss the budget in public. A final budget, which may or may not include the elimination of the abatement — what some see as a 43 percent tax increase — will be proposed in October.

Mute Constitution Revision Commissioners hear from Tampa Bay” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – People asked for less gun control and more. Open primaries to empower nonpartisan voters. A change to the constitution’s privacy clause so that it no longer thwarts abortion restrictions, and no change to that clause. They asked for protections for black bears and protections for public schools against charter schools siphoning money away. They asked for more transparency from the CRC, which is still grappling with how much to embrace Florida’s Sunshine Laws, more solar power, and less opportunity for expanded gambling. The commissioners remained mostly mute throughout the evening, many of them quietly pecking away on their laptops and phones as the testimony continued. Chairman Carlos Beruff was particularly hostile to occasional applause from the audience at the start, so the crowd — seemingly dominated by progressive-leaning citizens — waved green cards when they heard something they liked and a red card for something they disliked.

Floridians make their voices heard at Hillsborough Community College’s (HCC) Dale Mabry Campus in Tampa.


School choice will lift up black community” via T. Willard Fair for USA TODAY – We know that far too many black children are sitting in classrooms where they are not learning. We know their schools have fewer resources. We know their teachers, on average, are less qualified. We know expectations for these children are set lower than the expectations for students in more affluent suburban schools. This reality is what led me, along with other civil rights leaders, to go in a different direction — to advocate for giving parents the power to pursue better options for their children. I saw the devastating impact that powerlessness had on the black community in the 1950s and 60s. And I see that same dynamic at play for black parents today. Once we were told where we could live and work, play and pray, eat and gather. I find it no more acceptable that today we are told where our children can go to school. Give them the power, and give them options from every sector of education — be it public or private.

What Michael Van Sickler is reading –Editorial: Terrible budget for public education deserves Scott veto” via the Palm Beach Post – Scott should use his power. Because there’s plenty concerning education in the $82.4 billion budget to dislike.  The last time a budget offered so small an increase in overall funding for public schools (just 1.2 percent), it was 2011-2012 and the state was pulling out of the recession. Palm Beach County schools, like others in the state, is to get just one-third of 1 percent more in per-student funding. For another year, look for Florida near the bottom in state rankings. The budget also clips $25 million from the state colleges, like Palm Beach State College. That’s hardly wise at a time when more adults are heading to school for long-delayed degrees or job retraining. There’s more bad news in the accompanying “Schools of Hope” bill (HB 7069), mashed together behind closed doors … with no input from educators or the public. The measure, a Corcoranfavorite that barely passed the Senate, allocates $140 million to entice out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies to set up shop near struggling traditional public schools, theoretically to give kids a better chance to succeed — theoretically, that is, because the record on charter school performance is mixed.


Scott Plakon shares Facebook post from neo-Nazi site, insists he had no idea what it was” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The headline may have been funny, even in a bipartisan way: “Breaking: FBI Uncovers Evidence that 62 Million Trump Voters are All Russian Agents.” But the source and the link embedded in a Facebook post Plakon shared Wednesday night was neo-Nazi and white supremacist. When alerted that he shared a link to a notorious neo-Nazi site, Plakon expressed shock, immediately took down the post, and declared that he had no idea. He said never followed the link on his own Facebook post, and he said he had never looked at the site before he was alerted … “Wow,” he said after glancing at the site, “First, I apologize to those that were offended by my careless post. Second I detest and condemn the disgusting ideas that are represented by that site.” The site, run by Andrew Anglin, is universally described in mainstream media as a neo-Nazi, white-supremacist site that specializes in sending out memes and trolls throughout social media. Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center declared the site to be “the top hate site in America.” “I had no idea,” Plakon insisted.

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Scoop from the decks of the Disney Magic –Office of Insurance Regulation veteran Belinda Miller announces retirement” via Florida Politics — Belinda Miller, a stalwart of Florida’s insurance regulation efforts since 1985, will retire on July 2, but plans to keep her hand in the industry via consulting work. “I’m going to retire from the state,” Miller said during a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s just time. I’ve been there a long time, so I’m going to play a little bit.” She expects to do some work for Celtic Global Consulting, the firm former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty set up after he left office last year. …  She was a candidate to replace McCarty, but the job when to David Altmaier. …  Not getting the top job had nothing to do with her departure, Miller said. “I’m happy that David is the commissioner,” she said. “He is very good. I worked with David for maybe nine years now. We have a good team. I hate to leave that group of people. They’re wonderful.”

Top Latino political group hires former FDP political director” via Maxwell Tani of Business Insider – Latino Victory Project, a top Democratic group backing Latino candidates and progressives, is staffing up as it prepares for the 2018 midterm elections … the group announced it hired Mayra Macias, the former political director at the Florida Democratic Party, to head up the organization’s political operation as it begins launching affiliates in states like Georgia, New York, Arizona, and Florida, which have large Latino populations disproportionate to Latino representation in government. “This past election cycle showed the country the power of the Latino vote and the potential to grow this electorate,” Macias said in a statement. Founded in 2014 by actress Eva Longoriaand Democratic National Committee treasurer Henry Muñoz III, the group recently refocused as a progressive organization after initially casting itself as more middle-of-the-road, occasionally backing Republican candidates. But following the 2016 election, the group decided that the leaders of the Republican Party were openly hostile to policies that would benefit Latinos.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Jon Costello, Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: 3M and Its Affiliates

Mercer Fearington, Clark Smith Southern Strategy Group: 3M and Its Affiliates

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: TmaxSoft

Rebecca Roman, Adams St. Advocates: DataLogic Software

— ALOE —

A history of Ringling Bros. circus, soon to close forever” via The Associated Press – The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is drawing to a close this weekend after 146 years of performances and travel that at times have been marred by tragedy and celebrated in film, but also constant. The circus has its roots in a spectacle that began two decades before the U.S. Civil War, equal parts freak show, zoo and museum. Traveling performances began in 1871, and 10 years later it officially became the circus that generations grew up watching. It has evolved over the years, most recently with its decision to retire its elephant acts.

What Twitter’s privacy changes mean to you” via The Associated Press – Twitter was already tracking users. For example, if you visited a webpage that had an embedded tweet or a button to share something on Twitter, you could be tracked and targeted. With the changes, Twitter expands the pool of people it can track and lets the company collect more data about those people when they are visiting sites around the web. In addition, Twitter will no longer honor the “Do Not Track” option that let people say no to being tracked by the likes of ad and social networks. Many such networks no longer honor that option anyway. Polonetsky said Twitter had been “one of the rare prominent brands that respected Do Not Track.”

Happy birthday to Sens. Daphne Campbell, Greg Steube, and Kathleen Passidomo.

Sunburn for 5.18.17 – Pam Bondi raising $$$; No word yet on special Session; Richard Corcoran’s op-ed; The secret Disney land deal

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

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

Good morning from the deck of the Disney Magic. The weather is now much more north Atlantic than tropical. Current location is 35.17.14 N, 39.16.13 W. Course is 80 degrees. The nearest land is Santa Cruz des Flores. The ship is 672 nautical miles from Ponta Delgado. It’s our fifth straight day at sea, but our mood is buoyed by the fact that today is Pirate Night.


Attorney General Pam Bondi had a good April, at least when it came to fundraising.

State records show Bondi raised $72,500 for her political committee, Justice for All, during the one-month fundraising period. The committee, which posts fundraising numbers on its website, has already raised $10,000 this month.

The numbers aren’t earth shattering. In fact, they barely rank among the Top 10 fundraising hauls the committee has reported to the state since 2013. But here’s why $72K in 30 days is notable: The April haul marks the first time in more than a year the committee has raised any money.

Dear Pam: What are you raising money for?

The committee, state records show, hasn’t raised any money since January 2016, when it reported raising $53,000. Prior to that, it reported sporadic fundraising throughout much of 2015 and late 2014.

Bondi, who won re-election with 55 percent of the vote in 2014, can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. An early supporter of President Donald Trump, many speculated Bondi would leave her post early to join Trump administration. But none of the obvious jobs panned out, leaving many to wonder what comes next for Bondi.

While Bondi has said she won’t run for governor, the attorney general’s post has been a launching pad for gubernatorial bids in the past. And Bondi remains one of the most popular Republicans in the state.

According to a February survey conducted by Associated Industries of Florida, 54 percent of Republicans approved of the job she was doing as attorney general. She had the third highest approval rating at the time, behind only Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio.

It’s unclear what sparked the sudden surge in fundraising, but Bondi did secure some big-name contributors in April. Top contributors included Florida Phosphate Council; the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC, and Mosaic Global Sales. The committee ended the month with $222,587 cash on hand.

“Bondi wants to protect ‘military consumers’ ” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi on Wednesday announced a new consumer protection program “that will serve the unique needs of our military and veteran communities and directly assist with consumer protection-related issues.” The Military and Veterans Assistance Program (MVAP) is Bondi’s “most recent effort to spread awareness of and stop deceptive business practices affecting military service members, veterans and their families,” according to a press release. “Florida has more than 90,000 active duty and reserve military members and more than 1.5 million veterans,” she said in a statement. “To the men and women who have put on a uniform to protect our country, we will continue to do everything we can to protect you from these scammers.”

Stop f*cking with Pam, A**hole – “Bondi faces accused stalker in court” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times – When William Norman Wilkes first banged on her door at 3 one morning, Bondi said she thought he was a different stalker she has dealt with — a man from another state who thinks she can remove a chip from his brain. “When I called 911, I said, ‘My stalker is trying to get in the house,’” Bondi said, “because I thought he was someone else at the time.” But Bondi, flanked in court by statewide prosecutors Nick Cox and Rita Peters, said she didn’t know Wilkes. She said he showed up twice at her home and later sent her text messages expressing appreciation for her “physical attributes.” She has since learned that they attended the same high school. After Wednesday’s hearing, Bondi said Wilkes was taken to a mental health center in Tampa. He was cleared to leave days later, before he began sending text messages to Bondi through Facebook Messenger. “The system failed me and it failed him,” Bondi said.

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“Civil rights icon John Lewis endorses Gwen Graham” via Florida Politics — In a statement, the Georgia Democrat said Graham is the only Democrat for governor who has the passion and commitment, the track record and the leadership skills to stand up, speak out, protect our priorities, and get things done.” Graham marched with Lewis and President Barack Obama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, joined him and other House Democrats in a sit-in to demand commonsense gun safety, and co-sponsored legislation to protect voting rights while in Congress. “Gwen is a champion for the progressive values so many of us share, and I am proud to give Gwen Graham my strongest endorsement for Governor of Florida,” said Lewis.

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with an “Up & Adam” breakfast at 8 a.m. at Tasty’s Fresh Burgers and Fries, 710 Centre Street in Fernandina Beach.

Adam Putnam supporters gathered for an “Up & Adam” breakfast at Wilke’s 14 Bones BBQ in Vero Beach.

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Matt Caldwell releases first campaign video — Caldwell, who formally launched his bid for Agriculture Commissioner on Monday, released a video explaining why he was running for the statewide office. “Running for office was about a choice,” he says in the 2 minute and 30 second campaign video. “I could sit idly by and shake my fist at the television screen or I could get out there and I could fight for what I knew right and just.” In the video, the North Fort Myers Republican urges supporters to help us get our message out to all 20 million Floridians in all 67 counties.” Click on the image below to watch the video.   

“Denise Grimsley introduces herself to Tampa Republicans” via Mitch Perry of SaintPetersBlog —The Sebring Republican used her stop in Tampa to introduce herself to local Republicans and explain why she’s the best candidate to succeed Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner. Like Putnam, she’s a fifth-generation Floridian, but unlike him, she had an entire career outside of politics before being elected in 2004 to represent Highlands County in the Florida House. Grimsley spent 17 years in the health care field. She also spent time as a citrus grower and rancher when she took over for her ailing father at the Grimsley Oil Company. “When I did that, I started seeing how government impacted our day-to-day life,” Grimsley told the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, which gathered at the River at Tampa Bay Church Tuesday night. Before that, she said, she had little interest in the workings of government.

“In Tampa, Jay Fant says House ‘out of whack’ for zeroing out funding for Enterprise Florida” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The Jacksonville Republican was back in Tampa, where he once again registered his disagreement with House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the House vote to zero out funding for Enterprise Florida. Speaking to the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, he said he gets along well with Corcoran … but disagrees with how the House handled the budget in relation to Enterprise Florida. “If I sound critical of the House’s approach in this method, then I am,” said Fant, who is running for attorney general. “We have education, health, transportation, many good programs that occur in our budget, and if we jeopardize it over a food fight over a meaningful smaller, legitimately debatable item, then I think we’re out of whack, and I think we need to come back and find a compromise, not jeopardize our funding from the state.”

“Audrey Gibson draws 2018 opponent” via Florida Politics — Lucretia Fordyce, a write-in candidate, has filed to run against the veteran Democratic senator and chairwoman of the Duval County Democratic Party. Fordyce, a customer service rep and an Army veteran, bills herself on her Facebook page as a “national recording artist and an author.” Among her books: Dare to Be a Diva in Bella Mafias.

Three Democrats now running to replace Janet Cruz in HD 62 — Michael AlvarezCarlos Frontela, and John Rodriguez have all thrown their hat in the race to replace Cruz in House District 62. Rodriguez served as Cruz’s first legislative aide; while Frontela is a businessman. Alvarez is a Marine veteran and a party activist who works for a local roofing company. Cruz, the House Democratic Leader, can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Two Democrats file to replace Lori Berman in HD 90 — Boynton Beach Commissioner Joe Casello and Adriana Gonzalez have filed to replace the Lantana Democrat in House District 90. Casello was first elected as a city commissioner in April 2013, and was re-elected in March 2014 to a three-year term. Gonzalez is a partner at Gonzalez & Cartwright PA, and an executive board member of the Palm Beach County Justice Association Berman can’t run for re-election because of term limits.


Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented with one bill on Wednesday — HB 7109, the tax cut package. He has until Thursday, June 1 to sign it, veto it or let it become law without taking action.

Senate Democrats are ready to block override – under right circumstances” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Senate Democrats are prepared to work with Gov. Scott to block an override of a veto if he rejects the sweeping education reform bill pushed by House leaders in the final days of session and sold as a take-it or leave-it budget deal, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon [said]. “We have to have a reason to override,” Braynon said, referring to his Democratic colleagues. “It would depend on what the veto message looks like and if his vetoes include a bunch of things that matter to Democrats, then we’re not going to override. We’re willing to come back and work.” The Senate would need 26 votes to override the governor’s veto and, with Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala openly suggesting he would support a veto, plus the three Republican senators who voted against the bill, the numbers won’t add up if the Senate Democrats hold most of their 15 members.

“Still no decision from Joe Negron on marijuana Special Session” via Florida Politics – Senate President Negron has yet to decide to join House Speaker Corcoran in calling for a Special Session on medical marijuana implementation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Negron, a Stuart Republican, is still “in the process of having discussions with senators in response to the memorandum he sent last Thursday,” Katie Betta said in an email. Negron had sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to guide state Health regulators on the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

— “Darryl Rouson wants lawmakers to take medical pot into their own hands” via the Miami Herald

Who dropped this oppo file? – “A tale of two homes: Does Miami lawmaker live in district she represents?” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rep. Daisy Baez doesn’t appear to live in the House district she represents, a possible violation of the Florida Constitution that could haunt her Florida Senate candidacy. Her residence continues to be a prim Coral Gables house with a stack of her old campaign yard signs leaning against one of the porch walls … Baez wasn’t inside – but her two rescue dogs, Oso and Coco, were. So was her campaign team, working around the kitchen table. Baez was expected back a couple of hours later. The home is in House District 112. Baez, a Democrat, represents House District 114, whose boundaries begin about half a mile away. Florida requires lawmakers to live and vote in the districts they represent by Election Day. For Baez, a freshman, that was Nov. 8 of last year.

Assignment editors – Lawmakers and advocates will host a news conference and rally outside the Orange County Department of Health (DOH) office, 832 W. Central Blvd. in Orlando, to demand immediate action on medical cannabis, and continue calls for a special legislative session to pass an Amendment 2 implementation bill. News conference from 12 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.


Richard Corcoran:Don’t believe hyperbole, hysterics from budget critics” via Orlando Rising – If you can believe it, one newspaper even argued that Gov. Scott should veto the budget because it offered kids in failing schools hope, and because voters shouldn’t be able to choose another $25,000 homestead exemption on their property taxes. … I wish I were joking but I’m not. … From funding to clear out the backlog of sexual-assault testing kits to fully funding the KidCare program, to making feminine hygiene products tax exempt, this budget is tough on waste, generous to our kids, and prioritizes real people. For some, however, this wasn’t enough. It is this exact same logic and thinking that has put this country $20 trillion in debt and enriched insider elites at the expense of the hard-working, play-by-the-rules majority of we the people.

Gary Fineout fires back via @Fineout: Much was made this session about university budgets and how projects were rolled up before budget was sent to @FLGovScott … Guess what? $120 million for Florida’s 12 universities – with set amounts for each school – was rolled up into the overall SUS budget

Jason Fischer: “Our kids deserve hope” via Florida Politics – Over the past few days, many district superintendents and other defenders of the struggling status quo have attacked HB 7069, a bill focused on reforming and improving K-12 education. The notion that this bill will gut public education or undermine public schools is hogwash. Instead, it provides the reform and disruption our K-12 education system desperately needs. HB 7069 does several positive things: boosts K-12 funding to a record high $24 billion; rewards teachers and principals with bonuses; reduces standardized and computer testing; expands school choice access for special needs and virtual school students; implements mandatory recess for early grades; and provides the needed funding and incentives to attract nationally-proven charter school networks to Florida.  The bill also rewards Florida’s 165,000+ hardworking teachers and principals with bonuses for the next three years, ranging between $800 and $6,000, based on eligibility, placing more dollars directly in the pockets of our educators. What the bill does not do is cut funding to traditional public schools. Duval County will see an $8.3 million boost overall or $16 per pupil increase in funding.


Because we were first to tell you Mike Dew was a shoo-in to get the top spot at the Department of Transportation. Doubters noted that Dew was not on a list of recommendations to go to Gov. Scott—but then, surprise, he was added back on Wednesday. Did we also mention we were first to say Noah Valenstein would be the next Department of Environmental Protection Secretary? Again, on Wednesday, he was the only applicant—mirabile dictu—to be granted an interview at next week’s Cabinet meeting. Tell a friend: Look on the right-hand side of our main page to subscribe to SUNBURN and all our other newsletters.


Marco Rubio calls for patience in Donald trump issues” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio on Fox & Friends: “I’m not saying the news articles are wrong. I’m not saying that they are right,” he said. “I’m saying that they raise an allegation, we have an obligation to look into them, but before we form opinions and advocate for action, we need to know what the facts are.” Any advice for the White House? “There is a value to convention … If the White House became more systematic in its approach to scheduling and messaging and the like, they would avoid some of the friction that you’re now seeing.”

“2,100 wildfires have burned in Florida this year” via the Associated Press – Ag. Commissioner Putnam said that more than 127 active fires were burning in Florida as of Tuesday. Putnam says drought conditions and high wildfire danger will continue for some time since May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year in Florida.

State will exhaust budget for agriculture conservation easements by year’s end” via Florida Politics — The state would run out of money to buy agricultural conservation land easements by the end of 2017 under the budget approved by the Legislature, the head of the Florida Forest Service said Wednesday. The service asked for $50 million and got $10 for the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, land program administrator John Browne told aides to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet. Combined with about $11 million for the current fiscal year, that would leave around $21 million for easement acquisition, Browne said. “So you’ll see easements at least until the end of this calendar year. After that, it’s kind of questionable,” Browne said. … Scott and the Cabinet have two acquisitions on their May 23 agenda — $7 million on 4,177 acres of the Triple S Ranch in Okeechobee County, and $1.5 million in state and federal money for 1,034 acres of the S.Y. Hartt Ranch in Highland County.

