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Sunburn for 4.24.17 – Florida is burning; Frank Artiles epilogue; Budget negotiations stall; Trial of generation in Jacksonville; Ballard, Inc.

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

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

DRINKING FROM A FIREHOUSE 

From wildfires burning throughout the state to the smoldering embers of Frank Artiles‘ political career and from the soon to ignite race to be Florida’s governor to the white hot last two weeks (maybe) of the 2017 Legislative Session, attempting to keep up with all that is going on in Florida politics is like, well, drinking from a firehose.

As dangerous as wildfires are — just ask our reporter, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster who lives in one of the areas recommended for evacuation — it’s probably L’affaire Artiles which will have the most immediate effect on state affairs. Not because Artiles’ resignation has any real-world or real-time impact on the government, but because the distraction it caused/is causing knocked the Legislature way off schedule.

Right now, with the Session ending on May 5, the House and Senate do not seem at all on track to pass a budget on time and Sine Die. The conferencing needed to reconcile the budget and other legislation has yet to take place (the prospect of passing a gambling bill, while some key lobbyists says is still possible, seems to be one of the primary victims of the lost time). The conventional wisdom setting into place in Tallahassee is that Session will conclude next week, but with writing a budget tabled for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, almost all of the major policy issues and food fights remain up in the air. From whether to fund Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida to how to implement Amendment 2, it’s unclear which way these issues will move.

This begs the questions, if a budget is not passed before May 5 and the Legislature comes back in mid-May to early June to write one, but it’s then vetoed by Governor Rick Scott because it zeroes out EFI and/or VF, can you imagine the pressure cooker it will be by mid-June as the House and Senate scramble to override the governor’s veto or write a second budget?

Speaking of the governor…

GOV. SCOTT DELAYS TRIP TO ARGENTINA DUE TO WILDFIRES via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Scott was scheduled to leave late Saturday for a five-day trip to Buenos Aires. A final decision has not yet been made on whether to cancel the trip completely. The governor has been monitoring the wildfires and visited one site in southwest Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott tours wildfire damage in Lehigh Acres.

— “Local investment in public safety communications infrastructure pay off during Florida disasters” via Florida Politics

BREAKING LAST SUNDAY NIGHT: Scott left for Argentina, per Fineout.

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— EPILOGUE TO L’AFFAIRE ARTILES — 

HOOTERS ‘CALENDAR GIRL’ AND PLAYBOY ‘MISS SOCIAL’ WERE ARTILES’ PAID CONSULTANTS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The long list of expenditures filed with the Florida Division of Elections by Artiles’ political committee, Veterans for Conservative Principles, also raised some questions. Why did the committee hire a former Hooters “calendar girl” and a Playboy model with no political experience as “consultants?” Were the payments related to a trip to the Kentucky Derby or a fishing tournament in Key West? What was the more than $51,000 in reimbursements to Artiles for? Heather Thomas, a former Hooters calendar girl and waitress at 101, a restaurant and bar in Tallahassee, was paid $2,000 between March and June of last year. The expense report lists the purpose as “consultant.” Her friend, Brittney Singletary, is a waitress at Stetsons on the Moon in Tallahassee. She was paid $1,500 with three checks covering three of the same dates and listing the same purpose.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE, contra the narrative some in the media, like Michael Van Sickler suggest, that Artiles could have survived sans the Klas story. That’s not true. Senate leadership had and has more on Artiles than what Klas reported and some of what they had was shared with Artiles, which is part of the reason why he really resigned — not because Klas was working on this story.

AS ARTILES LOST SUPPORT IN STATE SENATE, BILL GALVANO HELPED BROKER RESIGNATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – (I)t was Galvano who was tasked with dealing with the backlash that ultimately led to Artiles to issue a statement announcing his resignation Friday morning. “I did meet with him last night [Thursday],” Galvano (said). “What was said between the two of us was personal.”

THIS IS ALL ADAM SMITH COULD COME UP WITH WHEN WRITING ABOUT ARTILES? (Plus Franco Ripple wrote the exact same thing earlier) Here’s Smith’s Loser of the Week note.

DWIGHT BULLARD CONSIDERING RUNNING FOR ARTILES’ SEAT via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – … “I’d be lying if I said interest wasn’t there, but I still need time to process it all and make a final decision,” said Bullard, a Miami public school teacher who lost in the Democratic-leaning district last fall. He said it’s ironic that the Republican has now stepped down under pressure from his black Senate colleagues, who were upset about his use of a slang version of the “N-word” to refer to white members of the GOP conference in the presence of two black senators. “That same community that he chose to ignore are the ones who led to his demise,” Bullard said. “That should resonate with anyone thinking about running for the seat, whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican.”

— “Replacing Artiles: Who’s in and who’s out” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

SUNBURN FACT OF LIFE: There could be no bigger mistake in the SD 40 special election than for the Florida Democrats to go back to Dwight Bullard. What does it say about Bullard that he lost to someone like Artiles in the first place?