“Seminoles’ Jim Allen suggests putting Florida casinos up for bid” via Nick Sortal of the Miami Herald – Allen suggested that any expansion of commercial casinos in Florida should involve a competitive bidding process, rather than simply adding slots at more racetracks, reported James Kilsby for Gambling Compliance, the only media covering the event. “In my opinion and on behalf of the tribe, if the state wants to enhance revenue from gaming, then run a process … and attract great companies like Steve Wynn’s, like MGM, like Station [Casinos], Penn National Gaming, like LVS,” Allen told delegates at the International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) spring conference. “If we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right. … “Obviously our preference is for the Seminole Tribe to continue to enjoy our semi-exclusivity… and we’re happy to put billions into the state,” Allen added. “But if the state is at the point where they don’t want to do that, then we’re happy to move on.”

What Jack Cory is reading – “Greyhound owners sue to strike down Seminole County greyhound ordinance” via Florida Politics – Two racing dog owners are trying to strike down a county ordinance regulating greyhounds. Scott Bennett and Jimmy Goodman, in a suit filed in Seminole Circuit Court on Tuesday, say the local law—the only known one of its kind in the state—is preempted by Florida gambling statutes covering racing dogs and is thus “unenforceable.” They said they “have incurred, and will continue to incur, licensing fees that are otherwise not required by state law” and “subject to ongoing harm including inspections and potential fines from the County.” Their suit also says the ordinance was drafted by GREY2K USA, which bills itself as a “greyhound protection organization” and has long been an antagonist to racing dog breeders and owners. “The legal claims made in this lawsuit are flawed, and will be rejected,” said Carla Wilson, vice chair of the Committee to Protect Greyhounds, a political committee that backed the ordinance. The plaintiffs are represented by lawyer-lobbyist and former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who also represents the Florida Greyhound Association. Lawmakers considered but did not pass a bill this year banning the use of steroids on greyhounds. The Seminole County ordinance does not address steroid use on dogs.

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

UM researchers find new way to measure hurricanes: ‘gravity waves’” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – Gravity waves are produced when air moving around the atmosphere gets pushed from one place to another. In a hurricane, those waves can come in quick, short bursts as powerful thunderstorms around the storm’s eye wall swish air up and down like a plunger in a toilet bowl. Scientists have long known they exist, measuring them in the stratosphere about 20 or 30 miles from a storm. Now, for the first time, University of Miami scientists have ventured into the heart of the storm, measuring the waves where they start. And early indications suggest wave power relates directly to storm power. “The waves are generated in the eye wall, where all the energy is released,” said David Nolan, who reported the findings with colleague Jun Zhang in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “That’s why we think it’s telling us what’s going on with the storm. It’s like noise from the engine.”

What Kevin Sweeny is reading – “St. Augustine residents voice concerns over increased tourism” via Ethan Calloway of News 4 Jax – Even on a Tuesday afternoon, the streets of downtown St. Augustine are packed with cars and the sidewalks full of pedestrians. But those signs of a tourism boom in America’s oldest city aren’t sitting well with everyone. “I know it’s a good thing for the economy as a whole, but as far as quality of life, it’s definitely getting a little — you know, there are some days where you just have to bite your lip and just shake your head and keep right on going,” resident Gerard Shannon said. He said the presence of the tourists is much more noticeable, and not always in a good way. “People (are) ending up on scooters in spots that you would be surprised,” Shannon said. “I mean, you’ve got to look both ways to cross the sidewalk sometimes around here, and never mind the cars — they can end up almost anywhere.”


Appointed – Gary Wendt to Board of Trustees, Florida Polytechnic University.

“Florida TaxWatch announces winners of 2017 Prudential Productivity Awards” via Florida Politics – TaxWatch gave 203 awards to “state employees and teams from across the state for … cost savings ideas across state government,” according to a press release. “State workers are critical to the functions of Florida’s government and hardly get the praise and honor they deserve for a job well done. This program has ensured that the taxpayers are noticing the contributions of hard-working state employees,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. The program encourages state agencies “to work together to replicate the savings across state government. Since 1989, thousands of individuals, teams, work units and partnerships have produced more than $9 billion worth of added value as a direct result of award winners’ achievements and the replication of those achievements, the group said. The full list of winners and more about the program is here.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stacy Arias, Christopher Dudley, Jerry Lee McDaniel, Jim Smith, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: 3M Company and Its Affiliates

Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting Inc.: CannaPharmacy Sciences, LLC

— ALOE —

The secret Florida land deal that became Walt Disney World” via the Miami Herald – On May 27, 1965, the Miami Herald published this headline: “Giant land deal near Orlando revealed.” But the buyer and the plans were a mystery. “A Miami law firm working with $5 million in cold cash has quietly engineered one of the biggest Florida land deals in years,” the story went on to report. So, what would the 30,000 acres be used for? Speculation focused on an atomic energy lab. Another guessed “Disneyland East.” As we all know by now, Walt Disney was secretly assembling the land for what would become Walt Disney World in Central Florida. In November 1965, he announced plans for the theme park. Six years later, the Magic Kingdom opened … The success of the Magic Kingdom led to a frantic scramble by developers to create competing theme parks in Central Florida. Circus World, Boardwalk and Baseball, Marco Polo World, Stars Hall of Fame and Splendid China opened but later failed. Among the parks proposed but never built were Bible World, Hurricane World and Little England.

Walt Disney World under construction near Orlando in Central Florida, on July 7, 1971. At center is the amusement park’s Cinderella Palace in the Magic Kingdom. Photo credit; Associated Press.

Happy birthday belatedly to President Toni Jennings. Celebrating today is Rep. Mike Miller, Trevor Mask, and my man, Mike Wickersheim.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.17.17

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

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

Good morning from the deck of the Disney Magic. Current location is 33.44.05 N, 47.45.65 W. Course is 79 degrees. The nearest land is Santa Cruz des Flores. The ship is 1099.7 nautical miles from Ponta Delgada.


It’s time to talk about rules.

Nearly two months after the Constitution Revision Commission first convened, the Rules Working Committee will meet at 11 a.m. at Hillsborough Community College to begin hash out rules governing the 2017-18 commission.

The eight-member committee — made up of Tim Cerio, Brecht Heuchan, Don Gaetz, Carolyn Timmann, Tom Lee, Rich Newsome, Arthenia Joyner, and Roberto Martinez — has been tasked with identifying where “there is consensus and where improvements can be made,” according to an April 12 letter to CRC members. Once they’ve completed that task, changes to proposed rules will be submitted to the full commission for their consideration. CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff has said he hopes the rules finalized by early June.

The proposed rules have already caused some heartburn. The 37-member Constitution Revision Committee held its organizational session in March, but didn’t adopt rules after several members raised concerns that the proposal could dilute public input.

Watchdog groups — including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Florida Consumer Action Network, and the Florida AFL-CIO — have criticized the proposals, sending letters to commissioners and speaking out during public meetings across the state. In a recent letter, 16 groups warned of “the potential for leverage and influence over commission members” and an “unclear track for approval of proposals.”

So will their concerns be taken under consideration? Only time will tell. Members of the public will be allowed to weigh in on the rules during Wednesday’s meeting, but those wishing to speak better get their early. Due to the time needed to deliberate the rules, the public comment section of the meeting is scheduled to go from 11 a.m. to noon.

The Rules Working Committee meets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry Campus in the DSTU Auditorium, Room 111, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd in Tampa. Can’t make the meeting? It will be live-streamed on

— “Powerful state panel needs public credibility” via the Sun-Sentinel editorial board

***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***


Jackie Schutz Zeckman named Scott’s chief of staff — The Naples Republican announced Tuesday that Schutz Zeckman will serve has his chief of staff beginning July 1. She’ll replace Kim McDougal, Scott’s current chief of staff, who is departing to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

“Jackie has been on my team since my first year in office and has done a great job leading my communications efforts and conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses. Along with her work on my communications team,” said Scott in a statement announcing the promotion. “Jackie was an integral part of my reelection efforts and has continued to be a trusted advisor in all aspects of implementing our agenda for Florida. I have full confidence that she will do an outstanding job as my Chief of Staff.”

She joined Scott’s communications team in 2011, after nearly two years with CoreMessage. She worked her way through the ranks, serving as deputy press secretary and press secretary, before she was named the governor’s director of communications in 2014.

— 4 politicos who benefit from JSZ’s promotion:

> Melissa Sellers Stone, who will be able to continue to control the Governor’s Office from afar.

> Mat Bahl, who as Richard Corcoran’s chief of staff will continue to play chess while Scott’s office plays checkers.

> Brian Burgess, who now has his best source in the Governor’s Office with the best job in the Governor’s Office.

> Cory Tilley, who can rightly brag about working for him being a stepping stone to bigger and better things.


Florida school boards: Education bill ‘substantially flawed,’ ‘unworthy’ of Rick Scott’s approval” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Add the Florida School Boards Association to the growing list of groups calling for a veto of HB 7069, the mammoth $419 million K-12 public schools bill Republican lawmakers unveiled and passed in the final days of their annual session. In a letter to Gov. Scott, the FSBA — which represents 64 of the state’s 67 elected county school boards — calls the bill “substantially flawed and unworthy of your approval to be enacted into law.” “One of our many objections to the bill is that, during a legislative session when leaders proclaimed to be the epitome of transparency in the legislative process, this massive bill was cobbled together behind closed doors,” wrote FSBA executive director Andrea Messina and FSBA president Tim Harris, a Polk County School Board member. “Because the bill was unveiled so late in the process, there was no realistic opportunity for members of the public and, by their own admission, some members of the legislature to even read the bill in full, let alone carefully evaluate its contents and repercussions,” they said.

“Thousands of acres of conservation easement on Cabinet aides’ agenda” via Florida Politics — The Triple S Ranch lies 15 miles north of Lake Okeechobee — a 7,000-acre cattle operation, relatively untouched by development, within the recharge zone for the Kissimmee River. Rare and endangered species, including a Florida panther, wander its streams and cypress swamps. On Wednesday morning, aides to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet will peruse a proposal to buy a conservation easement on 4,177 acres of the Okeechobee County property, for close to $7 million. The deal is scheduled to go before Scott and the Cabinet on May 23. … The Florida Forest Service has rated the property Tier One for easement acquisition under the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, intended to keep valuable agricultural lands free from intensive development — and also to protect historical and environmental treasures.

The other ‘Derrick McGhee’ to give invocation at next Cabinet meeting – When the invocation is given at next week’s Florida Cabinet meeting, it won’t be Tallahassee lobbyist Derrick McGhee doing the honors, but his 11-year-old son, Derrick McGhee II. McGhee, with the Johnson and Blanton firm, said he had gotten a call from the Cabinet office asking if his son would be interested. McGhee, who was Gov. Rick Scott’s legislative affairs director, also is pastor of Tallahassee’s Bible Based Church on Woodville Highway. Young Derrick is active in the youth ministry. “I asked him; he was not pressured at all,” McGhee told Florida Politics. “He’s excited to do it.”

“Lobby firms bring in more than $35.7M in first quarter” via Florida Politics — The Top 5 earners during the three-month period were Ballard Partners, Southern Strategy Group, Ronald L. Book PA, Capital City Consulting, and Greenberg Traurig. Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group led the pack in the first quarter, reporting median earnings of more than $2.4 million and $2.3 million respectively. Book’s firm reported median earnings of more than $2 million in the first three months of 2017. Capital City Consulting reported median earnings of more than $1.6 million; while Greenberg Traurig reported media earnings of more than $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2017. GrayRobinson, which reported more than $1.1 million; The Rubin Group, which reported $936,000; Floridian Partners, which reported $935,000; Johnson & Blanton, which reported $910,000; and Metz Husband & Daughton, which reported $882,000 rounded out the Top 10 earners during the first quarter of 2017.

New and renewed lobby registrations

David Childs, Hopping Green & Sams: Farmland Reserve

Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: San Felasco Nurseries, Inc.


– “Adam Putnam brings ‘Florida first’ tour to Altamonte Springs” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

Assignment editorsAdam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with a meet-and-greet at 1 p.m. at the Rohan Recreation Center, 850 Kristine Way in The Villages. He’ll then head to Jacksonville Beach, where he’ll attend a grassroots meet-and-greet at Angie’s Subs, 1436 Beach Boulevard.

“Three Leon County officials endorse Gwen Graham for Governor” via Florida Politics — Leon County Commissioners John Dailey and Kristin Dozier, and Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor Tabitha Frazier have endorsed Graham for governor, her campaign announced Tuesday. In a statement, Graham said she was “proud to have the support” of the local leaders, and pledged to support “elected officials on all levels to diversify our economy, invest in our schools, and protect our land and water.”

Welcome to the world: 

“Jose Felix Diaz deletes photo of himself with Donald Trump to prep for state Senate run” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times  – if you supported Trump during his rise to power, you don’t get to wash that stink from your résumé. We’re looking at you, Miami State Rep. Diaz. Now that Diaz is officially gunning for a promotion and running for state Senate, the lawmaker has conspicuously scrubbed his Twitter page of an infamous photograph with himself and the Donald. On Jan. 19, 2017, Diaz tweeted out a photo of himself locking hands with Trump at an inaugural party. The tweet got a fair amount of press: “Just ran into the first guy who ever fired me,” Diaz tweeted. “The next president of the United States @realDonaldTrump #Apprentice #POTUS #ElPresidente” But now, the tweet and photo are both scrubbed from Diaz’s Twitter page. It’s not clear exactly when the photo was removed, but as of May 15, Twitter lists the post as “deleted,” and the post is no longer showing up on websites where it had previously been embedded.


Florida Supreme Court to rule on legality of red-light camera program” via Celia Ampel of the Daily Business Review –The high court accepted a case challenging Aventura’s red light camera program after two appellate courts seemed to disagree on whether Florida municipalities can legally allow private companies to review traffic images and choose which ones to forward to police. In the Aventura case, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled the program was OK as long as police officers actually reviewed the record in deciding to write a ticket, rather than just accepting the company’s call. But an earlier Fourth DCA opinion found Hollywood’s red light camera program unlawfully delegated police power to third-party vendors. The Florida Supreme Court did not believe the decisions conflicted; attorneys for Aventura argued the facts in the two cases differed significantly. But the justices agreed to take the case because the majority of them accepted the Third DCA’s assessment that it was a matter of great public importance.

Assignment editors: Hispanic business and civic leaders will discuss the economic contributions of immigrants in the Palm Beach area and the need for immigration reform during an event at 10:30 a.m. at Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant & Social Club, 7101 S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Roly Marante, with the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Lazaro Mur, an attorney with the Mur Law Group; Juan and Dina Rubio, the owners of Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant; and Andre Varona, the former CEO of the Palm Beach Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are expected to speak.

Stalking pythons: Carlos Lopez-Cantera joins Everglades hunt” via The Associated Press – South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith says Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera went hunting with one of 25 hunters hired to kill pythons on district property … Tom Rahill and Lopez-Cantera brought in a 15-foot-4-inch python. It was the 96th python caught by the district’s hunters since March 25. Rahill leads the “Swamp Apes” program taking veterans on hunts to remove invasive animals from the Everglades. The district is paying $8.10 an hour in a python-killing pilot program ending June 1.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera: Python Hunter – Florida’s Lt. Gov. was one of 25 hunters hired by SFWMD to kill pythons in the Everglades. Lopez-Cantera brought in a 15-foot-4-inch python, the 96th caught by the district’s hunters. Photo credit: Twitter.

“Despite lack of deal, Seminole Tribe still paying state millions” via Florida PoliticsThe Seminole Tribe of Florida has given the state of Florida another multi-million dollar payday. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation reported that the tribe paid $19.5 million in gambling revenue share on Monday … That money includes revenue share from banked card games, specifically blackjack … It has Vegas-style and other gambling at seven casinos around the state, including Tampa’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, but has blackjack only in Tampa and Hollywood. Monday’s deposit brings the total amount paid by the Seminoles this year to $97.5 million, DBPR spokesman Stephen Lawson said. The cut of the money from blackjack, however, is being “administratively segregated” in the General Revenue Fund until the Tribe and state come to agreement on renewed rights to offer blackjack in Florida.

How profitable will medical-marijuana shops be? Very, says confidential pitch for investors” via David Smiley and Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald –A private equity firm’s confidential pitch deck … shows that only days ago Surterra Florida was seeking investors to buy a $10 million minority stake while also arguing against limits on the number of retail outlets any licensed operator can open. Some potential investors were lured with projections that show Surterra grossing $138 million in sales by 2021 thanks largely to the operation of 55 retail outlets — nearly four times the cap desired by the Florida Senate. The numbers may not be exact, as both Surterra and The Costera Group warned that neither company verified or authorized the projections. But the sensitive documents shed rare light on an industry shrouded in secrecy and show how much money is riding on how — and whether — the state regulates the number of medical marijuana retail outlets following the passage of Amendment 2.

***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.***

“George Sheldon, under fire in Illinois, also faces questions at home” via Florida PoliticsSheldon, a former Florida official now facing an ethics inquiry as director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, also ran into a spot of trouble at home this week. Property records show Sheldon, secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families in 2008-11, claimed a homestead exemption on his Tallahassee house while he was living and working in Chicago. He also was listed as “delinquent” on paying his Florida Bar dues, according to its website … He sent a copy of a lawyer’s opinion letter saying, in part, “mere absence for a protracted period of time is not of itself sufficient to establish abandonment of homestead.” … Also Tuesday, a Bar spokeswoman told that Sheldon “is no longer fee delinquent.” “His fees are current and he’s paid the reinstatement fee of $150,” the Bar’s Karen Kirksey said. He is, however, still listed as “not eligible to practice in Florida” because he had not yet returned a required form, she added.

FDOT selects Archer Western-de Moya for I-395 Revitalization” via Julie Caputo of Miami’s Community Newspapers –… and construct an iconic “Bridge for the Ages” that will redefine Downtown Miami and its connection to Miami Beach. When designing this bridge, Archer Western – de Moya Team had three primary goals in mind: 1) Alleviate the extreme traffic problems on I-395; 2) Connect the Overtown community with the Biscayne Boulevard and Downtown neighborhoods, and 3) Provide an iconic bridge that will be a signature for Miami. To accomplish these goals Archer Western – de Moya went above and beyond in their planning process. As a result, the Archer Western – de Moya design was voted #1 unanimously over other competitors in the area of traffic benefits by FDOT. The multi-arch “Miami Fountain of Light” design of the bridge, itself, will be like no other in the world and will serve as signature for Miami worldwide.

— ALOE —

It hasn’t been this hot in Florida to start the year since 1895, report says” via Samantha Putterman of the Tampa Bay Times – According to a climate report by the National Centers for Environmental Information, Florida recorded the hottest average temperatures for the first four months of the year since 1895. On April 29 and 30, for example, Tampa observed its highest and second-highest daily highs on record for the month, reaching 96 and 95 degrees. And Florida is only one of 14 states, stretching from the southwest to the mid-Atlantic, that experienced record-breaking temperatures in the first period of 2017, according to the NOAA report. January-April 2017 also unveiled the second-warmest average temperatures for the United States overall, falling closely behind 2012. The scorching temperatures come amid Florida’s most active wildfire season since 2011, the report states. The searing conditions prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency April 11.

“Fresh off Atlantic City deal, Seminole Tribe now adding Hard Rock in Canada” via Florida PoliticsThe Seminole Tribe of Florida, which recently bought the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, is expanding its Hard Rock gambling and entertainment brand to Canada. A Tribe spokesman on Tuesday said that the Seminoles had won a bidding process to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. The deal with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., pending final approval by Canadian authorities, includes an investment by Rideau Carleton Raceway Holdings Limited, a Canadian horse racing concern. “This is a crucial first step towards a larger strategic vision of our world-class brand’s expansion efforts in Ontario and throughout Canada,” said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming CEO, in a statement.

Happy birthday to Rep. Bobby Payne, Becker Poliakoff’s Karen Skyers.

SalterMitchell launches ‘Fluent in Floridian’ podcast — The podcast launched Tuesday, with SalterMitchell releasing episodes featuring interviews with Florida State University President John Thrasher, Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith, and Sally Bradshaw, a longtime senior advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush. “News is consumed so quickly now that it’s become hard to get to know our leaders and understand their motivations, so we’ve created a show that allows listeners to hear more than simply soundbites,” said Chris Cate, the podcast’s host and the senior public affairs director at SalterMitchell. “Fluent in Floridian is conversational, much like NPR’s Fresh Air, except we’re talking to Florida’s top leaders, innovators and influencers about their backgrounds and visions for our state.” Episodes are available on, or you can subscribe on Apple podcasts or on your Android devices.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.16.17

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

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

Good morning, especially to the lobbyists: At 11:59 last night was the deadline to submit 1st quarter compensation.

The latest reports, covering January-March, will capture roughly the first half of the 2017 Legislative Session. Many firms have already turned in theirs, and are posted on the state’s Florida Lobbyist website.

State law requires lobbying firms to report revenue, but it only requires them to do so in general ranges, not in precise amounts. Here’s a smattering:

Capital City Consulting posted $1 million in revenue, helped by a number of big ticket clients, including the Everglades Foundation ($30,000-$39,999), and insurers CIGNA ($20,000-$29,999) and Aetna ($40,000-$49,999).

Also reporting $1 million was lobbyist Brian Ballard’s Ballard Partners. Clients Tampa General Hospital, Uber, and slot machine manufacturer International Game Technology each helped move the needle at $40,000-$49,999 each.

Democratic operative Steve Schale’s Schale Communications put up $50,000 to $99,999 in total compensation, in part from clients AT&T, Mosaic Fertilizer and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, each at $10,000-$19,999.

At the opposite end of the lobbying pay scale was Capitol mainstay Barbara DeVane, longtime lobbyist for the Florida National Organization for Women. Her sole client paid somewhere between $1-$9,999, her report shows.

And veteran progressive influencer Karen Woodall reported $1-$9,999 each for the Florida Center for Fiscal & Economic Policy and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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“Kim McDougal to depart as Rick Scott’s chief of staff” via Florida PoliticsMcDougal is leaving as Gov. Scott’s chief of staff effective July 1, according to a Monday press release. McDougal, who’s been in the position since April 2016, “will be pursuing opportunities in the private sector,” the release said. “Over the last year, Florida had its fair share of tragic events including two hurricanes, the terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub, and the shooting at Ft. Lauderdale Airport,” Scott said in a statement. “During these tough events, Kim has led my team through crisis and helped ensure we did all we could to help Florida families during these dark hours” … McDougal was Scott’s fifth chief of staff since his 2010 election, following, in order: Mike Prendergast, Steve MacNamara, Adam Hollingsworth, and Melissa Sellers (now Stone).

— Flashback from Florida Politics in March 2016: “Capitol veteran Kim McDougal selected as Rick Scott’s next chief of staff.”

— Tweet, tweet: @MDixon55: And the EOG’s transformation into a total campaign arm is complete.

— The announcement about McDougal’s departure caught many lobbyists and lawmakers off guard, especially coming so soon after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. “I wasn’t aware that she was going to make this departure. I’m disappointed that she is,” Sen. Bill Galvano told The News Service of Florida.

— Neither Scott nor McDougal gave any indication she is leaving because of the Governor’s legislative problems this Session.

I think Brian Ballard is wrong when he argues  there wasn’t ‘much a staff person could have done’ to deal with Scott’s issues vis-a-vis the House; didn’t Scott and McDougal turn down a blockbuster deal (offered by Carlos Trujillo) that would  have given the Governor a much betterresult than the one he ended Session with? McDougal’s job is to convince Scott to take that deal.

What does it say about the vaunted Florida Capitol Press Corps that no outlet, including this one, had an advance warning about Mcdougall’s departure? Some suggest the Scott administration’s aversion to the media is the reason the press knows so little about the Governor’s thinking and way of doing business, but Donald Trump isn’t very fond of the D.C. media and it seems like every day there is a tick-tock process story offering insight into how The White House operates. There’s very little of that kind of reporting in Tallahassee.

The question now for McDougal is Ballard Partners or Southern Strategy Group?

Brian Burgess of The Capitolist writes that Jackie Schultz is in line to succeed Mcdougall. But that could also be a case of Burgess doing a big favor for one of his key sources. Not that it matters; the people in charge of Rick Scott’s administration will continue to be political consultant Curt Anderson of On Message and Melissa Stone, his former Chief of Staff.


In feud with House over tourism money, Rick Scott hints at big education vetoes” via Marc Caputo and Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – Scott dropped his strongest hint yet that he would veto a controversial education budget bill — and perhaps additional K-12 spending — because he doesn’t like how the GOP-led Legislature funded schools and tourism marketing. “This budget was done in secret. … I didn’t get to see anything until the end,” Scott said, noting he could veto the entire budget or parts of it as well as specialty types of legislation called “conforming bills.” As a likely candidate for U.S. Senate next year, Scott has used the fight over tourism marketing to campaign across the state, raise his profile and bash the “politicians in Tallahassee” — fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Corcoran — whom he labels job-killers for underfunding the Visit Florida agency. But if Scott wants to force Corcoran and the Legislature to the table to negotiate, he can’t veto the section of the budget that funds Visit Florida because then it would remain un-funded. Instead, Scott might veto education items that are chief priorities for Corcoran, who might run to succeed Scott in 2018, and force the Legislature to reconvene in a special session.

Jack Latvala was by Scott’s side when he made these comments via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – … “Wasn’t my call, or we’d still be sitting in Tallahassee today,” Latvala said. “I’m hopeful that the governor will exercise his prerogative, will call us back to Tallahassee and will make us do the right thing for economic development in Florida and for education in Florida.”

— What the Gov’s office is reading:As legislators cut job incentives, Tampa leaders fight perception Florida’s closed for business” via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times

“Florida Family Action to followers: Tell Scott to veto ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ ” via Florida Politics – The group “is a cultural action organization that is a completely separate sister organization of the Florida Family Policy Council,” led by conservative morals activist John Stemberger of Orlando. It sent a ‘call to action’ email Monday, saying in part that the measure “would increase access to hard liquor which is likely to increase consumption, especially by alcoholics, teenagers, and others at-risk” and “hard liquor should not be sold on the shelves of ‘family-friendly’ stores,” such as Wal-Mart and Target. At last count, there were 2,572 emails, 173 phone calls and nine letters opposed to the bill. The legislation would allow retailers to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Opponents—including independent liquor stores—are calling the proposal a job-killer and asking Scott to veto it. The governor has till May 24 to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. His office has said Scott will “review” the legislation.

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will attend the ribbon cutting of Anheuser-Busch’s expanded Metal Container Corporation manufacturing facility in Jacksonville. Event begins 10:15 a.m. at Anheuser-Busch, 1100 Ellis Road North in Jacksonville.

State, districts look to scuttle ‘opt out’ case” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The State Department of Education and school districts are asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject an appeal in a case filed by parents opposed to standardized tests — an issue that involves what is known as the “opt out” movement … The dispute stems from parents who told third-grade students to put their names on a standardized test, then refuse to answer questions. A Leon County circuit judge issued a decision last year that seemed to support the “opt out” movement. But the 1st District Court of Appeal in March overturned that decision, prompting the parents to take the case to the Supreme Court. They argued, at least in part, that lawsuits should have been filed against the school boards in their home counties, rather than in Leon County. But in a brief filed last month, an attorney for the parents pointed to the statewide issues involved and said litigating the issues in different counties would “create judicial chaos because, in this case, no less than six separate trial court jurisdictions and three district courts will be required to adjudicate claims that share identical issues of law.”

Richard Corcoran: Federal government needs to act now; mosquito season is here” via Florida Politics – As we enter into the warm summer months, the threat of another outbreak is looming. That is why I have and will continue to urge the federal government to quickly authorize new strategies that can be used to both curb the spread of the virus and prevent additional outbreaks. I believe we should be taking a multi-faceted approach to put an end to the threat of Zika. This must include spraying programs, education awareness efforts, and the search for a vaccine. But more importantly, we must also look at new and science-based solutions that can control the growing population of disease-carrying mosquitoes in Florida. One example of the technology I’ve advocated for is the Oxitec genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquito. When it is released into the wild, it doesn’t bite, it doesn’t transmit disease, but does transmit a self-limiting gene that makes its offspring die before reaching adulthood. This technology is being used successfully in some countries already. If we had it available in the U.S., many expectant mothers might have one less thing to be anxious about.

Not sure what this is all about:

Assignment editors – Lake Worth Democrat Sen. Jeff Clemens will give a speech to the the Rusty Gordon LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Palm Beach County. Event begins 6:45 p.m. at the Compass GLCC, 201 North Dixie Highway in Lake Worth.


Ron DeSantis for Governor? Don’t rule it out” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Sources very familiar with the thinking of DeSantis note that he is looking at a run for the state’s top job, with a decision to be made late in the summer. Were he to run, he would be a very serious candidate for the job — posing an existential threat to Putnam, as DeSantis could very quickly own the space to Putnam’s right. DeSantis, who was far and away the strongest fundraiser in the GOP primary race for Senate in 2016 (ended when Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election), has some advantages that others lack. Among them: name identification, as Team DeSantis asserts that the nationally-known Northeast Florida congressman has better name id than either Speaker Corcoran or Sen. Latvala. As well, DeSantis has $3M at his disposal already; were he to enter the race, that war chest would grow quickly. However, no decision is imminent — yet.

Spotted: Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, in a New York Times story on “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead.” Gillum, the story says, “has offered himself as a candidate of the left.”

Assignment editors – Adam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” Breakfast for supporters from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Wilke’s 14 Bones BBQ, 1500 US-1 In Vero Beach. RSVP here: Later, Putnam will hold a meet-and-greet from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Eastmonte Civic Center, 830 Magnolia Dr. in Altamonte Springs. RSVP here:

675 miles and counting: Adam Putnam bus tour highlights – Putnam kicked off week two of a 10-day, 22-city bus tour through Florida with an “Up & Adam” breakfast in Riviera Beach … Putnam hit the road to visit grassroots supporters, small businesses, veterans, and first responders throughout Florida and to learn about the opportunities and challenges that they face. Putnam has already covered 675 miles from Polk County to Tampa Bay to Southwest Florida and then the Heartland.

Putnam-linked committee takes in $235K in first five days of May” –  Florida Grown  brought in at least $235,000 In the first five days of May, according to the committee’s website. Before that, the committee had nearly $8.24 million on hand. Contributions in May include $100,000 from A. Duda & Sons, Inc. of Oviedo, and $50,000 from a committee supporting the phosphate industry. Remaining May fundraising will be reported to the state in June. Putnam opened his personal campaign account May 1.

“Matt Caldwell makes it official ” via Florida PoliticsState Rep. Caldwell formally announced his candidacy for Agriculture Commissioner in an event that was livestreamed on his Facebook page. “I’m thrilled to kick off my campaign with all of you in my hometown,” he told the crowd at Sun Harvest Citrus in Fort Myers … The Republican Caldwell burnished his conservative bona fides, which he said “puts a bull’s eye on your back every single day,” mentioning his support of term limits, tax cuts, but also “the needs of our environment and our farmers.” He also talked about the importance of gun rights and Cabinet duties: The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees the issuance of concealed weapon licenses, and the commissioner sits on the Florida Cabinet with the state’s governor, attorney general and CFO. “With your help, and God’s blessing, we will come out ahead next year,” Caldwell said.


Tourists still coming to Florida in record numbers” via The Associated Press – Gov. Scott …  [announced] 31.1 million people visited the state during the first three months of the year. That’s a 2.5 percent jump over the same time period in 2016. Nearly 113 million tourists – most of them from the U.S. – visited last year. Scott, however, will warn that potential cuts to Florida’s tourism marketing agency could doom continued growth. State legislators recently voted to cut funding to Visit Florida by 67 percent.

— Airbnb Florida director Tom Martinelli was one of the first to congratulate Gov. Scott on yet another record-breaking quarter for Florida’s tourism industry: “On behalf of Airbnb Florida and our 35,000 Florida hosts, we congratulate Governor Scott and the Visit Florida team for infusing economic development and jobs through increased tourism. We are so proud to have contributed to this progress, having welcomed a record-setting 657,000 guests in Q1 via our home sharing platform, representing 69% growth over Q1 2016. Governor Scott has our commitment that we will continue doing our part to grow the pie and help elevate Florida’s brand as a global, family-friendly tourism destination.”

“DOH orders sales stopped on cannabis product” via the Associated Press – The Department of Health on Monday ordered a Quincy-based dispensary to quit selling a medical cannabis product that could potentially be broken down and made into pot that can be smoked. Trulieve began selling its first whole-flower cannabis product meant for vaping last week at five retail dispensaries and through home delivery. The buds in the Entourage Multi Indica vaporizer cup, however, could also be used in joints, pipes or bongs. The Department of Health authorized Trulieve to sell sealed vaporizer cups containing marijuana. However, Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax said in a cease and desist letter to Trulieve that the mesh caps can be removed with minimal effort and cannot be reattached.

Trulieve’s Kim Rivers: “We were surprised by the letter, but are immediately and completely complying with the department’s wishes while evaluating our options.”

How religious mania changed the Corrine Brown jury” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Speculation about what a discharged juror (“Juror 13”) said in a closed-court session in the trial of Brown can now end, as a transcript of the session was released … Juror 8, the juror who complained about the comments — relating that the discharged juror spoke of “higher beings” saying that Brown was guilty — kicked off proceedings in closed court by registering concerns. The discharged juror had made such comments on the first day of deliberations and did not reiterate such comments … However, “Some of the jurors are concerned that that’s affecting his — his decision,” Juror 8 said. The discharged juror, for his part, didn’t reassure the feds: “I told them that in all of this, in listening to all the information, taking it all down, I listen for the truth, and I know the truth when the truth is spoken. So I expressed that to them, and how I came to that conclusion … I told — I told them that — that I prayed about this, I have looked at the information, and that I received information as to what I was told to do in relation to what I heard here today — or this past two weeks.” The juror’s tipster? “My Father in Heaven.”

Pam Bondi to convene human trafficking council in Tampa – The AG announced she will call a meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking on Tuesday (May 16) at 1:00 p.m. Bondi chairs the 15-member council that “builds on existing state and local partnerships working to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking,” a release said. The meeting will be held at the Tampa Law Center of the Stetson University College of Law, 1700 North Tampa St. in Tampa.

Watchdogs critique Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed rules” via Florida Politics — Proposed rules for the Constitution Revision Commission could let members deliberate in secret, limit public participation, bottle up ideas in committee, or bog down debating proposals with little support, government watchdog groups warned Monday. Sixteen organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Florida Consumer Action Network, and unions, including Florida AFL-CIO, critiqued the proposed rules in a letter to the commission’s rules committee. “Transparency and a clear set of ground rules are essential to the credibility of the CRC. As members of the Rules Working Group, you have an opportunity to enhance public confidence in the work of the CRC,” the organizations wrote. They warned of “the potential for leverage and influence over commission members” and an “unclear track for approval of proposals.”

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

With the All Aboard Florida lawsuit dismissed, what’s next for the Treasure Coast?” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm – A major chapter in the Treasure Coast’s fight against All Aboard Florida ended when a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the legal challenges to the passenger railroad filed by Martin and Indian River counties more than two years ago. All Aboard Florida praised Judge Christopher Cooper’s decision as a “thoughtful review” of the law, and emphasized it still fully intends to run passenger rail between West Palm Beach and Orlando. But Martin and Indian River counties had a very different take on the court decision. Having the case dismissed is, in fact, a definitive victory in preventing Brightline service through the Treasure Coast, according to county officials and attorneys. Steven Ryan, Martin County’s outside legal counsel, said the counties’ cases were dismissed because All Aboard Florida’s financing plan changed, and that change only occurred because of the counties’ efforts. “You have to say we’re winning, because they don’t have the bonds,” Ryan said. “We got exactly what we sought. The case has been an enormous victory for us.”

Assignment editors – The State Board of Education will meet in Miami-Dade County; agenda includes performance-funding reports on Pensacola State College and Polk State College. Meeting begins 9 a.m. at Miami Senior High School, 2450 S.W. First St. In Miami.


“George Sheldon now taken to task by hometown paper” via Florida PoliticsSheldon‘s hometown newspaper now has weighed in on the former Florida politico, putting in newsprint the latest ethics woes of the now-director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services. The Tallahassee Democrat, with help from the Chicago Tribune’s estimable reporting of the last few weeks, documented Sheldon’s travails as head of Illinois’ DCFS. The lede, by the nearly 20-year Democrat veteran Jeff Burlew: “George Sheldon, a well-known figure in Florida politics who took over Illinois’ troubled child welfare agency in 2015, is embroiled in ongoing state ethics probes and facing scrutiny over contracts given to past campaign donors and consultants.” Sheldon, a Democrat who lost a challenge to incumbent GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014, was secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families from 2008-2011 under then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda — The wait continues as Gov. Scott reviews the Legislature’s $82.4 billion state spending plan. Despite passing a balanced budget, why is Florida still $9.9 billion in debt? On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, Truth and Accounting, a nonprofit that aims to educate taxpayers on government finances, releases the first analysis of Florida’s latest financial report showing each taxpayer would have to cough up $1,600 to help pay the bills. Gomes interviews Truth in Accounting founder, Sheila Weinberg. Also, what’s next for former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown?

Appointed – Randy Schwartz to the Florida Real Estate Commission. Samuel Garrison to the District Board of Trustees, St. Johns River State College. Dr. Peter A. Wish and John Stafford to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority. David “Hunt” Hawkins and Thomas “Mac” McGehee to the District Board of Trustees, Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Reappointed – Francisco Pines to the Florida Citrus Commission.

Personnel note: Florida Virtual School gets a new president — The next president of the Florida Virtual School is Jodi Marshall, a veteran academic and administrator. She replaces Ronald Blocker, effective July 1, the school’s board of trustees announced. Marshall joined the school as a 10th grade English teacher in 2002 and rose through the ranks to become executive vice president for business and academic affairs. The state-sponsored school offers online courses to public, private, and homeschool students.

***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.***

Spotted at the 21st annual Phil Galvano Classic at the Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch: Sen. Aaron and Abby BeanLaura Boehmer, Sen. Rob BradleyChana CannonDean and Ellen Cannon, Speaker Richard CorcoranAlex Diaz de la PortillaMarty FiorentinoNichole GarganellaEd HooperRon LaFace, Sen. Jack LatvalaFrank and Tracy Mayernick, President Joe NegronTeye Reeves, Sen. Darryl RousonNancy Texeria and Katie Webb.

Spotted at this past weekend’s Mom 2.0 conference: Salter Mitchell’s Chris Cate, up for an award for his podcast, The Parent Normal.


Extensive Enterprises Media is up for three major journalism honors from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine State Awards.

EEM’s INFLUENCE is among three finalists for best magazine single issue, up against the Sun Sentinel’s City & Shore Magazine, and Mirror Magazine.

Peter Schorsch is a finalist for best blog writing for his “SaintPetersBlog,” along with finalists from the Sun Sentinel’s “The Eat Beat Blog,” and the Tampa Bay Times‘ “The Buzz.”’s Scott Powers is a finalist for best blog in-depth writing, along with two entries from Florida Bulldog.

Winners will be announced at a later date.

— ALOE — 

“Anheuser-Busch introduces the Office Bud-e” via Florida Politics – Don’t tell Matt Dixon, but the King of Beers is rolling out what it calls the latest in “bev tech”: a “smart, hassle-free beer refrigerator designed to enhance any office kitchen or common space,” according to a press release. Big Beer keeps rolling after its loss this Legislative Session in trying to get a free beer glass bill passed. Alas, for now, the Bud-e is only available in the Metro New York and Chicago areas. But oh, what a beer cooler it is (holds up to 180 bottles!), running on the ‘internet of things.’ It uses “vending machine-like sensored springs and a simple wi-fi connection to monitor the quantity of beers in stock at any given time.” It’s free to lease, but of course one has to stock it with A-B beers (Stella Artois, anyone?) … Is this available for home offices too?

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Government scientist from DC wins Miss USA title” via Regina Garcia Cano of The Associated Press – Kara McCullough, a scientist working for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has been crowned Miss USA. McCullough, who represented the District of Columbia in the decades-old pageant, was born in Naples, Italy and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She said she wants to inspire children to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “I love science,” McCullough said after the event. “I look at this as a great opportunity to … get to experience worldwide culture, as well as just having the opportunity to be impacted by so many children, hopefully in the math and sciences.” This year’s top five finalists were asked questions that touched on the pros and cons of social media, women’s rights and issues affecting teenagers. McCullough was asked whether she thinks that affordable health care for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege. She said it is a privilege. “As a government employee, I’m granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs.”