TWEET, TWEET: @SLRoss528: The concerns regarding his (Bullard’s) association with terrorists have not gone away

MORE TROUBLES FOR THE SOUTH FLORIDA CREW – ERIK FRESEN TO PLEAD GUILTY FOR FAILING TO FILE TAX RETURN ON $270K via Jay Weaver of the Miami HeraldFresen, a former Republican state representative from Miami-Dade, plans to plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of failing to file a tax return on income of $270,136 in 2011 while he was serving in the Legislature and working as a land-use consultant. Fresen, 40, who was term-limited in 2016 after serving eight years as a legislator in a district stretching from West Miami to Cutler Bay, was charged in Miami federal court this week. That paved the way for his planned guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. Fresen could face from probation up to one year in prison.

DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 3; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 11; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 11; MLB All-Star Game – 77 FSU vs. Alabama football game – 130; Election Day 2017 – 196; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 234; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 258.

***Learn the facts! FHCA knows Florida’s seniors deserve the best! The Senate’s proposed nursing home reimbursement plan creates incentives for quality and will dramatically improve care for our seniors.***

— THE LATEST ON LEGISLATIVE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS —

THE HOUSE’S SIDE OF THE STORY via @SaintPetersBlog on Twitter: Negotiators for @MyFLHouse say they were willing to meet @FLSenate halfway; up from appx. $81.2 bil to $83.179 bil. … Obviously, that’s almost $2 billion more than @MyFLHouse originally wanted to spend. …. Another concern of House is Senate’s willingness to play fast with out-year budgets. … House insiders point out that when he was Aprops Chair, @JoeNegronFL was very worried about out-year deficits, now not so much.

THE SENATE’S SIDE OF THE STORY via Fineout on Twitter: After a week of negotiations @JackLatvala says there is still no deal. Lack of deal led House to propose continuation budget … says Senate isn’t quite sure how a “continuation” budget would work. Calls it a DC term … says the House & Senate did trade a couple of offers, inc a comprehensive 1 from House last week … says there is still opportunity to reach a budget deal this session. Need to reach deal on allocations by Tuesday … Irony of @MyFLHouse @ @richardcorcoran proposing continuation budget is that it would keep some funding for @EnterpriseFL & @VISITFLORIDA

PROBABLY BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY but it’s behind a paywall: “House, Senate make no progress over weekend on bridging $4 billion gap via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

KEY BUDGET QUOTES:

Richard Corcoran: “There’s no end to the Senate’s liberalism.” Jack Latvala: “We put things on sheets of paper, side-by-side, and it was I’d say for the most part roughly 2-to-1 in their favor.”

COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Education Committee will discuss a bill (HB 773) that would tweak the state’s standardized-testing requirements when it meets at 2 p.m. in Reed Hall. The House Health & Human Services Committee will discuss its version of the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment implementing bill (HB 1397) when it meets at 2 p.m. in Morris Hall. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets at 3 p.m. to discuss a bill (HB 7007) to revamp the health insurance plan for state employees. The Senate Ethics & Elections Committee will hold several confirmation hearings, including Surgeon General Celeste Philip, when it meets at 5 p.m. in 412 Knott.

— “Proposed House committee bill would reset land-buying funding formula as chairman makes push” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

GAMBLING CONFERENCE COULD MEET THIS WEEK via Florida Politics – A notice last Thursday said: “The Conference Committee on Gaming … will not meet before Monday, April 24.” A Supreme Court decision approving the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment for the 2018 ballot threw a wrench into the works, vice-chair and state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said last week. He said conference chair and state Sen. Bill Galvano wanted to make sure the amendment, which would give voters power to OK or veto new casino gambling, “wouldn’t affect the Senate’s offer,” Diaz said. The House and Senate are a gulf apart on their respective gambling bills this session, with the House holding the line on gambling expansion, and the Senate pushing for new games, including approving slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them.

TWEET, TWEET: @Aglorios: Florida Legislature’s gambling conference meets on Monday at 1:30 pm.

EDITORIAL: LAWMAKERS IN HOUSE SHOULDN’T SQUANDER BEST CHANCE YET TO HELP THE EVERGLADES via the Miami Herald – The Florida Senate gets it. As a result, Senate lawmakers have passed one of the most carefully crafted bills yet to ensure the health of the Everglades. As environmentalists, water-dependent businesses, economists and tourists know, so much depends upon the health of the River of Grass, including South Floridians’ access to clean water, the state’s economic vitality, indeed, the well-being of the state itself … Florida desperately needs a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. For too long, the state has blithely allowed water released from the lake to flow to the coasts, and out to sea, an unconscionable waste of this precious resource … pollutants in that water have created massive algae blooms that, literally, have raised a stink in estuaries and along beaches, threatening to ruin the entire ecosystem around Lake O and the Everglades. The reservoir will serve two vital purposes. First, it will store the billions of gallons of water currently being sent to the coasts. Second, it will feed needed water to the Everglades to keep them hydrated.

BUSINESS RENT TAX CUTS STILL IN PLAY IN HOUSE, SENATE FOR 2017 via Florida Politics – Florida’s business rent tax is one of the outstanding issues at play as lawmakers crawl toward sine die of the 2017 Legislative Session. Included in the House’s tax package is HB 7109, a reduction of the business rent tax – lowering it from 6 percent to 4.5 percent for two years. If approved, the tax cut would begin January 1, 2018, and then supporting a permanent tax rate reduction from 6 percent to 5.5 percent beginning January 1, 2020. HB 7109 is on the House’s Special Order Calendar. While the Senate has not yet put together a package, there are two bills in the upper chamber that seeks to give businesses a break … SB 704 seeks to provide tenants with relief from the Florida’s “double taxation” – a “tax on tax” that occurs when tenants pay property taxes for property owners. SB 484 … would reduce the state sales tax rate that is charged on commercial leases from 6 percent to 5 percent.