Marvel Universe LIVE!: Superheroes save the day in new show” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – For the first time, fans of Marvel comic book characters can see their favorite superheroes in one place in this live show, which will tour the U.S. and Canada through 2019. This is Feld Entertainment’s first new show since announcing the end of its iconic Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Feld Entertainment, the show’s producer, says audiences will be treated to characters from Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and the Avengers, as they defend the universe from evil. Among the villains: Nebula, Loki, Yondu and Green Goblin. All of the fan favorites are showcased, too: Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, Wasp, Hulk and Black Widow. Captain America rides a motorcycle. Note to parents: there will be lots of explosions and grand battles to engage the 3-to-10 age set. “It’s sort of our modern Aesop’s fables. They’re the heroes of our time. Even though they have these unlimited powers, they are always fighting for what’s right and for what’s good,” [show director JamesHadley said. “That’s the message that’s important now. Even when it looks like they’re not going to succeed, they just keep pushing.”

Stone crab rebound continues as catch nears 3 million pounds” via Thomas Becnel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The end of stone crab season marks the second year of a rebound with a harvest of about 3 million pounds of claws valued at $30 million. “This year, the preliminary data through April was that we’re approaching 2.5 million pounds,” said Ryan Gandy, a research scientist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg. “So, we’re on track for this season to be pretty close to last year.” That estimate surprised Karen Bell at the A.P. Bell Fish Company in Cortez. “I think we had a better year this year,” she said. “This was a good year. It was pretty steady. One of the holidays, we didn’t have much — Christmas or New Year’s, I forget which one.”

Happy birthday to Matthew Ubben and Rick Watson.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.15.17

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

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


Lawmakers may not be sending “formal responses” to Senate President Joe Negron’s request for “ideas” on medical marijuana implementation, but they are taking to Twitter.

Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, tweeted last Thursday: “We crafted a patient-centered #MMJ bill that delivers safe medicine to sick Floridians. It’s 95% done. Let’s finish the job! #SpecialSession”

Last week, Negron sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill related to the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

As of Friday, Senate spokeswoman LaQuisha Persak said there had been no “other formal responses.”

There were, however, tweets.

On Wednesday, Bill Galvano — Bradenton Republican and Senate President-designate for 2018-20 — had tweeted: “I agree with @richardcorcoran. I support a special session to address medical marijuana implementation.”

Speaker Corcoran last week called for a Special Session during WFLA-FM radio’s “The Morning Show with Preston Scott.

“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” Corcoran told Scott. “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

Jeff Brandes is the latest Florida lawmaker to call for Special Legislative Session on medical marijuana implementation. The St. Pete Republican wants “ample time for public input, to implement the will of the voters, so that patients and entrepreneurs alike may access the marketplace.”

Others chiming in on social media for a Special Session include Sens. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican; Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican; and Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who also penned the only “formal response” as of Friday.

But let’s not forget the overriding reality: Nobody wants to come back before Memorial Day weekend, despite Negron telling reporters a special session theoretically could take place as early as this week.

Theories are easy; governing is hard.

***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***


Rick Scott asks Donald Trump administration to extend protection for Haitians” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott has pressed the Trump administration to back off on timeline that could result in the deportation of thousands of Haitians, many living in Florida. Scott raised the issue in a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. “Temporary protected status” for Haitians expires in July and they could be expelled in January. “The secretary has not made a decision on TPS for Haiti,” spokesman David Lapan[said]. “He and Gov. Scott did have a conversation about the program and the secretary listened to the Governor’s points about his desire for DHS to extend TPS.” About 50,000 Haitians have been allowed to live in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake. The TPS program has been extended several times but now faces another deadline. The Trump administration has been examining the criminal backgrounds, but Lapan says that won’t be used to make a final decision about TPS.

Scott signs Lake Okeechobee bill in former critics’ territory” via Isadora Rangel of TC Palm — Standing in front of people holding signs that read, “Thanks Gov., you saved our farms,” Scott signed Senate Bill 10 at John Stretch Memorial Park on the southern bank of the lake, between Clewiston and Belle Glade. The park is about halfway between Lee and Martin counties, which receive the brunt of polluted excess lake water during the wet season. The park is adjacent to the Miami Canal, which might be used to direct water into the proposed reservoir. Scott already had signed the bill privately May 5. Some Treasure Coast activists said they wished the governor had signed Senate Bill 10 in Martin County, which is ground zero for discharges into the St. Lucie River, but are happy he signed it anyway.

Rick Scott visits Lake Okeechobee ahead of a ceremonial bill signing of SB 10, which authorizes a reservoir to collect runoff south of Lake O.

Scott at SB 10 signing: I am committed to dike rehabilitation” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Over the last several weeks, Scott has bonded with Glades farmers who fought to keep their towns and their lifestyle whole — and who live in the shadow of the deteriorating Herbert Hoover Dike. It’s a part of the Everglades’ infrastructure he remains determined to put on a fast track toward reconstruction. In his remarks, Scott said, “To have the opportunity to sign SB 10 and focus on how we are going to get storage south of the lake — that’s a big deal and long term, it is going to be a big opportunity. But every day we have to think what we are going to do next — that’s why it’s very important to me that we get the Dike fixed.”

Even after SB 10, enviro-lobbyists vow to wage ‘war’ on Florida farmers” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Senate Bill 10 is widely celebrated as a carefully-crafted solution designed to alleviate water storage problems that have led to algae bloom in coastal estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee. A compromise was ultimately struck that delivered what environmentalists wanted, without taking farmland. But even though the final version of the bill still delivers on what environmental activists all said would provide the relief they seek — a massive water storage reservoir of up to 360,000 acre feet of water, located south of the lake — extreme activist groups like and Friends of the Everglades … are already admitting they aren’t satisfied with a “momentous victory.” The activists want more. BullSugar recently sent an email to its supporters vowing to continue the fight … Compromise isn’t part of the vocabulary for elitist, extremist, environmentalist organizations. To protect their waterfront homes, they will continue to pursue the destruction of South Florida’s agriculture communities with religious fervor. Peaceful coexistence isn’t an option.

Scott should veto this deplorable budget” via Perry Thurston for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As lawmakers, we are sent to Tallahassee with only one job that’s mandated by the state constitution: pass a balanced budget by the end of the annual 60-day legislative session. We barely did that, and it’s debatable if what we approved passes muster with our constituents. The Florida Legislature shouldn’t use the budget to undermine public schools and community colleges, to carve out special deals for special interests or pick winners and losers in the property tax valuations so that a favored few will pay less taxes while a majority suffer from less services. Yet, that’s what happened in Tallahassee, thanks to Speaker Corcoran who pushed dramatic policy changes into so-called “conforming bills” that are now hard-wired into the state budget. Give the Speaker credit. He held the session hostage until he received the Senate’s consent. The new spending plan is now in the hands of Gov. Scott, who is no fan of Corcoran’s and has hinted that he might veto the whole budget and call lawmakers back to the capitol for a special session. I urge the governor to do just that. Florida can’t afford what the speaker is selling.

Editorial: Gov. should veto bill that seals millions of criminal records ” via the Tampa Bay Times on, SB 118, cruised along for weeks with a narrow focus. Then the legislation exploded into something entirely different, and nobody noticed. Sen. ed one new paragraph last month shortly before the Senate unanimously approved his bill … requiring that Florida automatically seal all criminal history records of a minor or an adult arrested for a misdemeanor or felony when the prosecutor does not file charges, the charges are dismissed before trial, or the person is found not guilty at trial and all appeals are exhausted. There is no individual review of the record, no discretion, no exceptions and no limits on how many times the same person could have records sealed … That’s 2.7 million public files wiped out. This is not just a serious concern for the media. This should alarm anyone who runs a business, considers a new venture with someone they don’t know well, hires a landscaper at home or seeks a baby sitter for their children.

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will announce Florida tourism numbers for the first quarter of 2017 at a 9:15 a.m. news conference at Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail in Miami. Media must park inside the Jungle Island parking garage found at the front entrance of the park. Please enter through the park’s main gate and park staff will be available for guidance to reach the news conference location.

Proposed Florida law would steer federal money away from poor students, districts say” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — With just 30 lines of text in a 278-page education bill, Florida lawmakers moved last week to significantly alter how schools and districts receive and use federal Title I funds, which provide extra educational resources to poor children. If signed into law by Gov. Scott, the measure would spread the money to more schools, including for the first-time charters, and reduce the amount available for district-level initiatives such as summer school. It further would cap the percentage schools may use for parent involvement programs at a level lower than what many schools currently spend. The proposals are unprecedented in Florida, and unwelcome to school district leaders. Proponents might like the idea of having the federal money “follow the students” into schools, said Hillsborough County superintendent Jeff Eakins, who oversaw federal programs in his district before taking the top job. But “this language is going to hurt the students that need (added support) the most,” he said. “This just really ties our hands.”

Florida House ‘sets the record straight’ in new video — The House has released a 2-minute and 30-second video to explain a sweeping-education bill passed on the final day of the 2017 Legislative Session. The video aims to highlight the bill, and aims to “set the record straight” when it comes to several provisions. “Recently, your Florida Legislature passed transformational and sweeping educational reform,” a narrator says in the video. “While we did that, the rumors and gossip started to fly, just like back in school. So class is in session, and it’s time to set the record straight.”

Joe Gruters bucks party line on state budget” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — It’s one of the biggest votes of the year. Loyalty is expected. Bucking party leadership and rejecting the spending plan is a risky move for any lawmaker. But that’s exactly what freshman GOP state Rep. Gruters did last week. Gruters voted against the budget because it included Speaker Corcoran’s proposal to eliminate the taxpayer-funded business incentives doled out by Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, and cut funding for Visit Florida, the tourism promotion agency. Gruters consistently has opposed the Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida cuts, voting against Corcoran’s proposal early in the legislative session. After defying leadership on such a high-profile issue, none of Gruters’ priority bills got a hearing. Continuing to oppose Corcoran and his allies could make Gruters a pariah, but he decided to double down anyway.

Texts: Fire station funding another budget fight waged behind closed doors” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The fire station funding battle was between state Sen. Denise Grimsley and state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, both Republicans who wrote their chamber’s government operation’s budget. At the end of session, it was their job to handle early budget negotiations over House and Senate disagreements on that $1.9 billion budget. Like most other areas of the budget, the final touches on the portion overseen by the two was almost exclusively hammered out behind closed doors. The subcommittee Ingoglia and Grimsley led held four public budget negotiating meetings totaling just 16 minutes. In none of the five meetings were any specific issues or sticking points discussed, and, in most, taking roll call for the 23-member subcommittee was more than half the meeting. In another example of closed door budget fights … text messages that showed a behind-the-scenes scramble as lobbyists worked to secure funding for a water storage program supported by politically-influential agriculture corporations.


Citizens Insurance CEO helped his boss sell his business, then got $100,000 in raises” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Citizens chief executive Barry Gilway confirmed he acted as a go-between for Christopher Burr Gardner, who was trying to sell his longtime Winter Park insurance agency, and a Chicago businessman who became its buyer. According to emails … Gilway sent Gardner’s contact information to Rick Gulliver, president of HUB International Limited, a Chicago insurance brokerage. “Thanks — calling Chris today,” Gulliver wrote Gilway two days later. Gilway said he and Gulliver became close associates nearly two decades ago when he was in charge of insurance operations for Zurich Canada. Gilway had more than four decades of senior level insurance industry experience when he joined Citizens in 2012. “This is called Networking 101,” Gilway. “I don’t think I did him any favors. All I did was make an introduction. It should be of no concern.” Three months later, in January 2015, Gardner, who as the board chairman of Citizens is listed as Gilway’s supervisor, approved a $50,000 pay increase for Gilway. That brought Gilway’s annual salary to $500,000 a year. Gilway received another $50,000 raise six months later, bringing his salary to $550,000.

“Leave Syria, visit Florida? Tourism agency makes error” via Gary Fineout of The Associated PressFlorida’s tourism marketing agency was forced to sign a new contract after a newspaper pointed out it hired a firm to advertise to potential Syrian tourists … VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson signed a $14,000 contract with a German advertising firm back in March that included Syria and nine other Middle Eastern countries. President Donald Trump included Syria on a list of countries covered by a temporary travel ban. A spokesman for the agency blamed the mistake on someone cutting and pasting a list of Middle Eastern countries into the contract. After The Naples Daily News asked questions, VISIT FLORIDA signed a new contract Wednesday that listed only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“Transportation board settles on three for next FDOT head” via Florida PoliticsThe list of names to be the next secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation is down to three. The Florida Transportation Commission, the department’s advisory board, interviewed five applicants Thursday and is set to recommend three to Gov. Rick Scott. They are Richard Biter, a former assistant secretary of the transportation department; Phillip Gainer, FDOT’s District Secretary for northwest Florida; and Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse. The panel will officially vote to recommend those candidates next week. More than 120 people had applied for the open position, created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

Lyft sharpens attack strategy to battle Uber in coveted South Florida market” via Nancy Dahlberg of the Miami Herald — Lyft, the feisty archrival of Uber in the ride-hailing wars, is sharpening its attack strategy to go after more market share nationally and in South Florida. Nationwide, Lyft has seen new user activations rise 60 percent since news about sexual harassment claims, a #deleteUber movement, a trade-secret lawsuit, a Justice Department probe and executive departures hit ride-hailing titan Uber and its embattled CEO in the past couple of months. In South Florida, its largest and fastest-growing Florida market, Lyft ridership has grown more than threefold since 2014, said Sam Cohen, general manager of Florida for Lyft.

Body farm for researchers and detectives opens near Tampa” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — Officials broke ground on the Adam Kennedy Forensics Field, a five-acre patch of land north of Tampa. It’s the seventh such facility in the nation and the first in Florida’s subtropical environment. Officials in Florida hope their farm, to be used at first by detectives and forensic anthropologists at the nearby University of South Florida, will draw scientists from other countries and grow to be the largest in the world … Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF, predicts that by studying how bodies react in Florida’s sweltering humidity, more evidence will be preserved and breakthroughs made in real-life-cases. The research also would benefit other countries with subtropical and tropical climates, she said. Bodies are obtained by donation. The first four will be buried next week, and in January, Kimmerle and other researchers will hold a course for detectives on exhumation. Later, other bodies will be exposed to water and buried during different seasons to determine how different factors affect decomposition and evidence. After the bodies are studied, the skeletons will be cleaned and preserved and made available for future research.

No dice: Miami Beach commission moves to ban casinos” via The Associated Press — The city’s commission voted unanimously for two preliminary ordinances banning casinos or any other gambling facility on the island. Commissioners will take a final vote July 26 … city leaders decided to push the ordinances after the state Legislature considered granting a new gambling license for South Florida. That plan eventually fell through Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine says the resort city has no need for casinos and cited opposition from operators of the annual Art Basel fair, which draws art lovers from around the world. There are also concerns about more crime, traffic and addiction to gambling.

Comedian Samantha Bee throws weight behind Florida felons’ voting rights” via Kate Payne of WFSU — Bee of the TBS show Full Frontal sat down with Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Meade is behind a proposed ballot initiative that would automatically restore civil rights to felons … “In Florida, felonies can be things like buying weed, tampering with an odometer or disturbing a lobster trap. So basically Spring Break,” Bee joked. “And once you lose your rights, it’s nearly impossible to get them back.” Bee set up a new website for audience members to download and sign the petition if they’re Florida voters. For those who can’t vote in the state, Bee joked folks can mail it to a grandparent who is.


The North Fort Myers Republican will formally launch his 2018 Agriculture Commissioner campaign at 11:15 a.m. at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers. chatted with Caldwell ahead of his announcement about what he learned from his 2008 Senate District 27 bid, what prompted him to run for statewide office, and what distinguishes him from the rest of the 2018 hopefuls. On what lessons he’ll take from his SD 27 run: “Certainly it’s not ever going to be the same running in a district versus a state, but even then, as a novice, I appreciated that the seat was a real microcosm of Florida. It was basically a 50-50 seat, with a slight Democratic registration advantage. It had urbanized downtowns, it had cattle ranches and citrus groves, it covered part of Lake Okeechobee, and it had ocean on each side. It was quite literally a snapshot of every kind of venue you’ll encounter in the state of Florida. You had to learn to campaign in different environments. You always want to remain true to who you are and what your values are and what your goals are, but you do have to make sure you communicate and meet people where they’re at, and with such a diverse district, it was one of those educational lessons for sure.” On running for office: “Here’s an opportunity, from my perspective to keep pursuing the issues that I think are important, the ones I’ve had a chance to focus on and shape the policy outcomes. That’s what I’m always going to be looking to do, to be effective. … The God’s honest truth is, this gig takes a lot of a personally and certainly commands a lot from their family. A few years ago with those special sessions, I was gone 42 weeks of the year. To me, running for higher office is really a waste of time if you don’t have a real commitment to make a difference, to have issues and challenges you want to tackle. Just running for office because it’s cool or a nice title, I’ll never understand it. It’s just way too much of a personal investment and a sacrifice as part of a family to just to it for the popularity sake. You have got to want to do this gig because you think you can make a difference.” On what distinguishes him from other candidates: “Ultimately, that’s a question for the voters to decide. What I can commit to and offer is that I have a deep-rooted investment in the state of Florida. This is not about titles or the opportunity to put something on my resume. I honestly don’t care if someday my gravestone says anything more than ‘husband and father,’ that’s the only real job that I worry about being successful in my legacy. But this is really, to me, a chance to serve. You look at the things I’ve been able to work on over the last … seven years in the process and I think it demonstrates my ability to work with challenging issues, to work with a bipartisan coalition of folks, to work with folks across the aisle, to come together on some pretty tough things.”

North Fort Myers Republican Matt Caldwell kicks his bid for Agriculture Commissioner into high gear with an April fundraising haul of more than $412K.


Adam Putnam criticizes state budget deal during Sarasota stop” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Putnam, who had input on the budget as the state’s current agriculture commissioner, said during a stop in Sarasota that “I certainly have some concerns about the budget and how it was done.” Putnam was alluding to the fact that the final budget deal was largely negotiated behind closed doors, leading to criticism from Scott and others about a lack of transparency. Scott is particularly incensed that lawmakers eliminated funding for the economic incentives doled out by Enterprise Florida, and reduced the tourism promotion dollars awarded to Visit Florida. Asked about those cuts after his speech to the Sarasota GOP, Putnam said: “when you take job creation for granted it slips away.”

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour Monday with an “Up & Adam” Breakfast at 8 a.m. at Rafiki Tiki Riviera Beach Marina, 190 E. 13th Street in Riviera Beach. He’ll then head to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 2301 SE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale.

Gwen Graham gets backing of Amy Mercado, Lori Berman, Barbara Watson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Mercado, vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign that the congresswoman “stood up for our shared values in Washington … She voted to defend Obamacare, co-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage, and worked to protect Florida’s environment,” Mercado continued. “She has the courage to fight for our priorities and the experience to get things done.” … “It showed me she cares about every student, regardless of their ZIP code or background. After years of Republican attacks on our public education system, we need a governor who will end high-stakes testing and the current system of demoralizing school grades,” Watson said.

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Look who’s shaved and ready to be a state Senate candidate:

Save the date: Florida Foundation for Liberty is hosting a fundraising reception for Rep. Paul Renner Thursday, May 25. Reception begins 5:30 p.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr. #3500, in Jacksonville. RSVP to Katie Ballard at (954) 803-3942 or

“Daniel Webster endorses Bobby Olszewski in HD 44 race” via Florida Politics — Webster represented the area of HD 44 in southwest Orange County for decades, as a member of the Florida House, the Florida Senate, and a member of Congress, until congressional redistricting forced him to move a few miles into Lake County to run in another district in order to stay in Congress. His endorsement gives Olszewski’s campaign another shot of steam as other potential Republican candidates, including Will McBride and Scott Boyd, contemplate jumping into what will be a short campaign season. Olszewski, a former city commissioner in Webster’s former hometown of Winter Garden, also received the endorsement of former Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, to go along with dozens of endorsements from local officials in western Orange. “Bobby is a man of faith and a true conservative who truly sacrifices his time, treasure, and talents to serve west Orange County. He will be a great advocate for all of us in Tallahassee and I fully endorse his candidacy,” said Webster in a statement.

“David Rivera banks another $110,000 for April” via Florida PoliticsFormer state representative and congressman David Rivera banked $110,750 last month toward his 2018 run for House District 105, campaign finance records show. The April take follows a $100,000 loan. Rivera is looking to replace term-limited state Rep. Carlos Trujillo in the Republican-leaning district. His only competitor, Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez, collected $36,800 for April, bringing her total to $51,425.


AppointedJoel Schleicher and Rebecca Smith to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Joyce Brancato to District Board of Trustees, College of Central Florida. Dr. Sarvam TerKonda, Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos and Dr. Robert London to the Florida Board of Medicine.

Personnel note: Mike Sole appointed to fish and wildlife commission” via Florida Politics — Sole served at DEP from 2007 to 2010, then went to work for Florida Power & Light Co. and NextEra Energy, where he has been vice president for environmental services. He succeeds Charles Roberts III for a term ending Aug. 1, 2021.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners LLC: Trafelet Brokaw & Co., LLC

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: WeatherSTEM

Lobbyist compensation reporting deadline — Compensation reports are due for the first quarter of 2017, Jan. 1 through March 31.

Spotted — At a Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association reception at the Key West Country Music Songwriters Festival: Adam BabingtonMelanie BeckerJim DaughtonCarol DoverNicole GarganellaAndy Palmer, Sen. Kathleen PassidomoKirk PepperHolly Raschein, Sen. Wilton Simpson and Marlene Williams.

Happy birthday to once (and future?) candidate Eric Lynn.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.12.17

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, A.G. Gankarski, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica. received three honors in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Awards, highlighting the best journalism of 2016 throughout 10 states of the southeast United States.

I would have never thought when I launched my local political blog that one day we would be competing with the major traditional news organizations, especially in categories like business reporting.

Congrats to:

Martin Dyckman who received a second-place award for online serious commentary for his columns exploring the problems with Florida’s death penalty laws.

Jim Rosica who received a third-place award for online business reporting for his stories on gambling in Florida.

Scott Powers who received a third-place award for online political reporting for his stories on Central Florida politics.


The enduring image of Corrine Brown the day she was found guilty of 18 counts in her fraud trial was not the congresswoman in the courtroom, where she was stoic.

Rather, it was afterward.

Wearing a slightly-out-of-season dress and jacket, Brown was walked to a waiting black Mercedes coupe. Parting a phalanx of cameras and microphones like Moses parting the Red Sea, it was her last public act of transfiguration.

Yet no miracles await a former congresswoman nailed on all but four of the 22 counts she faced.

Brown, on way to a phalanx of guilty verdicts, was rolled on and betrayed by co-conspirators … all of whom said they couldn’t tell Corrine no; she was queen of the whole One Door for Education scheme.

Brown’s lawyer, Orlando barrister James Smith, once more put on his game face for the press, saying the game wasn’t over …  this was just the “first quarter” … more motions would be filed.

Maybe. It’s an open question as to how much more lawyerin’ Brown can afford, given she had to sell her beach house to pay her defense.

Also a given — she will soon enough be without her congressional pension.

The trial was tough to watch – Brown’s defense dug in their heels in an attempt to find some small sliver of plausible deniability. Common sense obliterated that.

If Brown hadn’t worked these donors first, would they have given to One Door?

Also tough to watch – people at the trial. With many of the daily regulars, there was a randomness at best and a sordidness at worst; a generally unhygienic lot gleeful in wanting to watch Corrine Brown get what they thought was coming to her. That is,  until they realized that they were watching a deadly-dull trial about “pass-through” checks and tax omissions and elisions, with donor testimony having all the color of product warranties.

Now Queen Corrine is deposed, once and for all.

Indicted by a grand jury in July, Corrine Brown was convicted of 18 of 22 separate criminal counts Thursday.

Jacksonville lost Brown’s Congressional seat, possibly once and for all, as well. And the Corrine Brown machine – with all of its messiness – that’s gone too.

What’s left? A Duval Democratic Party that doesn’t win much, lacking a single charismatic figure who can draw crossover votes.

Corrine is gone, likely headed to prison, with no successor, no heir.

It is an ultimate tragedy, perhaps, one with effects that could very well outlive Corrine Brown herself.

— “Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain. She shamefully deprived needy children of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have helped with their education and improve their opportunities for advancement, and she lied to the IRS and the American public about secret cash deposits into her personal bank accounts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco. “The Department of Justice is committed to fighting corruption and fraud wherever we find it, at all levels of government, regardless of their power and influence.”

— “Former Congresswoman Brown chose greed and personal gain over the sacred trust given to her by the community that she served for many years,” said acting U.S. Attorney Steven Muldrow. “These guilty verdicts underscore our Office’s resolve in holding public officials at all levels of government accountable for their actions. In this case, former Congresswoman Brown stole money that was donated on the false premise of helping further the educational goals of underprivileged children.”

How the Brown verdict is playing: Florida Times-Union, Corrine Brown convicted of 18 felonies, faces decades in prison – “The verdict came three days after closing arguments in a trial where Brown was painted as living the high life on cash that aides secretly deposited in her bank account after passing it through other accounts.” CNN, Former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown convicted of fraud scheme – “The Justice Department said Brown and two co-conspirators solicited more than $800,000 in donations for the One Door for Education — Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund … frequently from individuals and companies Brown knew through her congressional position. One Door was not a registered nonprofit and most of the money went to their own pockets or was spent on lavish events in Brown’s honor.” Orlando Sentinel, Corrine Brown found guilty on fraud and tax-evasion charges – “’Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain,’ Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement.” First Coast News, Corrine Brown stoic leaving court after being found guilty of fraud, corruption charges – “Brown kept uncharacteristically silent … she respected the justice system and the jury, but intended to file motions to begin the appeal process. She maintains her innocence.” POLITICO, Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown convicted of federal fraud charges – “As reporters shouted a few questions at her, she kept silent as she kept moving arm-in-arm with her pastor and family members toward the car. Some yelled ‘we love you Corrine.’” News 4 Jax, Lawmakers, supporters react to Brown’s conviction – “They couldn’t give her the courtesy or decency to come out the back door. Come on, she built this place. She named it. It’s a damn shame in Jacksonville today we have no decency, no respect for black life in this city.” NPR, Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown Convicted Of Stealing From Phony Charity – “Attorney James Smith told reporters, ‘I still have a lot of work to do on this case,’ referring to the sentencing phase and the motion he plans to file for a new trial … sentencing phase could take 90 days or longer.”

Tallahassee Democrat editorial board questioning vindicated by Brown convictions via Florida PoliticsSkip Foster, the newspaper’s publisher, tweeted on Thursday: “Looks like, Ms. Brown, it was appropriate for us to ask you about that at our editorial board meeting after all.” Last August, “the indictments were the first question when the three Democratic candidates for the 5th Congressional District met with the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board,” the paper explained in a story about the meeting. Brown rose “from her chair, approached the camera recording the interview and stopped in front of her questioner. ‘These are the things that Congresswoman Corrine Brown did. I gave 22 scholarships. It’s important you know that. I gave 22 scholarships. So don’t ask me something that I don’t have any control over. Ask me what Corrine Brown has done,’ ” she said, according to the story. Brown lost the race to current Congressman Al Lawson of Tallahassee.


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Rick Scott-led PAC tackles education, economy in digital videos — New Republican launched two videos this week when it announced Gov. Rick Scott would head up the organization. The first ad, dubbed “If You Open Education,” addresses ways to change the education system. “Our old, closed education system is failing our children, and our country is falling behind” a woman is heard saying in the minute-long video. “It’s time to open up education, to open up opportunity for everyone.” The second video talks about opening up the economy, by getting rid of outdated regulations. Click on the images below to watch the videos.

First on #FlaPol – “Airbnb opens Florida political committee” via Florida Politics – Airbnb, the online marketplace that allows people to find and rent vacation homes, has formed a political committee in Florida, state campaign finance records show. “People versus the Powerful” was formed April 6 for the purpose of  “supporting or opposing statewide, legislative, multi-county and local candidates,” according to its statement of organization. … For the committee’s first month of existence, the San Francisco-based company seeded it with $1 million. It has yet to make any expenditure, save for about $30 in bank fees, according to reports.

“Adam Putnam fundraising panel notches over $800,000 for April” via Florida PoliticsThe political committee of Republican gubernatorial candidate Putnam posted more than $800,000 in contributions for the month of April, the state’s campaign finance website shows. Florida Grown reported $809,156 in fundraising and $276,479 in expenditures for the month. That brings the committee’s total take since its February 2015 formation to $11.3 million in contributions. It also spent nearly $3.1 million, records show, for a cash-on-hand amount of about $8.2 million. Putnam, the sitting Agriculture Commissioner, announced his candidacy Wednesday in his home of Polk County.

– “Why Adam Putnam starts his campaign as a big favorite” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

Assignment editors: Putnam will attend a firefighter appreciation breakfast at 10 a.m. at Greater Naples Fire Rescue Station 73, 14575 Collier Blvd. in Naples. From there, he’ll head up to Fort Myers to take part in a grassroots meet-and-greet at Buckingham Farms, 12931 Orange River Boulevard. Putnam will continue his 10-day, statewide bus tour Saturday with an “Up & Adam” Breakfast at 9 a.m. at the Royal Palm Room at the Inn on the Lakes, 3101 Golf View Road in Sebring. From there, he’ll go to Okeechobee REC Shotgun Shoot and Lincoln Day Dinner at 2 p.m. at the OK Corral Gun Club, 9449 NE 48 th Street in Okeechobee. Media interested in attending the events on Saturday must email by 8 p.m. Friday to register.

— Not that our writing isn’t riddled with misspelings (get it?), but for a campaign that is spending $80K a month on consultants, shouldn’t Putnam’s first message have been perfect?

Jack Latvala ‘month or two away’ from deciding on Republican bid for governor” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – A day after Putnam kicked off his Republican bid for governor with a large rally that underscored his front runner status, state Sen. Latvala, said he’s “leaning” toward entering the race for governor but won’t make a final decision until June or July. “We’re still a month or two away” from a decision, Latvala said. “I’m leaning in the direction of doing it but I just got out of a very intense job for the last 10 weeks.” Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chairman, was a key figure in the legislature’s crafting of an $83 billion budget that was approved Monday night. He faces term limits in 2018. If he decides to run for governor, Latvala’s Florida Leadership political committee has about $3 million in cash on hand.

Possible gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine engaged and awaiting child” via Joey Flechas of the Miami HeraldLevine recently got engaged to Caro Murciano, a real estate agent and younger sister of television actor Enrique Murciano. Levine has never been married before. The couple are expecting. The mayor [said] these changes in his personal life only bolster his motivation as he considers a run. “Becoming a husband and father will be one of the greatest highlights of my life and reinforces my determination to make our children’s future secure and bright,” he said. Levine has yet to commit to a run [for governor].


Larry Sabato moves Carlos Curbelo’s CD 26 race to ‘Toss-up’” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Bad news for Curbelo, Brian Mast, and other Florida Republicans in vulnerable congressional districts in 2018 who voted for the American Health Care Act. Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball” ratings downgraded Curbelo’s chances … Sabato had CD 26 as “leaning Republican,” but now shifted it to “Toss-up.” Mario Diaz-Balart‘s position in Florida’s 25th Congressional District was also downgraded slightly, going from “likely Republican” to “leaning Republican.” Diaz-Balart also voted for the AHCA. On the Democratic side … three congressional seats maintain a “leans Democratic” outlook — Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 27th District, and Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th District. The other seat is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen‘s seat in Florida’s 27th District.

Quelling candidacy chatter, Alberto Carvalho vows to remain Miami-Dade schools’ chief” via Patricia Mazzei and Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – Speaking at an awards ceremony for the Education Fund, a local schools nonprofit, Carvalho vowed to remain schools chief this year, next year and for years to come … The comment seemed to address his own acknowledgment last week that he was being courted to replace Miami Republican Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Carvalho, an independent who has never run for public office, could have mounted a formidable candidacy, given his broad popularity and name recognition. But he sounded reluctant to run even last week, when Florida Democrats were abuzz about his potential candidacy. And he has since spoken to school board members, including one, Lubby Navarro, who said Carvalho was clear he wasn’t running … Carvalho’s promise to stick to his job was met with resounding applause.

“After strong start, Ed Hooper raises just $640 in April for Senate bid” via Florida PoliticsHooper, the former Republican state representative and Clearwater city commissioner, posted just over $600 in April after two consecutive months of five-digit fundraising. Hooper, aiming to replace term-limited Jack Latvala in Senate District 16, put up only $640 in contributions and showed $20 in expenditures for the month. That’s after bringing in more than $25,000 and $24,000 for February and March, respectively. Hooper, however, still has no opposition for the seat, which covers much of north Pinellas County.

Ana Rivas Logan is in for Frank Artiles’ Florida Senate seat” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Former state rep. Rivas Logan is the third Hispanic Democratic woman to announce her candidacy, after state Rep. Daisy Baez of Coral Gables and businesswoman Annette Taddeo. The difference, Rivas Logan said, is that she’s already won elections in parts of Artiles’ Southwest Miami-Dade County district. Her name recognition will help her in the quick-turnaround special election, she said. “It’s not about who can win a primary,” she said. “It’s about who can flip the seat blue.”

Dwight Bullard backs Annette Taddeo in SD 40 — The former state Senator has thrown his support behind Taddeo in her Senate District 40 bid. “Annette is someone that has been a part of our greater South Dade community for many years; she has stood up for us and will stand up for the community and it’s interest in Tallahassee,” he said in a statement. “I’ve seen elders, pastors and stalwarts of the community encourage Annette to run.  I join them in my support of Annette as the candidate we want to represent our community in the Florida Senate.” Taddeo announced she was running for the seat earlier this week, and the Division of Elections said it received her paperwork Thursday and was processing it.

Annette Taddeo, seen here with former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, announced Thursday she had gotten Bullard’s endorsement to run for Frank Artiles’ now vacant Senate seat. Artiles resigned last month after his profanity- and racial-epithet filled tirade against two sitting black senators at Tallahassee’s Governors Club.

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“Race to replace Jim Boyd gins up big numbers” via Florida PoliticsContributions for candidates in the race to replace House District 71’s Boyd topped $115,000 for April. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, bested Sarasota Republican James Buchanan for the month, pulling in a whopping $97,600 to Buchanan’s $15,300, records show. And Bradenton Democrat Randy Cooper put up $2,210. Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, is term-limited, having been first elected in 2010.

Miami Republican Vance Aloupis hoists $31,150 in April via Florida Politics Aloupis’ second finance report shows a fundraising slowdown to $31,150 in April from just over $103,000 in March. But the Miami Republican, vying to replace the term-limited Mike Bileca in House District 115, still eclipses the competition for the seat, which has raised a total of $250 among three candidates. All of Aloupis’ reported contributions for April are $1,000 or under, including $500 from Florida East Coast Industries.

“Jose Mallea raises over $34,000 in April for HD 116 seat” via Florida PoliticsMallea, a Miami Republican, is running to replace current Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. Campaign finance records show he posted $34,240 in contributions for April, coming off a $55,276 haul for March. Mallea, the owner of JM Global consulting, ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. He also was chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. Republican Daniel Anthony Perez, the only other declared candidate in the race, raised $17,325 in April, for a total of $89,516.


Rick Scott wraps up latest visit to Washington” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – … with a visit to the Department of Homeland Security, part of his embrace of the Trumpadministration. Scott popped in for a visit with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to talk water issues. But Scott’s visit to Washington — the latest in a series since Trump was elected — also had political aims. Scott yesterday attended a Republican Governors Association breakfast. That evening he hosted a dinner with political reporters to unveil a national Super PAC. Afterward, Scott went on Fox Business.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will ceremonially sign a bill (SB 10) that helps protect the environment by authorizing the building of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee at 10 a.m. at the Miami Canal-John Stretch Park, 47000 State Road 80 in Lake Harbor.

— “Everglades activists worry new reservoir deal doesn’t go far enough via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times 

“Joe Negron seeks guidance on medical marijuana” via Florida PoliticsWithout using the words “Special Session,” Senate President Negron is seeking “ideas” from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Negron sent a memo Thursday, released by his office, saying he “believe(s) we should consider the best way to meet our constitutional obligation to implement Amendment 2.” Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill that would implement the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016 … “It was our mutual obligation to work together in good faith to find a principled middle ground on this important issue,” Negron wrote. “…Please feel free to contact me with your ideas on how to achieve this objective.”

Florida for Care: Urge lawmakers to support special session — Florida for Care, the advocacy group pushing for the implementation of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment, is encouraging supporters to call and email senators and representatives to tell them to “urge leadership to call a special session that implements Amendment 2, provides strong patient access, and allows competitive, free market to serve patients.” “Pick up the phone,” wrote Ben Pollara, in the email to supporters. “Your elected officials are listening.”

Editorial: Legislature needs special session on medical marijuana” via the Tampa Bay Times – Amendment 2 … is considerably less popular with state lawmakers. That explains why the legislative session ended with no agreement on implementing the amendment, leaving sick Floridians in limbo and major policy decisions to be hashed out in court. House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron — or Gov. Scott — should call lawmakers back to Tallahassee for a special session to pass a comprehensive bill making medical pot reasonably accessible to patients across Florida. By failing to pass a bill, the Legislature abdicated its duty to the Department of Health and the courts. With no law on the books, implementation falls next to department regulators, which does not bode well for patient access. Medical marijuana could soon become a billion-dollar industry in Florida affecting hundreds of thousands of patients.

“Budget line item only for Jewish schools raises some questions” via The Miami Herald – Legislators — both Republicans and Democrats — were eager to comply with a request to help secure Jewish schools following months of news reports showing children and adults evacuating from schools and other places in response to threats in Florida and other states. But the line-item in the budget has raised some questions about government dollars earmarked to help schools serving just one religion. Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative counsel, told the Miami Herald that while responding to violent threats made against religious minorities is extremely important, the budget item raises constitutional questions.

Misunderstanding, panic show importance of water storage funds to landowner lobbyists” via Bruce Ritchie and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – In the hours immediately after talks between House and Senate negotiators over environmental spending broke down, one lobbyist sent a text message to a House appropriations subcommittee chairman saying, “Tell me I shouldn’t be panicking.” At the root of the lobbyists’ fear was the mistaken idea that the program was being zeroed out. But the misunderstanding and panicked text messages show how important the program is to agricultural corporations and their lobbyists who must shepherd millions of dollars in taxpayer spending to a program that benefits their clients. It also shows how lobbyists and lawmakers were still very much working behind the scenes in a session that was supposed to be more open and transparent under House Speaker Corcoran.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Oliver Wyman

ICYMI: Lori Berman announces Palm Beach County Commission bid — The Lantana Democrat announced Thursday that she filed the necessary paperwork to run for District 2 of the Palm Beach County Commission. “I know the district and I know the issues,” said Berman, “I’ve made it a point to know what is going on locally on a variety of issues from homelessness to sober homes, from economic development to the agricultural reserve.  I can be a consensus builder on the commission and focus on helping our residents be successful.” First elected in 2010, Berman can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. She will continue to serve in the Florida House until the end of her term.


FPL’s offer: $185 million to get Vero Beach out of the electric business” via Colleen Wixon of TC Palm –  Florida Power & Light Co. has offered $185 million for the city’s entire electric system … The offer includes paying the city $36.6 million — $20 million in cash; money toward employee pension liabilities and to rent the Vero Beach power-plant substation; and an additional $20.4 million to release the lien on the city’s utility bonds. FPL would pay $108 million to the Florida Municipal Power Agency to get Vero Beach out of the statewide electric cooperative of municipalities. FPL also would pay $20 million to cut the city’s ties with the Orlando Utilities Commission, which sells Vero most of its electrical power. Mayor Laura Moss declined to comment on FPL’s offer, adding that she has asked other City Council members to avoid discussing specifics before a special City Council meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Orlando is the No. 1 destination in the U.S.” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Visit Orlando announced that a record 68 million visitors came to Orlando last year, making it the No. 1 destination in the United States. “Orlando’s visitation number represents the emotional connections we make with millions all over the world,” said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. “The love they show us never ceases to inspire us and led us to launch a yearlong campaign about two important words: thank you.” To mark the occasion, Visit Orlando achieved a Guinness World Records title by gathering 3,144 handwritten thank you notes from local attractions and hotels to mail to visitors that supported the Orlando destination. The cards will be mailed to visitors that used Visit Orlando’s social media channels, destination websites and member programs.