HOME RULE OR LOCK DOWN? That is the question hanging over the rapidly moving, not moving, moving again vacation rental bills (HB 425/SB 188) that are up in their final committees this week: House Commerce and Senate Rules. So what will it be? Behind Door A, we have a watered down vacation rental bill that pretty much does nothing, allowing local governments to keep some local control if they had rules in place pre-2011 – aka home rule prevails. And behind Door B, we have a very aggressive preemption bill, similar to the old Greg Steube bill, that has picked up speed and is moving through the process that would put a lock on local governments’ control of vacation rentals. It will be interesting to see which vacation rental bill will be the last one standing, if any at all…are lawmakers so far apart on this with the recent amendment actions by Sen. Jeff Brandes that this issue will end up seeing the light of another session?

— “When Airbnb goes wrong: A Miami story” via David Smiley of the Associated Press

IS THIS ‘WHISKEY & WHEATIES’ LAST HURRAH FOR 2017? via Florida Politics – A measure to undo the requirement that retailers sell distilled spirits separately from other goods is back on the House calendar for this week. The House will consider the “whiskey & Wheaties” bill (SB 106/HB 81) on Tuesday, records show, after postponing it twice in recent weeks … The latest holdup came after lawyers for Publix, the Florida supermarket chain that opposes the measure, said it would mean teenage employees wouldn’t be allowed to work in stores where hard booze is sold.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – SITE SELECTORS ISSUE WARNING TO STATE ECONOMY IF ENTERPRISE FLORIDA IS CUT via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times – A pair of site selection experts hired by Pinellas County this year to give an unvarnished look at the high-density county’s challenging prospects for economic development and better wages offered up the good, the bad — and a warning. If Florida or the Tampa Bay region’s economic development organizations fail to provide traditional marketing or support to corporate projects recruited to this market, there will be a painful price in lost jobs and investment paid by the area economy. That includes Pinellas County, warned Josh Bays, a principal with the Dallas economic development consulting firm Site Selection Group. “It scares me to death,” Bays said of the potential loss of backing by Enterprise Florida at the state level and the Tampa Bay Partnership at the regional level.

FCTA CAPITAL DATELINE TALKS FINAL WEEKS OF 2017 LEGISLATIVE SESSION — FCTA President Brad Swason talks with EEM President Peter Schorsch, The Capitolist Publisher Brian Burgess, POLITICO Florida Bureau Chief Matt Dixon, and Rotunda host Trimmel Gomes about their inside perspectives on the state of affairs in the Florida Capitol as the 2017 legislative session nears its finish. What are the must-wins for the Speaker, Senate President and Governor? What bills are on life support? Who are the biggest winners and losers this year? These insiders tackle all the latest in this episode of The Pundits: Digital Media Edition on Capital Dateline.

YOU HAVE TO LOVE THIS QUOTE ABOUT JOE GRUTERS FROM JOE GRUTERS: “People may say Joe’s doing what’s in the best interest of Joe. Of course I am because I’m trying to get the best deal for our community.” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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

ETHICS COMMISSION BUCKS LEGISLATIVE LEADERS’ ASSERTION OF AUTHORITY via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The panel agreed to back Chairman Matthew Carlucci in rejecting a “delegation of authority” issued March 21 by Speaker Corcoran and PresidentNegron. Carlucci was sure the leaders’ intentions were “noble,” and that “these are good people,” he said. Still, “as long as the Legislature stays involved with any kind of delegation or perception of a delegation that they can deliver to us, there will always, in my opinion, be a conflict of interest inherently. And particularly on our investigators and their support teams,” Carlucci said. “Because when we have to occasionally investigate members of the House or the Senate, and there’s a perception that they have some control, that is a conflict of interest.”

WEXFORD RESPONDS TO DOC’S CANCELLATION OF HEALTH CARE CONTRACT via Florida Politics – In a lengthy press release, the Pittsburgh-based private health care provider took issue with the department’s criticism of its performance: “Wexford Health Sources disagrees with the assessment of the Correctional Medical Authority regarding the treatment provided to a small number of inmates at the South Florida Reception Center. More significantly, we take strong exception to the idea that this limited number of cases—involving patients who were already experiencing significant psychiatric challenges before they ever entered our care—should serve as the basis for termination of our contract with the State of Florida … there was nothing in the treatment of these inmates that should, or could, justify contract termination.” Wexford Health President CEO Dan Conn summed up the situation: “Wexford Health’s culture is one of transparency. We have always been open and direct with the Department about our performance. In fact, the Department has consistently complemented us on our performance and partnership.”

***From negotiating rebates and discounts from drug companies and drugstores to reducing waste and offering services like home delivery of medicines, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) use a number of tools to reduce drug costs and improve quality. In Florida, PBMs will save $43.4 billion over 10 years.***

TWO DEMOCRATS STAND OUT IN GOVERNOR RACE via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Four of the five top contenders for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination spoke to voters in Tampa Bay … Two stood out: Andrew Gillum … and John Morgan … Democrats need a nominee who will take a progressive agenda to every corner of the Sunshine State, [Gillum] said, including the conservative Panhandle, where Floridian families struggle to make ends meet and vent over high-stakes testing in schools just like elsewhere in Florida. Morgan … “Write down one thing that Tallahassee has ever done to make your life better.” Priorities: Raise the minimum wage, reform Florida drug laws, rein in public education money flowing to privately operated charter schools. Delivery: A. He is funny and smart, a non-politician with a clear, simple, gutsy agenda. The big question: Will Morgan run? He sounded like it Friday.

DEJA VU: “Gwen Graham close to announcing she’s running for Governor” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

JOHN MORGAN: I WAS NOT DRUNK THAT NIGHT AT BOOTS N BUCKLES via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – … “First of all, I was not drunk when I was on that video,” said Morgan, laughing off the question and explaining that he had had two drinks at Outback before that video was filed. “I guess if I use the f-word, f-bombs, people think I’m drunk. If that’s the case, I’m drunk every damn day of my life. … When I got on my bus to go back to my beach house, I got drunk. And when I got to my beach house, I got drunker. But I was not drunk at Boots N Buckles. But I do love Boots N Buckles it will be in my heart forever.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Run. I told him, I said if you run I think you’ll win.” — Charlie Crist, recounting a conversation he had with Morgan to Jim DeFede on “Facing South Florida.”

ANDREW GILLUM’S ‘GRAY AREA’: EMAILS REVEAL A MAYOR’S OFFICE ENTANGLED IN PROFESSIONAL AND POLITICAL WORK via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat– Weeks before Tallahassee Mayor Gillum announced he was running for Governor, he sent Neera Tanden an email thanking her for her work on the Hillary Clinton campaign. But something else was on his mind … that he wanted to discuss with Tanden, former policy director for President Barack Obama and the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research center. From his campaign account <andrew@andrewgillum.com> Gillum wrote: “I was hoping that you and I could find the time to connect by phone or in person soon. I saw that you may have waded into the Florida Gubernatorial Primary in support of Gwen Graham, and I wanted the opportunity to discuss that race with you before too much time passes.” Using another email address, andrewgillum2012@gmail.com, Gillum cc’d subsequent emails from Tanden to his assistant at City Hall, Angie Whitaker (angela.whitaker@talgov.com). Whitaker asked what “the preferred number that Mayor Gillum should call to connect with Ms. Tanden Tuesday, February 14 @ 12:30pm?  Thank you.”

PAT NEAL: EASY TO SEE WHY HE COULD BE FLORIDA’S NEXT CFO via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – It took me less than five minutes with Neal over a cup of coffee at the Doubletree in Tallahassee to see why he and Gov. Scott are such good friends. And it isn’t because Neal, 68, has been a champion fundraiser for the governor, though he’s certainly been all that. Scott and the Bradenton homebuilder are cut from the same cloth. They speak the same language. No wonder political insiders — not all of them but some of them — float Neal’s name as the leading candidate for chief financial officer when Jeff Atwater leaves the post. “Providing jobs for Floridians … what higher a calling could there be for a leader in Florida?” Neal asked. Does that sound like anybody else we know?

CORRINE BROWN’S TRIAL FEATURES BIG-NAME WITNESSES TO TEST CHARGES via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-UnionBrown will stand alone and defiant this week when she faces fraud and tax charges that could put her in prison, effectively for the rest of her life. The aide who watched her back for a quarter-century will be a witness for the prosecution that accuses the flamboyant Democratic power broker of cashing in on donations she steered to a bogus charity, One Door for Education … witness lists that both sides go a long way to … give people an idea of whom to watch as the case unfolds. Still, it’s easy to lose track. Between them, the lists include three members of Congress, about a dozen business executives, plus college presidents, local politicians, assorted Jacksonville movers and shakers, and the son of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. The prosecution’s witness list includes Tandy Bondi, the granddaughter of former Gov. Lawton Chiles and sister-in-law of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

— “In Corrine Brown’s trial, a chapter of Jacksonville history will be written” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

A.G. GANCARSKI WILL BE LIVE-BLOGGING BROWN’S TRIAL; once it starts, you can follow along by clicking here.

TWINE NOOSE LOWLIGHTS HATE BEING SENT ARAMIS AYALA’S WAY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A twine noose taped to a postcard and nasty comments sent in the mail and via social media are showing racist hatred Orlando’s State Attorney Ayala is receiving as she battles in court with Gov. Scott over whether she has the power to refuse to pursue death penalty prosecutions. The twine noose was discovered attached to a card inside an envelope mailed to her office, one of two racist-material and potentially threatening mailings that her office has reported to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently.