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Publix ties for No. 1 in customer loyalty survey” via Bill Bortzfield of the Florida Times-Union — Lakeland-based Publix, and Wegmans, based in Rochester, N.Y., tied for No. 1, with each receiving a 77 percent score in the survey’s customer loyalty index. Trader Joe’s came in second with 76 percent. Publix was found to have the cleanest stores and fastest checkouts. It was ranked highest for specialty department service and was a close second to Trader Joe’s for cashier courtesy. Wal-Mart landed at the bottom of all categories in the survey but one.

What Taylor Biehl and Jeff Sharkey are reading –Tesla opens Florida pre-orders for solar roof” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times – The Palo Alto, California, company opened Florida pre-orders for its residential solar energy material called “Solar Roof,” as well as a cost estimator. The roofing material will cost a hefty $21.85 per square foot, perhaps five to six times the cost of putting on an asphalt shingle roof. The tiles are made of tempered glass and take about a week to install. Tesla is also offering what it says is the industry’s best warranty: “The lifetime of your house or infinity, whichever comes first.” A $1,000 deposit is required to pre-order.

— ALOE —

Florida retailers expect record breaking Mother’s Day in 2017” via Florida Politics – According to the Florida Retail Federation (FRF), consumers will spend more than ever on gifts for Mother’s Day this year, reaching $23.6 billion. The state’s leading retailer trade association expect a whopping $186.39 per mom on average this year, up from last year’s $172.22 average. A review from the National Retail Federation, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, show per-person spending in 2017 will be the highest in the survey’s 14-year history. Estimates say shoppers will spend $5 billion on jewelry, $4.2 billion on special outings such as dinner or brunch, $2.6 billion on flowers, $2.5 billion on gift cards, $2.1 billion on clothing, $2 billion on consumer electronics, and $1.9 billion on personal services. The most significant increases from last year are in jewelry spending, which is up 19 percent, and personal services, up 15 percent.

Disneyland was born on paper over a marathon weekend in 1953” via Sandy Cohen of The Associated Press — Tomorrowland was originally going to be called World of Tomorrow. Frontierland was Frontier Country. Lilliputian Land never became a reality at Disneyland. And no one could have foreseen a “Star Wars” land opening in 2019. Walt Disney spent a marathon weekend in 1953 brainstorming ideas for the new family amusement park he envisioned called Disneyland. There would be a train station and an old-fashioned Main Street square. The park would have a princess castle and a pirate ship, maybe even a rocket. Disney wanted to get investors on board, so he described the various elements he imagined to artist Herb Ryman, who translated them into a hand-drawn map — Disneyland’s first. That original concept art could fetch as much as $1 million when it goes up for auction next month, auctioneer Mike Van Eaton said.

In this April 28, 2017 photo, art dealer Mike Van Eaton stands next to a hand-drawn map from 1953 that shows Walt Disney’s original ideas for Disneyland. Photo credit: AP.

“Universal booking rooms for its newest value resort” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Universal Orlando is taking reservations for its new Aventura Hotel, which offers views of Islands of Adventure and its new Volcano Bay water park. Although the hotel doesn’t open until August 1, 2018, Universal is enticing guests with prices as low as $97 a night, along with a $100 dining credit, if seven nights are booked. There’s a $50 dining credit available for stays of four to six nights. Prices start at $116 a night. … Aventura guests will get early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but they won’t be on the water taxi line or get the Universal Express Unlimited access that is restricted to the resort’s original three hotels: the Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific. Bus transportation will be available to the parks or guests can walk on the resort walkway to CityWalk and the parks.

Universal Orlando is now taking reservations for Aventura Hotel, scheduled to open August 1, 2018, Universal is enticing guests with prices as low as $97 a night. The hotel will offer a view of Islands of Adventure and the new Volcano Bay waterpark.

Happy birthday to our friend, Brad Swanson.

Sunburn for 5.11.17 – Adam Putnam’s hometown launch; Rick Scott forms super PAC; David Richardson eyeing CD 27; Betsy Devos booed; Happy birthday, Alan Suskey!

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

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

Happy birthday, A-Susk. I have the honor to be … Your Obedient Servant, the real A-Ham.

Also belated birthday wishes to Tom DiGiacomo, America’s friend.


Standing in front of a huge Florida flag covering the stately pillars of a century-old county courthouse with orange crates on the steps, Putnam on Wednesday used a combination of small-town nostalgia, conservative politics and a deep knowledge of his home state to launch his gubernatorial campaign, reports Tamara Lush of the Associated Press.

Hundreds of supporters turn out for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s kick off to his 2018 campaign for governor at the Polk County Courthouse.

— Putnam says he wants to encourage young people to come to Florida for high-tech agribusiness and science jobs. Setting aside money for research for citrus greening — the disease that’s devastating the orange and grapefruit groves — is one example of how to draw smart, young professionals here, he said.

— On Thursday, Putnam starts a 10-day bus tour of the state that will take him to 22 communities.

— Putnam begins his campaign with about $7 million in the bank

Here are excerpts from Putnam’s speech:

— “I’m fortunate – I have been a Floridian all my life. I grew up in my family’s citrus and cattle business. Like any small business, workdays were not nine-to-five. And there were no holidays. That life taught me responsibility. Hard work. Perseverance. Responsibility. These are common values. And too often in our society, they are forgotten.

— “It has been an honor to serve my community, my friends, my neighbors, my state, and my country. But for me, it’s always been Florida first.

— “We’ve got to put Florida first to make sure that it isn’t only the place where people come after a life well-lived somewhere else; it’s where they come to launch their own American Dream.

— “Our state can be the launch pad for the American Dream. The state that is the fishing capital of the world can also be the state that builds the boats and trains the craftsmen. The state that trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our citizens with the skills that allow them to compete in a rapidly changing world – and win. The state that put a man on the moon can build the tools for the next giant leap for mankind.

— “American exceptionalism is real. If you ever doubt that… Look at the grocery clerk in Lakeland who revolutionized the supermarket industry… Or the cashier on I-Drive who now owns the souvenir shop… It’s the truck driver hauling fruit who saved up to buy an orange grove, and then another… It’s the hotel maid who now runs her own bed and breakfast.

— “Hard-working folks like these have been able to achieve their American Dream right here in Florida. I want every single Floridian to be able to tell a similar story. I want people around the country to know this is where it happens.

— “It’s why we have more work to do. It’s why we’ve got to keep fighting to put Florida first and make our state the launch pad for the American Dream.

Thank you, Captain Obvious:

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Rick Scott to chair federal super PAC — The Naples Republican will chair the New Republican, a super PAC aimed at changing the way the Republican Party approaches the future. Scott announced Melissa Stone, who served as his chief of staff and ran his 2014 re-election campaign, will serve as the organization’s executive director; while Taylor Teepel, who has served in the Scott administration, will serve as the PAC’s finance director. “New Republican’s goal is to make the Republican Party Great Again. Both political parties are hopelessly stuck in WWI style trench warfare. Both political parties are failing us,” said Scott in a statement. “There is nothing new, it’s the same thing every day – lob some grenades over the ditch and then brace for incoming. The goal of New Republican is to break out of this trench warfare. We have to get rid of all our tired old political jargon and clichés.” The political committee was founded by Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and advertising legend. He will stay on as the super PAC’s senior advisor. Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, is believed to be considering a run for Senate in 2018.

Gov. Rick Scott, seen here in Washington, tells news media how his “New Republican” super-PAC will remodel the GOP the way he did in Florida. Photo credit: Ledyard King.

First in Sunburn – Gwen Graham’s first campaign video: ‘I care about making a difference’” – The Democratic candidate for governor is releasing her first campaign video to share her love for Florida and aspirations for the state’s future. “My love for Florida runs deep, but my patience — my patience for inaction in the state I love has run out,” Graham says in the video which features scenes of her announcement speech and Workdays across Florida teaching, installing solar panels and restoring wetlands. Click on the image below to watch the video.

Graham works with ex-offenders at Operation New Hope — The former congresswoman and 2018 gubernatorial hopeful joined Operation New Hope in Jacksonville for a workday Wednesday to learn more about the efforts to develop affordable housing and help ex-offenders with workforce training. “The ex-offenders I met today are working to put their lives back on track. They just want a second chance at becoming contributing members of their community — and Operation New Hope is giving them that chance,” she said in a statement. “Operation New Hope serves as an example for reintegration programs throughout our state and nation. Jacksonville is fortunate to have such a great organization, and I am fortunate to have spent the day working with them.” Founded in 1999, Operation New Hope has successfully placed more than 2,500 ex-offenders in the workforce. The organization has indirectly served 7,200 children and helped build or restore 80 homes.

— “Gwen Graham takes page from father’s campaign playbook in race for Governor” via Ryan Benk of WJCT

Jarvis Guthrie, an ex-offender who now works with Operation New Hope, talks with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham at a campaign stop in Jacksonville.

Andrew Gillum camp brackets Graham’s fundraising numbers per a source within the Tallahassee mayor’s team: “Congresswoman Graham’s total is pretty heavily padded with the $1.2 million she rolled over from not running in 2016. When you roll over 75% of your total, are you really “surging” to the front of the money chase? I don’t think so. When we’re talking about dollars raised for the Governor’s race, it’s a different story – with her thus far at $400K for her PC in April, coupled with $1.2M of Congressional money. Gillum is at $1M raised. Different story altogether.”

Shevrin Jones endorses Andrew Gillum — The West Park Democrat and ranking member on the House Education Committee announced Wednesday he was throwing his support behind Andrew Gillum in race to replace Gov. Scott. “His focus on public education as a way to lift up people in every corner of this state is what our state needs to transition into an economy that works for everyone,” said Jones in a statement. “He is working on so many key aspects of public education: “SHOP 2.0,” a renewed focus on skills and trades education; being the first person in this field to call for an end to high-stakes testing; standing up for public school students and teachers’ funding; and rejecting the harsh rhetoric that has blamed teachers for the persistent challenges our students face. Mayor Gillum rightfully views public education as our best way to move this state forward, and I’m so thrilled to endorse him.”

Assignment editors: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will speak at the Tiger Bay Club of Volusia County meeting at 11 a.m. at the LPGA Clubhouse, 1000 Champions Drive in Daytona Beach.

“Matt Caldwell to kick-off Ag Commissioner campaign Monday in Fort Myers” via Florida Politics — The North Fort Myers Republican will officially kick-off his campaign with an event at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers at 11:15 a.m., Monday. Caldwell, who had been expected to throw his hat in the race to replace Putnam, filed to run for the seat earlier this month. Since January, Caldwell has raised $702,825 for his political committee Friends of Matt Caldwell. State records show his February 2017 fundraising haul of $412,075 was the largest single month haul since August 2016, when the committee was started. The committee ended March with more than $650,000 cash on hand, according to state records.

“Daniel Sohn withdraws from 2018 Agriculture Commissioner’s race” via Florida PoliticsSohn, a Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018, announced on his Facebook page Wednesday that he is withdrawing from the race. Sohn, district aide to Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson, confirmed the post in a phone call. “There are some serious re-occurring health issues that need my immediate attention,” Sohn said in the post. “Over the next couple of months, I will be undergoing procedures that will require much recovery time. I promise during that time to get myself stronger and ready to continue to resist … In the future I hope to count on your support again.”

Scoop –David Richardson preparing for run in CD 27” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsRichardson is preparing for a run now that Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros–Lehtinen is retiring. Richardson, of Miami Beach, who won his last re-election with 65 percent in his House District 113 entirely inside CD 27, said he is traveling to Washington D.C. in the next week or so to discuss a candidacy with potential donors and supporters, including leaders of The Victory Fund and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He has not committed to running for Congress in CD 27, but he is making all the preparations. “I’m taking a strong look at it,” Richardson told

Miami-Dade commissioner launches Republican candidacy for Congress” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Commissioner Bruno Barreiro formally became a candidate for Congress, after he said he filed paperwork to begin fundraising and campaigning for the seat held by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring next year. “Throughout my years as a public servant, I have witnessed firsthand how my efforts can positively contribute to the growth and well-being of our residents in South Florida,” Barreiro, a Republican, said in a statement. “I have a pulse for the needs of our community, and understand the importance of having a strong advocate for South Floridians in Washington D.C.” Barreiro is the first well-known Republican to enter the race for the Democratic-leaning 27th District, after announcing his plans to the Miami Herald last week. Former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado is also interested in running, and national Republicans have reached out to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Jeb Bush Jr.

Disney writes big check to anti-gambling committee”– Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. gave $250,000 to a political committee behind a proposed constitutional amendment to slow down the expansion of gambling in Florida. “Voters in Charge” is seeking to put an amendment on the November 2018 ballot, with language approved by the Florida Supreme Court last month. If passed, voters would have the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in Florida. Any future casino-style games would need voter approval. In April, Charge raised $287,675 with $250,000 of that from Disney Worldwide Services. Another $30,000 came from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, state records show.

Florida Dems take shot at Jose Felix Diaz — The state Democratic Party took a shot at the Miami Republican Wednesday, one day after he filed to run in the Senate District 40 special election. In a statement, Johanna Cervone, a FDP spokeswoman, called Diaz “another Trump wannabe since he was fired from Trump’s show ‘The Apprentice’ for failing to get the job done and lead his team.” The state party also took a swipe at Diaz, saying he wasn’t “enough of a leader to denounce his friend and roommate Frank Artiles’ racist and sexist comments.”

Daisy Baez racks up endorsements in SD 40 — The Coral Gables Democrat has scored the backing of several current and former members of the Florida Legislature, as well as at least a half dozen South Florida Democratic leaders. Her campaign announced Wednesday she has received the backing of former Sen. Arthenia Joyner; Sen. Victor Torres; Reps. John Cortes, Tracie Davis, Sean Shaw, Emily Slosberg, Richard Stark, Barbara Watson, and Clovis Watson; former state Rep. Annie Betancourt; Broward County Commissioner & former state Sen. Nan Rich; South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard;  Pinecrest Councilmember Anna Hochkamer; Coral Gables Commissioner Patricia Keon; former Doral Councilmember Sandra Ruiz; Hector Caraballo, a Democratic Party leader; Arthur Costa, a Democratic Party leader; and Millie Herrera, the SE regional representative for former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Kim Daniels files for re-election” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics –Daniels’ filing means that every member of the Duval Delegation has filed for some 2018 office … Daniels’ major legislative accomplishment this term was close to her heart, as a Charismatic evangelistic preacher with a global following. She filed the House version of the “Religious Expression in Public Schools” bill, which cleared the Florida Legislature this session. Though groups such as the Human Rights Campaign object to the legislation as blurring the lines between church and state, that’s not a position Daniels or the Florida Legislature shares.

Save the Date: The Florida Foundation for Liberty will host a fundraiser for Rep. Paul Renner at 5:30 p.m., May 25 at The River Club, 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville. According to a copy of the invitation, former Ambassador John Rood, Mori Hosseini, Howard Korman and Tom Petway are listed as the co-chairs of the $1,000 a person fundraising reception.

“As HD 44 special election candidates’ watch begins, Bobby Olszewski nabs Steve Crisafulli’s backing” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican Bobby Olszewski has grabbed another endorsement – former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli – in his campaign to win election in Florida House District 44, now heading for a special election this summer with the resignation of incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle of Windermere. His endorsements, which include numerous local officials from west Orange County, and his fundraising, which brought in $21,000 last month, may be hedging not against current opponents so much as against other Republicans contemplating jumping into the now short race. No special election dates have been set yet, but an announcement from the Florida Division of Elections, through Gov. Scott, is expected to set a primary in mid-summer and a general election soon after, creating the opportunity for a quick campaign.


“ ‘Lack of transparency’ causes calls for Scott budget veto” via Florida PoliticsBoth citing a “lack of transparency,” the heads of the League of Women Voters of Florida and the First Amendment Foundation are calling for Gov. Scott to veto the just-passed state budget for 2017-18. But with the House of Representatives passing the budget 98-14 and the Senate approving 34-4 on Monday, there are enough votes there to override a veto, assuming no votes change. League President Pamela S. Goodman and FAF President Barbara A. Petersen alerted their members in separate emails this week.

The final budget arrives in the Florida HouseRepresentativesMonday, May 8, 2017, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser.

What the Gov’s Office is reading –Chief Executive magazine survey of best business states again names Florida No. 2, but raises concerns” via the Tampa Bay Times – For the fifth straight year Florida was ranked as the No. 2 state for business in Chief Executive magazine’s 13th annual “Best & Worst States for Business” survey. The state consistently ranks among the leaders since the survey’s inception — in part, the magazine states, because CEOs find it one of the top living environments. The rankings appear in the magazine’s May/June issue and reflect CEO perceptions of best and worst states based on a range of key measures. Florida trailed only Texas, which has held a grip on the top ranking every year the survey has been conducted. But not all of the survey feedback on Florida was good. “CEOs ranked its workforce quality a relatively low No. 18,” the magazine states. “And the state’s economic development efforts are in question due to infighting between Republican Gov. Scott and the Republican-controlled legislature.” Florida’s new legislative budget, which still faces the governor’s review, would sharply cut the use of state funds to recruit businesses and market the state’s tourism industry.

“Barahona claim bill, ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ measure go to Gov” – The first bill would pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona, now 16, who survived physical and mental abuse, torture, and attempted murder, and to other beneficiaries including blood relatives of his and his twin sister Nubia Barahona, then 10, whose life ended in murder at the hands of her adoptive father in 2011. The children were charges of the state’s Department of Children and Families The second bill would allow retailers to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. A veto campaign has already begun, with opponents—including independent liquor stores—calling the proposal a job-killer. The governor has till May 24 to sign the bills into law, veto them or allow them to become law without a signature.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

“Richard Corcoran joins calls for medical marijuana special session” via Florida PoliticsHouse Speaker Corcoran has added his voice to those calling for a special legislative session on medical marijuana. Corcoran spoke Wednesday on “The Morning Show with Preston Scott” on WFLA-FM radio in Tallahassee. Lawmakers failed to come to agreement this Legislative Session on a bill that would implement the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016 … “I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” he (said). “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

— Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday her company has sold whole-leaf products in different forms — all designed to be ingested by vaporizers — for nearly a year. Those products, however, were ground up, unlike the new bud-like product that can be smoked. Quincy-based Trulieve’s new product, first sold on Tuesday, comes in canisters designed for use with vaporizer pens. But patients can easily use the substance in other ways, such as in joints, bongs or pipes — consumption methods off-limits under state law.

Tweet, tweet: @JaredEMoskowitz: Nor should we leave gaming to the courts #ExpandTheCall

A literal backroom meeting helped yield last week’s compromise on testing reforms” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times –With the Senate in daily floor session last week — a scheduled public meeting — at some point, six senators stepped away from the floor to convene around a conference table in a separate room at the back of the Senate chamber. Confined in that small space, no member of the public could have observed or overheard what the three Republicans and three Democrats discussed, even though the chamber was in open session just outside. The conversations and negotiating that took place in that room helped yield a 72-page rewrite to a House education bill (HB 549), which senators later approved unanimously … Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, revealed the existence of the meeting while speaking with his caucus at a public breakfast the final day of the 2017 session. While discussing a 278-page K-12 budget bill (HB 7069) House Republicans had produced late Friday — which incorporated most of, but not all, of the testing bill the Senate passed and myriad other policies — Braynon complained that input provided by Democrats wasn’t reflected in the final product.