BALLARD, INC. via Fredreka Schouten and Maureen Groppe of USA TODAY – Former campaign aides, fundraisers and others with ties to Trump and Pence have attracted dozens of new lobbying clients in Washington, raking in more than $2.2 million in lobbying fees in the first months of the administration … Brian Ballard … appears to lead the pack, signing up 20 federal clients since opening his Washington lobbying operation this year. His company, Ballard Partners, has earned more than $1.1 million in a three-month period, new lobbying reports show. Ballard is one of more than a dozen White House allies launching new firms, taking new jobs in lobbying firms or signing up new clients this year as companies and other interests look for ways to shape policy in the Trump administration …

— “Ballard Partners’ latest federal signing: The ruling party of Albania” via Florida Politics

TWEET, TWEET:

SPOTTED at the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists FAPL-tini reception – Alex Alvarado; Rep. Daisy Baez; Rivers H. Buford, Director of Government Relations, American Heart Association; Candice Ericks, President, TSE Consulting; Dawn Faherty (from Rep. Don Hahnfeldt‘s office); Edgar Fernandez, Partner, Anfield Consulting; Susan Goldstein, President, Susan Goldstein Consulting; Suzanne Goss, Jacksonville Electric Authority; Mike Hightower, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Jacksonville Electric Authority; Lauren Jackson, Principal, Ericks Consultants; Mark Landreth; Dave Mica, Executive Director, Florida Petroleum Council; Samantha Saxton; Brad Swanson; Doug Wheeler, President & CEO, Florida Ports Council; Larry Williams; Victoria Zepp, President Clarity1st Consulting.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: IAP Worldwide Services

Melanie Brown, Johnson & Blanton: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment

Joseph Sazverg, GrayRobinson: Petainer Manufacturing USA Inc

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Informatica Corporation

Don Yaeger, Jeanette Yeager, One Eighty Consulting: Centrify

FOR #MONDAYMOTIVATION, SEE VOLUNTEER FLORIDA’S #30UNDER30 – Make sure to check out Volunteer Florida’s  #30Under30 initiative, which recognizes an under-30 volunteer every day throughout the month of April.  #30Under30 features emerging student leaders and accomplished volunteers like PIFF’s Samantha Sexton and the Florida Justice Association’s G.C. Murray. Click here to see all of the #30Under30 volunteers to date!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Sen. Randolph BracyBrian Hughes‘ better half, the wonderful Rachel Perrin Rogers, as well as our friend in Alabama, Apryl Marie Fogel, the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Janelle Irwin, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Laura Lenhart, Mary Ellen Upton, Mr. Florida Ports Doug Wheeler and our own Andrew Wilson. Celebrating today is HD 66 candidate Berny Jacques, our friend St. Pete City Councilman Ed Montanari, and Amanda Stewart.

Sunburn for 4.21.17 – Artiles, Artiles, Artiles, bills are dying, Artiles

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

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

IN NON-FRANK ARTILES NEWS …

Yes, scientists feel they’re under attack by politics too, and like minority groups, women, gun advocates, gun opponents, social activists, and others, they’re taking it to the streets.

Twenty-one “Marches for Science” are set to take place in Florida Saturday, Earth Day, all declared as satellite marches to the main one that will take place in Washington D.C. Organizers say they’ll have more than 400 such marches worldwide this weekend.

March for Science organizers are declaring their mission as to champion “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”

Organized through scientists and supporters discussing the prospect through social media, on their website they declare that, yes, their effort “is explicitly a political movement, aimed at holding leaders in politics and science accountable. When institutions of any affiliation skew, ignore, misuse or interfere with science, we have to speak out.”

In Florida marches are planned Saturday for Clearwater, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, Fort Walton Beach, Gainesville, Hudson, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Miami, Naples, New Smyrna Beach, Orlando, Palm Beach County, Panama City, Pensacola, Sarasota, Titusville, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach.

The dozens of partners sponsoring the event range from environmental groups such as the Earth Day Coalition and The Nature Conservancy, to science specialty groups as the American Society for Cell Biology and the Planetary Society, to broad groups such as the National Center for Science Education and the Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as several universities.

They’re maintaining the marches are non-partisan.

“Science is nonpartisan,” said Blake Williams, spokesman for For Our Future spokesman, which is co-organizing the Florida marches. “Advocating for evidence-based policies and solutions serves everyone’s best interests, and Saturday’s march is about speaking out in support of science together.”

OTHER NON-ARTILES NEWSSUPREME COURT OKS GAMBLING CONTROL, FELON VOTING RIGHTS AMENDMENTS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The state’s highest court gave its approval for proposed state constitutional amendments on voter approval of new gambling and restoring voting rights to ex-cons. But there’s a big ‘if’ before either can be placed on the 2018 statewide ballot—both amendments still need hundreds of thousands of signatures. Moreover, Justices Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis dissented on the gambling amendment, saying “the ballot title and summary do not clearly inform the public that the proposed amendment may substantially affect slot machines approved by countywide (referendums).” The Florida Supreme Court does not pass judgment on subject matter, but reviews proposed amendments only to make sure they cover only one subject and that their ballot title and summary aren’t misleading.

DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 6; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 14; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 14; MLB All-Star Game – 80; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 133; Election Day 2017 – 199; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 237; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 261.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce March job numbers at 10 a.m. at Pelican Wire, 3650 Shaw Blvd. in Naples.

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

#FRANKGATE

LAWYER: FRANK ARTILES RACIAL SLURS OFFENSIVE, BUT THEY’RE ALSO FREE SPEECH via The Associated Press – A lawyer representing [Artiles] who could be punished for using a racial slur and other vulgarities says he’ll present evidence that other senators have used similar language. Lawyer Steven Andrews wrote to the Senate lawyer reviewing the case and said the complaint shouldn’t be pursued because Artiles’ statements — as offensive as they were — are protected under his constitutional rights to free speech. He also said the Senate lawyer, Dawn Roberts, shouldn’t handle the case because she’s also represented Artiles and witnesses who would be called to testify.