Carlos Guillermo Smith talks about guns, PTSD funding, the Speaker’s love” via Orlando Rising — As a progressive, what do you think was the most important thing the Florida Legislature did or didn’t do this year? Smith: Forming the first-ever Legislative Progressive Caucus or LPC. This year, we launched the LPC to begin organizing progressive voices within the legislature as a voting bloc to impact policy and work together toward a progressive agenda. OR: Post-Pulse, Democrats’ efforts to limit assault weapons and high-capacity magazines didn’t get any further in this session than before that terrible tragedy galvanized many people on the issues. Is it a lost cause for supporters of restrictions on high-powered weapons? Smith: NOT TRUE. Until now, lawmakers weren’t even filing proactive legislation to address the epidemic of gun violence. OR: What did Orlando get out of this session? Smith: After all the tragedy our community has endured, I am disappointed at how the legislature treated Orlando. SILVER LINING: Luckily, I worked with Rep. Mike Miller and Sen. Linda Stewart to secure $2.5 million in funding for the PTSD clinic at UCF helping veterans, first responders and Pulse survivors.

Jeff Atwater sticking around as CFO until state budget is nailed down” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Atwater will remain in office as state chief financial officer until the state budget is completely settled, his office confirmed … Atwater has announced plans to leave Tallahassee to become CFO at Florida Atlantic University upon the conclusion of the Legislative Session. That came Friday, although the Legislature required another three days to pass an $83 billion state budget. That budget — plus conforming bills spelling out some of the spending — is now in Gov. Scott’s hands. He could veto individual line items or the entire spending plan. That latter option would force the Legislature to return to the Capitol to attempt an override or, theoretically, give the Governor more of what he wants. As for    replacing Atwater, Scott seems in no particular hurry.


“Trump-fighting Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez founds group, gives $1M for deportation-fighting lawyers” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Mike Fernandez, the billionaire former Republican donor who left the party due to President Donald Trump, is fighting the administration’s hardline immigration policies with a frontline weapon: lawyers for the undocumented facing deportation. As more illegal immigrants are swept up, detained or deported, Fernandez founded a fundraising group called the Immigration Partnership and Coalition to underwrite groups that provide legal counsel for detained illegal immigrants who don’t have felony records Fernandez announced Wednesday he was giving $1 million of his own fortune to the effort, pledged $4 million more and was spending an additional $250,000 for the staff and infrastructure for the coalition, called IMPAC. Fernandez, a Miami-area resident, said he’s hoping to get friends like Latin Grammy winners Gloria and Emilio Estefan and former Miami Heat basketball stars Alonzo Mourning, Shane Battier and Ray Allen to lend their celebrity to IMPAC. The coalition has a who’s who of local Republicans on board, including CNN contributor Ana Navarro.

Graduating seniors boo Betsy DeVos at commencement in Florida via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO FloridaHundreds of graduating seniors of a historically black university in Florida booed and turned their backs on Education Secretary DeVos as she stood up to deliver a commencement speech. “Let’s choose to hear each other out,” DeVos said, straining to be heard above the crowd at Bethune-Cookman University’s graduation in Daytona Beach. “We can choose to listen, be respectful and continue to learn from each other’s experience.” But most of the students remained with their backs turned as the crowd applauded. University President Edison O. Jackson took the podium and tried to quiet the crowd, threatening to end the graduation. “Your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.”

Tweet, tweet: @MarcACaputo: Daytona Beach News Journal headline writer misleadingly tried to *balance* the boos with cheers– therby underplaying the jeering of DeVos

Tweet, tweet: @THolt74: Bethune-Cookman University kicked reporters from @dbnewsjournal, @BuzzFeed off its property as they tried to cover Devos’ campus visit

Child abuse tips silenced for months by DCF computer glitch” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay TimesAbout 1,500 tips to the Florida Abuse Hotline – the state’s front line for child protection — were not sent electronically to law enforcement agencies between February and April because of a software problem, DCF officials said. That included roughly 230 cases in the Tampa Bay region. Reports of abuse or neglect by parents, which are handled by child welfare investigators, were not affected. But tips on abuse by others, including neighbors, teachers or strangers, stalled in the DCF’s computers. Some of those cases may still have been investigated, DCF officials said. Even though the software failed, abuse hotline operators were still able to transfer calls to 911. But local law enforcement agencies received notice of some reports only when the backlog was resolved May 3. In some cases, agencies are still wading through them to determine if an investigation is warranted.

Wife of mass gunman loses appeal; stays in jail” via The Associated Press — A panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled last week that Noor Salman should remain in jail until her trial next March. Salman is charged with obstruction and aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, who opened fire at the Pulse gay nightclub … A magistrate judge in Oakland, California, said in March that Salman could be released from jail, but that decision was reversed by a federal judge in Orlando. Salman appealed to the appellate panel, which said her release would pose an unacceptable risk of flight and danger to the community.

Federal judge dismisses counties’ challenge to All Aboard Florida” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper’s ruling comes after a two-year legal battle that has cost the counties more than $6 million. It’s unclear whether the decision would affect All Aboard Florida’s construction timetable: The company is to begin service between West Palm Beach and Miami this summer, but a date for expansion through the Treasure Coast and Space Coast, and on to Orlando International Airport, has been less clear. The counties’ lawsuits were dealt a fatal blow when All Aboard Florida late last year abandoned the financing plan at the heart of their case, according to Cooper’s decision.

“Reversal of fortune: Citrus forecast says oranges up, grapefruit down” via Florida PoliticsAnother bag of mixed news for Florida’s signature crops: Orange production actually increased while grapefruit production has declined. That’s according to the latest forecast released Wednesday from the the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS. “The May report projects the state’s orange crop to increase to 68 million boxes for the 2016-17 season,” said a press release from the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC). “The grapefruit crop dipped to 7.8 million boxes.” … “It is heartbreaking to watch an industry you love work so hard to survive,” said Shannon Shepp, the department’s executive director.

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“More fun with summer jai alai permits: Dania looking to sell” via Florida PoliticsSaying it will be good for “tourism and tax revenue,” a South Florida gambling permitholder is asking state regulators to OK the permit’s sale and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County. Dania Entertainment Center, which operates The Casino @ Dania Beach, last Monday asked for a declaratory judgment from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation on its “converted summer jai alai” permit. The department regulates gambling in the state. The company has a tentative deal with an unnamed buyer that wants to build a casino at a new location, the filing explains, even though it argues under current law the department’s “approval of the relocation … is not required.” The terms of the sale require the ability to set up shop elsewhere in the county.

SeaWorld attendance, revenue take dive in first quarter” via Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel – Even after turning in a disappointing earnings report and warning investors about a drop in British tourists, SeaWorld Entertainment presented a hopeful picture of its future. The company has “a solid base from which to grow in 2017 as we introduce our strong lineup of new rides and attractions this summer,” CEO Joel Manby told analysts. In Orlando, those include a virtual-reality makeover of the Kraken roller coaster, an Electric Ocean nighttime show and a refurbished dolphin nursery. The Orlando-based theme park company’s attendance and revenue both dropped 15 percent, as it generated $186.4 million in sales.


Actual email: “Peter, (t)hank you for being willing to come to our conference. Unfortunately, our annual conference committee decided to bump our media panel for active shooter training.”

Appointed Maryke Lee, Rodney Talbot, Dr. Denise Carter and Dr. Peter Taylor to the West Orange Healthcare District. Donna Elam to the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

Governor names 12 to judicial nominating commissions” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott made six appointments and six reappointments Wednesday to the commissions that nominate state trial judges in the event of a death, departure, or elevation to a higher court.

Normally, the voters elect these judges, but the governor holds the authority to fill vacancies:

— In the First Circuit, Robert “Alex” Andrade, 27, of Gulf Breeze, an attorney with Moore, Hill & Westmoreland, will fill a vacant seat through July 1, 2019. Scott reappointed Pamela Langham, 52, a solo practitioner from Gulf Breeze, to a new term ending on July 1, 2020. Baker solo practitioner Wanda Morgan, 51, will serve through July 1, 2020.

— In the Third Circuit, solo practitioner James Willingham Jr., 64, of Jasper, gets a new term, ending on July 1, 2020.

— In the Seventh Circuit, Katherine Miller, 35, of Daytona Beach, an attorney with Wright & Casey, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

— In the Tenth Circuit, Richard Straughn, 58, of Straughn & Turner in Winter Haven, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

— In the 13th Circuit, Assistant Attorney General Elba Martin, 44, of Tampa, fills a vacancy through July 1, 2019.

— In the 14th Circuit, Gregory Wilson, 45, of Greg Wilson Law in Panama City, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

— In the 17th Circuit, Kenneth Joyce, 50, of Coral Springs, a partner with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, will serve through July 1, 2020. Pembroke Pines solo Christina McKinnon, 42, will serve through July 1, 2020.

— In the 20th Circuit, solo practitioner Carlo Zampogna, 38, of Naples, will serve through July 1, 2020. Finally, Assistant Public Defender Kathleen Fitzgeorge, 56, of Fort Myers, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Toni Large, Uhlfelder & Associates: Florida Medical Horticulture LLC

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Rayonier

“Tournament raising funds for education and to honor Phil Galvano, father of Bill Galvano, scheduled for this week” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Six months cooped up in the Florida Capitol might put a damper on Sen. Bill Galvano’s golf game, but the Bradenton Republican isn’t too worried about it. He’s hopeful his skills will come back to him when he hits the links later this week during the 21st annual Phil Galvano Classic at the Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch. And even if they don’t, he’s confident the annual event in memory of his father — golf pro Phil Galvano — will once again raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Manatee Education Foundation. … Last year’s tournament raised about $400,000, and he expects to surpass that this year. In addition to the Manatee Education Foundation, Galvano said a portion of funds raised will go to The Malala Fund, a nonprofit inspired by Malala Yousafzai that works to secure girls’ right to a minimum of 12 years of quality education. … Galvano, who is in line to be the next Senate President, said he gets a lot of support from his colleagues in Tallahassee and expects eight senators and several House members will be in attendance this year. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino has attended the event for the past three years, and will be in attendance again this year. … Sponsors will get a chance to mix and mingle with Marino and Galvano during a private lunch and round of golf at the Longboat Key Club on Thursday, before the main event kicks off Friday at the Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch.

– ALOE – 

Iconic Magic Kingdom fireworks show ends tonight” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The newest show, “Happily Ever After,” will take its place Friday by becoming the third nighttime fireworks spectacular to ever blast off at Magic Kingdom Park. For those who cannot afford admission to the park or don’t want to fight Friday night traffic, the show’s grand debut will be live streamed at 8:55 p.m. on #DisneyParksLIVE. Tune in five minutes early to watch a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of “Happily Ever After.” To follow along on Twitter, use the hashtags #DisneyParksLIVE and #HappilyEverAfter.

It’s last call for “Wishes” at Walt Disney World, to be replaced Friday by “Happily Ever After” at Magic Kingdom Park. The show’s debut will be live streamed at 8:55 p.m. on #DisneyParksLIVE.

‘Make brunch great again’: Orange County allows restaurant alcohol sales beginning at 7 a.m. via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – The mimosas are ready to be poured after the Orange County Commission approved alcohol sales in all restaurants beginning at 7 a.m. The change was one of two liquor-related measures discussed by the commission at its Tuesday meeting, along with the possibility of removing the rule requiring a 5,000-foot barrier between liquor stores in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Spotted – On HBO’s Vice News: Burmese python hunters in the Florida Everglades.

Happy birthday to Franco Ripple‘s better half, Ashley Ligas and Democratic activist Alison Morano.

Sunburn for 5.10.17 – Adam Putnam launches; … so does Jay Fant; Session epilogue; Med. marijuana special session?; Parks boost Disney revenue

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

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

Session ended at 8:52 p.m. Monday. By Tuesday morning, the 2018 election cycle had begun in earnest.

Rep. Jay Fant launched his 2018 Attorney General run at the Florida Capitol, before kicking off a day-long, three-city swing to discuss issues like commerce, homeland security, and immigration.

While Fant’s the first person to jump into the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi, the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott is already heating up.

Democrats Andrew Gillum, Chris King, and Gwen Graham already launched their bids, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who filed to run for governor earlier this month, is scheduled to officially launch his with a speech on the steps the Old Polk County Courthouse in Bartow at 11 a.m. From there, he’ll embark on a 10-day, 22-city bus tour.

Candidates aren’t just jumping into statewide races. Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez announced he plans to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in 2018. And with a special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles scheduled for later this summer, you can expect several more candidates to hit the campaign trail in the weeks and months to come.


As Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam prepares to embark on a 10-day statewide bus tour, beginning with an expected announcement Wednesday in Bartow that, yes, he’s running for Governor in 2018, let’s harken back to January.

Putnam was speaking at The Associated Press’ annual Legislative Session planning session at the Capitol. Afterward, we asked him about what could be considered as a dig at the career politician.

Gov. Scott, just days before in an interview, said the next Governor needs to have experience in the business world. The 42-year-old Putnam, also a Republican, was first elected state Agriculture Commissioner in 2010 after serving 10 years in Congress.

“I think someone having business experience that they bring to public life is very helpful,” Putnam answered without missing a step. “As a guy who is part of a small business, I get it.”

Therein lies the bother. Yes, the Putnam family owns Putnam Groves in Bartow, but it will be a hard sell to many Floridians that Putnam is a “businessman” when he’s been in office since he was legally old enough to drink.

“You have a better feel for what regulations mean, what the paperwork translates to, and things that often sound like a good idea in Tallahassee, by the time they get to Main Street businesses, they’re a hot mess,” he added. “It’s helpful to know what it means to create jobs in this state.”

Perhaps, but oh, if ever there was a statement ripe for PolitiFact.

It’s also funny how Putnam kept telegraphing his political aspirations without ever acknowledging that he wants to keep climbing the elective ladder.

Florida “needs to be the kind of place that attracts people four decades sooner,” he said at the AP event, “so that they raise their families here, and they start their businesses here and grow those businesses here, because that’s a very different emotional investment for the long-term good of Florida.”

That was a near repetition of remarks he made at his political committee’s “Friends of Florida Agriculture Barbecue” the previous April at Peace River Valley Ranch in Zolfo Springs.

“I want Florida to be the place where people come as a young person, graduate from our universities, raise their families here — start, build and grow their businesses here, so that they are passionately, emotionally invested in the long-term good of Florida, where Florida’s going, how Florida got to be what it is, and what makes Florida special,” Putnam said then.

Putnam may soon say, “get on the bus,” but skeptical voters will need convincing before they take that ride.

“Putnam lines up top tier campaign team” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – The operatives on Putnam’s team include veterans of Putnam’s two decade political career, including Mac Stevenson of Sarasota-based Political Insights, and Justin Hollis, handling fundraising. Amanda Bevis, Putnam’s former deputy chief of staff at the state Department of Agriculture, is handling communications. … The Tarrance Group … is the pollster. … Helping lead the campaign is Kristin Davison, who has worked with on the campaigns of Sens. Marco Rubio and Roy Blunt and as chief of staff at Karl Rove and Co. A senior adviser is former 2010 Rick Scott senior campaign adviser Ward Baker, fresh off a widely praised run as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Flashback – “Did ‘Putnam for Governor’ Twitter flub break election law?” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaPutnam appeared to skirt state election law when his Twitter account mistakenly posted a message that bore an “Adam Putnam for Governor” logo — even though he (wasn’t) an official candidate yet. But Putnam’s top consultant said the Twitter message wasn’t the fault of the Republican or his political committee, Florida Grown. So, he says no law was broken. “The image was inadvertently posted by our digital partner. We immediately asked for it to be removed,” consultant Justin Hollis told POLITICO Florida. He declined to name the vendor. Under state election law, people can’t make a campaign expenditure until they become a candidate.

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“Andrew Gillum calls for ‘strengthening’ Obamacare in Florida” via Florida PoliticsA day after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday called on state lawmakers to pass a bill “strengthening insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions.” Gillum, the sitting mayor of Tallahassee, appeared at the Florida Press Center with two local women who told of their family members’ troubles getting coverage and treatment … Gillum’s proposal, a priority if he’s elected in 2018, has three goals: Prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions; charge them the same premiums as those without such conditions; and “end the discriminatory practice of charging women higher premiums than men.” The first two already are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Jay Fant launches Attorney General bid” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Fant made his opening pitch, calling for government to get out of the way of free enterprise. “I am running because I believe so strongly in defending our constitutional rights and protecting Floridians from the excesses of the federal government … But that can only happen if we make sure government is on the side of the people.  We will fight to keep our business climate free and fair so entrepreneurs can pursue their dreams and create jobs. We will stand by our law enforcement community that works so hard to keep us safe.”  Fant also tried to claim the mantle of current state Attorney General Bondi … “I will continue Attorney General Bondi’s fight against prescription drug abuse, human trafficking, and predators who target seniors and children … I will keep pushing back against the federal overreach that chokes our small businesses. And the most vulnerable members of our society can count on me.”

Mayor Jack Seiler continues to mull Attorney General bid” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald Seiler said he is in no rush to decide whether to run in 2018 and will make up his mind at some point this year … he initially thought he would have to reach a decision by the spring but doesn’t feel pressure to do so now that no one has announced on the Democratic side. “The campaign starts the day you announce your decision — I don’t need to have a 15, 16, 17-month campaign if I don’t have to,” Seiler said. “I have time to make a more educated and informed decision. I am looking at all the factors: Can a Democrat win statewide? Can a Democrat win in an off-year?”


José Javier Rodriguez hops into Miami congressional race” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Rodriguez of Miami announced he will run for Florida’s 27th Congressional District now that longtime U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is calling it quits after next year. Rodriguez joins a crowded Democratic primary field, but party insiders are abuzz about his chances because of his record and because 65 percent of the voters in the congressional district are registered to vote in Florida’s 37th Senate District, which Rodriguez currently represents. “It’s the right time to run and to represent this district in Congress,” said Rodriguez … “A lot of the issues of my district are relevant to the congressional seat: health care, tax policy and the environment, especially sea-level rise.”

Tweet, tweet:

— Democrats had tried to recruit Miami-Dade County schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho to run for the seat, but he was noncommittal. Former school board member Raquel Regalado, a moderate Republican in the mold of Ros-Lehtinen, is eying the seat. The Miami Herald reports that Republican Maria Peiro has filed to run and that Republican Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro said Friday he will seek the seat.

— Horse before cart alert: “Unless there’s some huge problem, Jose is the next congressman from the district. He checks all the boxes,” said one top Florida Democrat, summing up the mood of other consultants and insiders.

“Obama Democrats buzz about Miami lawyer’s possible bid for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Francisco Cerezo, a top Latin America attorney and son of a former Puerto Rican leader and judge, is seriously considering a run for outgoing U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat at the urging of former Obama campaign fundraisers from Miami. … Freddy Balsera, a fundraiser for former President Barack Obama who led his 2008 campaign’s Hispanic outreach, said Cerezo is a friend as well as a dream candidate because he’s a new face who’s well-respected in top legal circles and might be able to self-fund some of his campaign if need be. Balsera said Cerezo also served as a Spanish-language surrogate for President Obama.

Could race for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat hurt Democrats seeking Carlos Curbelo challenger?” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald— In this week’s episode of “Beyond the Bubble,” McClatchy newspaper’ weekly political podcast … asked Florida Democratic political consultant Steve Schale about the race to replace Rep. Ros-Lehtinen — specifically, whether it might hurt Democrats hunting for someone to challenge Rep. Carlos Curbelo. “I worry about that,” Schale said. “Good candidates for any elected office tend to be very rational actors,” Schale said. “If you look at history, it’s always easier to win an open seat.” Ros-Lehtinen’s 27th district “is probably four to five points better for a Democrat” than Curbelo’s 26th district, Schale added. “I do think that a lot of your top-tier candidates are going to look at this seat first.”

is Daisy Baez Democrats’ consensus pick to replace Frank Artiles?” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Here’s a sign Florida Democrats might be coalescing around state Baez to run for former Sen. Artiles‘ seat: Baez won the backing of not one but two contenders for Florida governor. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum endorsed Baez within minutes of each other.


In our annual list of who emerged from the Legislative Session as a Winner or a Loser, we wrote about how Gary Fineout’s bosses at the Associated Press need to find a better way (or several) to utilize ace reporter Gary Fineout. And on Monday morning, the big man roved our point with a must-read entry for his blog, The Fine Print. In the post, Fineout drills down on the titanic battle being waged by Speaker Corcoran and his allies versus Gov. Scott.

— “There’s a war going on for the soul of the party,” Corcoran said. “Are we going to be who we say we are?”