A FOUR-NAME BYLINE STORY HERE: “Artiles controversy engulfs Florida Senate with two weeks left of Session” by the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald

PAM BONDI: ARTILES SHOULD CONSIDER RESIGNING OVER RACIAL SLUR via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Bondi became the first state Republican leader to suggest Artiles should leave office for using a slang version of the N-word and other derogatory language during a heated discussion with colleagues. “There is simply no room for racial, hurtful language spoken to your colleagues or anyone else,” Bondi [said]. “I have always liked Frank and hope he gives serious consideration to resigning so the focus can return to important legislative issues.” Bondi stopped short of definitively calling for Artiles’ expulsion from the Florida Senate.

LEGISLATIVE JEWISH CAUCUS URGES SENATE TO EXPEL ARTILES via Florida PoliticsThe Florida Legislative Jewish Caucus “denounced” Artiles Thursday, urging his Senate colleagues to toss him out of the Legislature. “(We) denounce Senator Frank Artiles for his racist, sexist, and otherwise inflammatory comments directed at some of his Senate colleagues,” they said in a statement. The statement was signed by Rep. Richard Stark, chair, and Reps. Lori Berman, Ben Diamond, Joe Geller and Emily Slosberg, and Sen. Kevin Rader. All are Democrats.

FLORIDA’S NAACP JOINS THOSE CALLING FOR ARTILES’ RESIGNATION via Florida PoliticsThe head of the NAACP Florida State Conference is calling for state Sen. Artiles to step down. The organization “stands fully behind the Florida Legislative Black Caucus … and several groups who have called for the resignation of Miami Senator Frank Artiles,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of Florida’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People … “A public apology is not good enough … Do us a favor, take your racist language and racist actions and resign,” said Nweze, also a member of the NAACP’s National Board of Directors.

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OSCAR BRAYNON, FOUR OTHER DEMOCRATS, SET TO FILE IN SUPPORT OF ARAMIS AYALA via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Five Democratic lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Braynon are preparing to file a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Orlando’s State Attorney Ayala in her effort to challenge Gov. Scott‘s power to take cases away from her. Braynon, state Sens. Jeff Clemens, Perry Thurston and Gary Farmer and state Rep. Sean Shaw all filed a request with the Supreme Court to enter an amicus brief supporting Ayala and opposing Scott. The court quickly approved it. They explicitly stated in their friend-of-the-court brief would “provide an alternative perspective to that of amici Florida House of Representatives.”

BUDGET CHIEFS SOUND HOPEFUL AS CLOCK TICKS ON STATE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS via Florida Politics – With two weeks and change remaining in the 2017 Legislative Session, House and Senate budget leaders are professing optimism that they can resolve their differences and adjourn on time May 5. House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo — and Jack Latvala, his Senate counterpart — both said Thursday they hope to begin formal budget conference negotiations soon. “We have to. If not, we’re running out of time,” Trujillo told reporters.  The process is driven by “just the natural timetable for sine die May 5,” he said. …  “I think we need to start in conference by the first of the week in order to get done on time,” Latvala said. “But I have every confidence that we will do that at this point — which is different from my opinion the first part of this week. We’ve made a lot of progress.”

— “How the Legislature could $1.5 billion in extra Medicaid money for something other than hospitals” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

HOUSE SPEAKER: THERE’S TIME TO ADDRESS SCHOOL RECESS, BUT NO PROMISES via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – When asked if the House would take up a parent-supported bill (SB 78), which passed the Senate unanimously two weeks ago, Corcoran said: “What I’d say on that is: We have two weeks left. There’s a lot of activity on the recess bill that’s still happening, and anything is possible.” The House version of the recess bill — which was significantly watered down and is no longer supported by parents, health and physical education experts or the lawmaker sponsoring it — is stalled in a committee that’s not scheduled to meet again. There is no visible action by House members that indicates that status would change. Senators, meanwhile, are trying another route to force the House to consider the proposal they passed, which would require elementary schools to offer 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, separate from physical education classes.

GAMBLING CONFERENCE WON’T MEET TILL NEXT WEEK via Florida Politics – Conference members had planned to meet Thursday, then a notice went out: “The Conference Committee on Gaming will NOT meet today and will not meet before Monday, April 24.” Blame it on the Supreme Court’s decision that same day to approve the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment for the 2018 ballot, vice-chair and state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said. Chair and state Sen. Bill Galvano wanted to make sure over the weekend that the amendment “wouldn’t affect the Senate’s offer,” Diaz said in a phone interview. Galvano didn’t respond to a phone message. Also, committee members Jared Moskowitz and Joe Geller had personal matters requiring their attention in South Florida and had to leave Tallahassee, Diaz added.

TWEET, TWEET: @MearKat00: If you put a legislative calendar up to your ear and listen very closely you can hear the sound of bills dying.

BILLS ARE DYING, BUT CHILDREN ARE DYING: “Foster care agency leaders quit amid teen suicides, other turmoil” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald

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‘EYEBALL WARS’ BILL, SLATED FOR HOUSE COMMITTEE, GOES UNHEARD via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – A bill seeking to expand what optometrists could do — namely, performing surgery and prescribing opiates — was an agenda item in the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee … However, the bill at the center of Florida’s Eyeball Wars went unheard. HB 1037, sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, barely cleared Health and Human Services Health Quality Subcommittee last month, on an 8-7 vote … A similar controversy was expected in the full committee, but it didn’t manifest.

HOUSE MOVES CLOSER TO SENATE ON CHANGES TO STATE TESTING SYSTEM via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Rep. Manny Diaz, sponsor of the “Fewer Better Tests Act,” tied several of the ideas from that bill into a separate effort to allow parents and others to see certain state tests after students take them. The Diaz amendment would, among other things … Eliminate the state Algebra II end-of-course exam … Require paper-based state language arts and math tests for third- through sixth-grade … Move the state testing window to later in the spring, and shrink it to a shorter time frame … Change the value-added model of evaluating teachers.

FLORIDA MAY MAKE IT EASIER TO GET RID OF SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS via The Associated Press – The House voted 94-25 for a bill that would allow parents and residents to review instructional materials and then challenge them as inappropriate before a hearing officer. A similar bill is also moving in the Florida Senate. Critics of the bill contend that it could lead to schools removing books that discuss topics such as climate change or evolution. But Rep. Byron Donalds, sponsoring the bill, maintains that the legislation is about giving people an opportunity to raise questions about textbooks. He noted that local school districts would still have the final say on whether the materials should still be used.

HOUSE ADVANCES JUVENILE JUSTICE BILL, ADDING ADULT DIVERSION PROGRAM via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The House version (HB 205), sponsored by Seminole Republican Larry Ahern, changed again in the House Judiciary Committee … would expunge the arrests of juveniles for certain first-time misdemeanor crimes. That differs significantly from its Senate companion. Miami Republican Anitere Flores‘ bill (SB 196) would mandate civil citations to juveniles for a number of first-time misdemeanors. Longwood Republican Scott Plakon‘s amendment to HB 205 would allow adults arrested for certain crimes to go into a pre-arrest diversion program. That insertion upset Venice Republican Julio Gonzalez, who for more than a year had been working on the legislation to address juveniles. He said a number of issues regarding the juvenile component of the bill remain unresolved. Those issues were now “tainted” by the discussion over adults, Gonzalez argued.

LAWMAKERS APPROVE ATTORNEY FEE TWEAK TO PUBLIC RECORD LAW via Florida PoliticsLawmakers on Thursday unanimously passed a compromise measure on winners of public records lawsuits collecting attorney fees, sending the bill to Gov. Scott. The House passed the Senate bill (SB 80) on a 115-0 vote. The legislation requires judges to award attorney fees if they find an agency broke the public records law and a “requestor” gave five days’ notice before filing suit. Most importantly, a judge must determine if a request was for an “improper purpose,” such as intentionally forcing an agency to break the records law or for a “frivolous” reason.

— “House financial literacy bill passes final committee” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE VOTE SENDS SOLAR TAX BREAK BILL TO THE SENATE FLOOR via Florida Politics – Senate implementing legislation for last year’s solar energy referendum passed its final committee test … when the Appropriations Committee voted its unanimous approval. The bill by St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes would implement $54.5 million in annual solar breaks on local taxes, approved by Florida voters via Amendment 4 in August. SB 90, supported by environmental groups and solar panel installers, lacks the same safety standards and disclosure requirements found in the House version, HB 1351. Brandes said the House is moving toward the Senate’s position. “We’re going to continue to work with them. The landing site in in sight on this bill,” Brandes said.

WELFARE CHANGES IN FLORIDA INCLUDE TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR RECIPIENTS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Welfare recipients in Florida would face tougher penalties for failing to meet work requirements and some food stamp recipients could become ineligible if lawmakers in the Florida House have their way. The chamber passed a set of changes to Florida’s welfare laws by an 82-38 vote with three Democrats joining Republicans in support. It’s a move supporters say is supposed to help people who receive cash assistance from the state to find good jobs and discourage reliance on government. “We’re trying to help individuals, we’re trying to curb fraud and abuse and get rid of this system of dependency,” said Rep. Dane Eagle the bill sponsor. “We don’t want people to be dependent on the state. We want them to be gainfully employed.” But opponents say Eagle’s legislation (HB 23) — also a priority of House Speaker Corcoran — is an attack on the poor.

BILL BANNING STEROID USE ON GREYHOUNDS PASSES HOUSE via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – HB 743 would prohibit the use of anabolic steroids at any point in the Greyhounds career. Any licensees caught in violation of the law could lose their license and be subject to a fine of up to $10,000. While the bill had broad bipartisan support and Republican Alex Miller as a co-sponsor, there was still some debate opposing the legislation “My concern is that we’re making an emotional argument and not a factual one” said Rick Roth, a Republican from Palm Beach, citing an underlying motive to ban dog racing altogether. “My concern is that we’re jumping off the cliff too fast.” Other opponents argue that steroids are given to female dogs in heat to simply keep male greyhounds away. In closing, Smith thanked the House Speaker for letting the facts drive the discussion on the legislation instead of partisan politics. The bill passed with 84 votes in favor and 32 votes in opposition.