— [Corcoran] also mentioned politicians who campaign saying they want to crack down on illegal immigration and are opposed to “the liberal socialistic health care policy called Obamacare” but then change their position when they get into office. Without using his name directly, it was clear that Corcoran was taking aim at Scott.

— “I think what we need to do is elect leaders who say what they mean and mean what they say,” Corcoran said.

— His exchange with reporters showed Corcoran … finishing the 60-day session with the same provocative, confrontational stance he had before it started. Given everything that has happened over the last two months of the session it’s not really surprising.

— Along the way, he pushed back against anyone – whether they were in media, his own party, or whomever – who challenged his statements or positions. Sometimes he did it in a lawyerly fashion … But other times it was through sheer force.

— In one way, (Corcoran and Negron) have given Scott an easier path to a budget veto.

— The main general appropriations act is $82.4 billion, but it doesn’t include many key elements. Legislators have placed more than $700 million worth of spending for Negron’s Lake Okeechobee plan, Schools of Hope, VISIT FLORIDA and the state employee pay raise OUTSIDE the main budget bill.

— Of course, if Scott does veto the entire budget (a rare occurrence in recent Florida history) then we get to watch Round 2 between the Speaker and the Governor. And the war for the “soul of the party” will rage on.

Time to say goodbye — The House Speaker’s Office, which has produced video after video this Legislative Session, it closed out 2017 Session with a 3-minute video narrated by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “I’m often asked, where are the leaders worthy of the title and I tell them they’re right here, in the Florida House,” he says in the video. In an email to members, Corcoran said while every member isn’t featured “the sentiment applies to all” of them.

Scoop – “House GOP freshmen fail to adopt rules for Speaker’s race, putting leadership battle into chaos” via Florida Politics– A caucus to ratify rules — drafted by Reps. Ralph Massullo and Michael Grant — to guide the freshman class’s decision-making process met during a break in the House. Only 23 members of the freshman class were present, and neither Rep. Jamie Grant nor Rep. Paul Renner, both in the running to be Speaker in 2022, were present at the meeting. The rules had been debated at length by within the class. The most recent version of the rules called for an organizational meeting to be held June 30 to select their leader. Under those rules, if more than two candidates are running, the lowest vote-getters would be eliminated from consideration. The caucus needed 18 votes to ratify the rules, a tall order with only 23 of the 27 caucus members present. But ahead of the vote, Rep. Joe Gruters made a proposal for secret balloting on the rules. Secret balloting on rules and all future votes is in theoretically in place, but the rules were voted down. A copy of new rules was provided to members, but were marked by Rep. Randy Fine so the caucus could know which member leaked the rules to the media, according to a House member who attended the meeting. The failure to adopt new rules means the Speaker’s race is still governed by House Caucus rules, which means no June 30 conclave to pick a leader. It also means the “survivor” rule proposed under the Massullo-Grant rules aren’t in effect.

Hillsborough County enacts hiring freeze after Tallahassee moves property tax cut” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times – Administrator Mike Merrill has enacted a hiring freeze for government departments, effective May 2. That’s the same day the Legislature gave the greenlight to a 2018 voter referendum that would increase the homestead exemption by another $25,000, which would effectively cut local property taxes. The hit to Hillsborough’s coffers would be roughly $30 million a year … Merrill told department directors the freeze was necessary “to allow greater flexibility and options” for the 2018 and 2019 budgets. The freeze applies to all positions, excluding season employees, like lifeguards, and instances when a job offer was made and accepted before the May 2 memo.


Rick Scott has a friend in White House and foes back home” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – For years, Scott complained and criticized President Barack Obama and contended he wasn’t helping Florida. Now with Trump in office, Scott has worked out a deal with federal officials to provide at least $1 billion for the state’s hospitals and he obtained a promise to move forward with repairs to a federally-operated dike that surrounds the state largest freshwater lake. But that didn’t help him with the Republican-controlled Legislature. Instead by the end of this year’s session, Scott’s legislative agenda was in tatters, ignored by GOP legislators he has feuded with for months and criticized during visits to the lawmakers’ hometowns … he bashed the newly-passed $83 billion budget, giving his strongest sign that he may veto the spending plan and force the state House and Senate to reconvene in a special session. He criticized legislators for assembling most of the budget — which covers spending from July of this year to June 2018 — in secret and for refusing to set aside money for his top priorities including money for business incentives.

Scott will make veto decision ‘based on what’s best’ for Florida families” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics Scott took a swing at state lawmakers, saying the Legislature turned its back on economic incentive deals that have helped Florida “out compete … top competitors for important jobs.” … Scolding legislative leaders for passing a budget that “was done largely behind closed doors.” Scott said he has begun the process of reviewing the budget, and said he will make a decision about whether he vetoes the entire budget “based on what’s best for our families.” “I ran for Governor to fight career politicians and it’s backroom deals like this that make families think politics is nothing more than a game,” said Scott in a statement. “I am beginning to review the budget and I have the option of vetoing the entire budget or vetoing the items that circumvented the transparent process and do not have an acceptable return on investment for hardworking taxpayers. Just like I do every year, I will make my decisions based on what’s best for our families because my job is to wake up every day and fight for Floridians.”

“Scott signs SB 10, the Lake Okeechobee restoration plan, into law” via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott signed legislation Tuesday pledging $800 million toward Senate President Joe Negron’s signature project — a $1.5 billion plan to restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades by building a reservoir south of the lake. Scott had signaled his intention to sign the legislation earlier in the week, calling Everglades restoration “a top priority.” SB 10 did not include Scott’s call to invest $200 million in the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding the lake. Still, the governor said President Donald Trump had pledged federal money to the project and that “Florida cannot miss this opportunity to partner with the Trump Administration for a project that will significantly benefit Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and our environment.”

Gov signs landmark ride-sharing legislation into law” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida PoliticsScott signed a bill that creates statewide regulations for ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft. “I’m proud to sign this legislation today to make it easier for ridesharing companies to thrive in Florida and help ensure the safety of our families,” said Scott in a statement. “Florida is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation because of our efforts to reduce burdensome regulations and encourage innovation and job creation across all industries, including transportation.” The legislation, among other things, requires ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft, to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury of death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged on to their app, but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a passenger, drivers would be required to have $1 million in coverage. Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes in the Senate and Reps. Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant, it also requires companies to have third parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers. The law pre-empts local ordinances and rules on transportation network companies.

Other bills signed into law Monday include:

HB 111: Public Records/Identity of Witness to a MurderThis bill creates a public records exemption for criminal intelligence or criminal investigative information that reveals personal identifying information of a witness to a murder.

HB 151: “Therapy Dog for Children Bill”This bill allows children, victims, and individuals with intellectual disabilities to use therapy animals and facility dogs in legal proceedings.

HB 239: Public Records/Protective Injunction PetitionsThis bill creates a public records exemption for petitions for protection against domestic violence, stalking or cyberstalking if it is dismissed.

HB 305: Law Enforcement Body CamerasThis bill allows a law enforcement officer using a body camera to review the recorded footage before writing a report or providing a statement.

HB 399: GuardianshipThis bill revises procedures relating to incapacity hearings and the circumstances under which the court may approve divorce for persons under the protection of a guardianship.

HB 401: Notaries PublicThis bill allows public notaries to accept a veteran health information card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a valid form of I.D.

HB 671: Reemployment Assistance Fraud This bill authorizes the Department of Economic Opportunity to access digital records maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to prevent reemployment assistance claims fraud.

HB 805: Relating to Insurance Policy TransfersThis bill allows an insurer to transfer a residential or commercial residential property insurance policy to an authorized insurer of the same group or owned by the same holding company.

HB 6533: Relief of Jennifer WohlgemuthThis bill directs Pasco County and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to compensate the family of Jennifer Wohlgemuth for injuries sustained in a 2005 accident involving the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.


Joe Negron says he’ll ‘look at’ a special session on medical marijuana” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – “We’ll confer with the House and with the governor and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do,” Negron told reporters following the end of the legislative session … “I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so I think that’s an option we’ll look at.” House Speaker Richard Corcoran was standing next to Negron at the time, and smiled and nodded. A wide-ranging bill to implement a constitutional amendment passed by 71 percent of voters blew up in the final hours of the regular session … The main sticking point: Whether or not to place caps on the number of dispensaries each licensed grower could open. Now, it’s up to the Florida Department of Health to create a medical marijuana infrastructure in the state. On Saturday, activists including John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who bankrolled the medical marijuana campaign last year, called on Gov. Scott to call a special session of the Legislature. Scott’s spokeswoman said in a statement that they were “reviewing our options.”

— Gwen Graham wants a special session – “I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain. Floridians spent years begging the Legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

Ben Pollara’s emotional mea culpa on John Morgan split, marijuana bill failure” via Florida Politics – In a lengthy, emotional email Pollara explained some of the motives behind what happened, and why the bill ultimately died — taking some (qualified) responsibility. Much of the friction behind the final approval of the bill came in part from disagreement over the number of allowable medical marijuana treatment centers under the law. Lawmakers could not agree on how to best balance the needs of patients with that of licensees — refer to by some as “cartels” — authorized by the state to produce and distribute medical pot. “The initial bill out of the House was horrendous,” Pollara wrote. “Partially drafted by Mel Sembler and Drug-Free America, it was severely restrictive and not only banned smokable, edible, and vapable forms of marijuana, but it also added onerous restrictions on patients, such as a 90- day waiting period and recertification period.” “I advocated strongly for the Senate position, believing — as I still do — that it would result in better access for patients,” Pollara said. Unfortunately, it set off a “very intense lobbying battle on both sides” leading to neither side coming to terms in the end. “Morgan is livid over this and blames me entirely for the failure to pass legislation this session … I accept that I deserve some of that blame … However, the choices we faced were ‘bad,’ ‘worse’ and ‘the worst.’” What happened, Pollara wrote, was “the worst.” … Signed “with love and sorrow,” Pollara concludes his letter by apologizing to all those he let down. “And I want to — from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of everyone at Florida for Care — thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do to advance this cause.”

Meanwhile, Morgan responded with this video…

***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.***


Kevin McCarthy says he sees a ‘great opportunity to get the money’ for Everglades restoration projects” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Rep. Francis Rooneytook House Majority Leader McCarthy on a tour of the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed … The tour — similar to one the Naples Republican took Rep. Ken Calvert, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment on back in March — was meant to highlight the importance of funding projects that have already been approved, and in some cases designed, within the watershed. “He’s been telling me about this since before he was elected and he invited me before even getting sworn in,” said McCarthy, a California Republican. “This is a natural treasure … I see what we’re going in Congress right now, when we go to tax reform and when we go to infrastructure, I see the funding already coming now,” said McCarthy. “But I see opportunities that we can speed it up to save the taxpayers money, finish some of these projects earlier. And I see a great opportunity to get the money.”

State appeals court upholds 14.5 percent workers’ comp premium increase” via Florida Politics – A state appeals court has upheld a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, rejecting legal arguments that it was approved in violation of Florida’s open-government laws. … The ruling followed adjournment of a Legislative Session that failed to address attorney involvement and other factors driving increases in insurance premiums. … “NCCI is pleased with this outcome, as the court validated that our rate filing process is in full compliance with the law,” the Boca Raton company said in a written statement. … The court found no evidence that the insurance office had delegated its rate-approval authority to NCCI in a way that justified coverage by the open-government laws.

— Associated Industries of Florida says today’s ruling is reminder solid reforms needed for works’ comp via AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney: “At AIF, we support restoring a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system for Florida’s injured employees.”

“Constitutional review panel will meet” via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission meets Wednesday, 5-8 p.m. at Florida SouthWestern State College’s Suncoast Credit Union Arena, 13351 FSW Parkway in Fort Myers. The commission is a 37-member appointed body that meets every 20 years to review and suggest changes to Florida’s governing document. We’re the only state that has one. It has been holding public hearings throughout the state before considering any constitutional amendments.

Florida Supreme Court suspends former lawmaker’s attorney license” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Former state Rep. Phillip Brutus’ alleged negligence in managing a trust account has led to a yearlong suspension from practicing law and two years of probation, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled last week. Brutus, who served as a Democrat in the state House from 2000 to 2006, called the ruling extreme and theorized the court may want to send a message to other attorneys by making an example of a public figure. “I agree it’s wrong, but one year?” he said, adding he was unsure how he would remain financially afloat without his job. The suspension stems from a 2014 complaint from the Florida Bar alleging Brutus violated Bar rules by disbursing funds to his client in a divorce proceeding without court approval. After learning his client’s ex-husband had taken out a $100,000 home-equity loan against their home and spent $40,000 of it, Brutus filed a motion to preserve the assets. The presiding judge issued an order directing the remaining money, about $60,000, into Brutus’ trust account. That money was deposited March 3, 2008, without a court order or settlement regarding how the money would be distributed. Brutus said he wasn’t motivated by self-gain but by the “dire” circumstances his client faced, including being temporarily forced out from her home.

Ouch column – “Judge Pop Tart: Rep. Eric Eisnaugle attacks judiciary for years, now named judge” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – (T)his week, Gov. Scott elevated Eisnaugle from the legions of lightweight legislators to one of Central Florida’s top judges as a member of the 5th District Court of Appeal … as an attorney, he has never actually taken a single trial to a jury verdict. … has rarely set foot in a courtroom. Despite all that — and despite the fact that gobs of other experienced judges and attorneys applied for that post — Eisnaugle will soon be Judge Pop Tart. His bench will be the last stop before the state Supreme Court. The appointment was a reward for a legislator who reliably backed Scott’s agenda, including pushing to protect Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, even when other Republicans did not. It was a way of ensuring that a relatively young pick will remain on the bench for many years.

Violence erupts at a Florida airport after Spirit Airlines cancellations” via Jonah Engel Bromwich of The New York Times – According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the arrests were made after customers screamed at and threatened Spirit Airline employees, inciting unrest in a crowd of about 500 people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Their anger was set off by the flight cancellations … and deputies were sent in to calm the crowd … 11 Spirit Airlines flights were canceled at the airport Monday and that 30 were delayed. Arrest reports assert that those detained were threatening bodily harm to the airline employees and challenging them to fights. All three of the people who were arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and resisting arrest. Paul Berry, a spokesman for the airline, said that Spirit was “shocked and saddened” by the violence. He blamed the cancellations on airline pilots who he said were engaged in “unlawful labor activity” that was “designed to disrupt Spirit operations.” But the pilots’ union disputed that statement.

With Betsy DeVos slated to speak at black university’s graduation, Trump foes sound the protest alarms” via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – In the days since DeVos was invited to speak at Bethune-Cookman University’s graduation, the NAACP chapter in Florida has called on the institution’s president to resign and teachers unions have helped gather petition signatures in opposition. Adding to the outcry are the voices of graduating seniors and alumni, who in interviews, petitions, open letters and social media posts have denounced DeVos and detailed why they don’t want the billionaire GOP donor and prominent proponent of private-school vouchers to enjoy the honor of addressing the class of 2017. Some, though, are afraid they’ll get in trouble if they protest. Protesters argue her policies would hurt students’ ability to access financial aid or pay back student loans. They see her focus on vouchers and charter schools as an effort to defund public schools like the ones where many of them were educated. And they accuse her of representing the privileged wealthy class rather than all Americans, as evidenced by her controversial characterization of black institutions that were founded during racial segregation as “pioneers” of “school choice.”


New and renewed lobby registrations

Larry Overton, Joel Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: CleanSlate Centers, Inc.

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Children First Specialty Plan, LLC; Elite DNA Therapy Services; Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority; Weedmaps

Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Fluor Enterprises, Inc.

Bill Rubin, The Rubin Group: Blue Cloud Pediatric Surgery Centers, LLC; Elite DNA Therapy Services; Fluor Enterprises, Inc.; Weedmaps

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Orthodox Union

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Great Explorations Children’s Museum; Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority; Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Steven Uhlfelder, Uhlfelder & Associates: Florida Medical Horticulture LLC

Tampa-based Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick law firm launches Shumaker Advisors Florida” via Florida Politics – The group will offer legislation advocacy, issue management and business-to-government and business-to-business services. Heading the new Shumaker Advisors is partner Ronald Christaldi as president and CEO. Christaldi said in a statement: “Shumaker Advisors will allow us to better serve our clients from an advocacy perspective and help them navigate challenging regulatory policies and legislative matters. We have assembled a top-notch team to begin working for clients immediately and are actively adding new members to it.” Joining Christaldi on the newly created Shumaker Advisors team are public affairs specialists Patrick BasketteEd Miyagashima and Carlye Morgan.

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda — Did Gov. Scott send a kiss of death to Florida’s budget? On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, a recap of the tumultuous remaining days of the legislative session. Did Speaker Corcoran live up to his promises of transparency? Citizen advocate Gary Stein explains why Florida for Care Executive Director is “swimming with the fishes” after a breakdown in negotiations over the medical marijuana bill. Also, Florida Times-Union reporter Nate Monroe gives a heaping scoop on the fraud trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who also served up ice cream before her court hearing.

— ALOE —

Firework Oreos feature popping candy cream, but a better Oreo flavor idea could win you $500,000” via the Tampa Bay Times — Oreo is the latest brand getting in on the whole let-your-customers-invent-a–flavor trend, launching the $500,000 “My Oreo Creation” contest today to create a new cookie flavor. To get the ball rolling, Oreo introduced a wild new flavor of their own making called Firework Oreos, featuring its traditional cookies around a cream center flecked with rainbow-colored bits of “popping candy” (just don’t call them Pop Rocks). The limited edition Firework Oreos are set to hit stores nationwide (Monday). If you’re feeling like you have a better idea, you can submit your own flavor ideas to Oreo through text, or by using #MyOreoCreation and #Contest on Instagram or Twitter. Submissions will be taken through July 14, and finalists will be determined in AugustDetails on the contest are here.

Disney parks and resorts boost company revenues in 2017” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The Walt Disney Co. today reported a 3 percent increase in revenues over last year during its quarterly earnings report. Parks and Resorts revenues for the quarter increased 9 percent to $4.3 billion and segment operating income increased 20 percent to $750 million. Operating income growth was due to the opening of Shanghai Disney Resort in the third quarter of the prior year and an increase at Disney’s domestic parks and resorts. Disney’s domestic parks and resorts showed increased attendance and guest spending on food and beverage, as well as higher operating income from Disney Springs. These increases were partially offset by higher costs like labor and higher expenses for new guest offerings.

A look at Disney World’s new Pandora-World of Avatar land” via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press — It’s not a movie set, but visitors to Disney World’s new Pandora-World of Avatar land are in for a cinematic experience. The 12-acre land, inspired by the “Avatar” movie, opens in Florida in late May at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. It cost a half-billion dollars to build. The marquee attraction is Flight of Passage, where a 3-D simulator plunges riders into a cinematic world. You feel like you’re riding on the back of a banshee, a bluish, gigantic, winged predator that resembles something out of the Jurassic era. Wearing 3-D glasses and straddling what resembles a stationary motorcycle, you’re strapped in, then the lights go out, a screen in front lights up and you’re swooped into a world of blue, gigantic aliens called Na’vi, with moon-filled skies, plunging waterfalls, jumping marine animals and towering ocean waves. The ride provides an enchanting and intoxicating five minutes that touches all the senses. Blasts of air and spritzes of mist hit your face, and as you fly through a lush forest, a woodsy aroma wafts through your nostrils. A visitor could go on the ride 20 times and not catch half the visual details. Disney designers are quick to say the new land is the star of the action, not the backdrop.

Shaq For Sheriff? Shaquille O’Neal wants to run In 2020” via Briana Koeneman and Katherine Biek of WFTS – The NBA legend told Atlanta station WXIA he plans to run in 2020. It’s unclear exactly where Shaq would enter the race for sheriff. He’s currently a resident of both Florida and Georgia, so he could run in either state. But no matter where he runs, O’Neal has one goal. “When I was coming up, people love and respected the police, the deputies. And I want to be the one to bring that back,” O’Neal said. He’s been sworn in as a deputy city marshal in Lafayette, Louisiana, and a sheriff’s deputy in Clayton County, Georgia. And, last year, he paid a surprise visit to the Gainesville Police Department to play a game of basketball with officers and local kids.

Happy birthday to the pride of the Panhandle, Ryan Wiggins.

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