***Learn the facts! FHCA knows Florida’s seniors deserve the best! The Senate’s proposed nursing home reimbursement plan creates incentives for quality and will dramatically improve care for our seniors.***

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – NEWEST DRAFT RULES GOVERNING 2022 SPEAKERS RACE: MEMBERS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR NOMINATION IF THEY VIOLATE GOP CONFERENCE RULES via Florida Politics — An updated draft of rules governing the election of the Republican’s freshman caucus leader — and eventual Speaker of the House — moves up the organizational meeting and stipulates a member found in violation of Republican conference rules would be ineligible for consideration. Reps. Ralph Massullo and Michael Grant have been tasked with writing draft rules to help guide the freshman class’s decision-making process. While new rules approved by members this year banned any active speaker’s races until June 30, the draft election rules are meant to spell out how the freshman class would ultimately pick its leader. But, perhaps the most notable change is the provision that outlines exactly who is eligible to become leader. When it came to nominations, the earlier draft of rules only noted that nominations “shall be from the floor and must receive a first and a second to be a valid nomination. Members may be the first or second for their own nomination.” New draft rules, however, go a step further. According to the latest version of the rules, a caucus member would be ineligible to be nominated if the House Speaker declares the member in violation of House Republican Conference Rules.

HOUSE APPROVES SIX-YEAR LOBBYING BAN FOR FORMER LAWMAKERS, ELECTED OFFICIALS via Florida Politics – The House approved tough new ethics legislation Thursday barring members of the Legislature and statewide elected officials from lobbying their former colleagues for six years after leaving office. The measure also would prevent officials from leveraging their authority to seek jobs from or going into business with lobbyists. CS/SB 7083 passed on a vote of 118-0, even though Speaker Corcoran has conceded the Senate has little interest in boosting ethics laws this year, and with the scheduled end of session a little more than two weeks away. … Existing law restricts lobbying by former lawmakers and elected officials for two years.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Gregory BlackJames DaughtonWarren HusbandAndrew Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton: American Association of Payers, Administrators and Networks

Scott Dick, SKD Consulting: AMOAF

Mike Haridopolos: I.O. Inc

Marc Reichelderfer, Landmarc Strategies: Bombardier Transportation

TAMELA PERDUE WILL JOIN VOLUNTEER FLORIDA FOUNDATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS via Florida Politics – Perdue was unanimously approved by the Volunteer Florida Foundation Board of Directors and the Volunteer Florida Commission. Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman said, “We are thrilled to have Tammy join the Volunteer Florida Foundation Board. She brings an extraordinary amount of executive leadership and private-sector insight to the Board and we look forward to serving with her.” Perdue serves as Senior Vice President of Legislative and Government Affairs for Sunshine Health, one of Florida’s largest health plans.

WEEKEND TV

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Cruise Missiles over Syria. Bombs over Afghanistan, Aircraft Carriers off the Korean Peninsula, Russian Nuclear Bombers flying 36 miles off the coast of Alaska – are we headed for war? Dr. James discusses the recent shows of force with political analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The Sunday morning show will kick off with a segment on what everyone in Tallahassee is talking about: Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles’ slur-filled rant at the Governor’s Club. The PolitiFact Trump-O-Meter rates the current status of the president’s campaign promise to dramatically scale back the EPA. On the Common Grounds segment, guests Kevin Doyle of the Consumer Energy Alliance and former Rep. Dick Batchelor look at the EPA regulations rollback and discuss how it could affect the environmental climate and the business climate moving forward.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Congressmen John Rutherford and Ron DeSantis will make an appearance, while the panel will consist of Carlton Robinson of the Jax Chamber, Ellen Sullivan of BairFind, Jeannie Fredrick of Women Business Owners of NE Florida, and Iris Simmons of The Genesi Group.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Steve VancoreGary Yordon and Sean Pittman will be joined by none other than some guy named Peter Schorsch.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Lloyd Dunkelberger, Andrew Hall, and a true Florida gentleman who doesn’t even read Sunburn, Erik Suskey.

Sunburn for 4.20.17 – Frank Artiles defiant; Steph Smith’s big day; Senate’s first gambling offer; Black bears are safe; NSFW tennis

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

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

LET’S HOPE SOMEONE LOVES FRANK ARTILES ENOUGH TO GET HIM SOME HELP

On a busy day of hearings in a busy week of the legislative session, a south Florida woman wanted a picture of herself and a friend and the rain pouring outside the Knott Building. She scanned the immediate vicinity for a friendly face, and held her iPhone out to Jacksonville’s Audrey Gibson.

Plainly the tourist had no idea that Gibson was a member of an elite, exclusive, and powerful club. The tourist was utterly unaware that the elegant lady she approached is one of a tiny handful of Floridians upon whom the sun rises and sets in #TheProcess. Most definitely, the tourist had no clue that hundreds of people are paid hundreds of millions of dollars to catch a moment of the time of this woman, and her 39 colleagues in the Florida Senate.

Gibson smiled, took the iPhone, and spent a stunning amount of time considering camera angles and composing multiple shots.

This is the gracious public servant that Frank Artiles refers to as a “fucking bitch.” To her face. At the members-only venue where people pay through the nose for a quiet place to eat, drink and do business, and pay extra for private lockers for their personalized cigars.

Artiles has a history of verbal violence toward women, African-Americans, and Muslims. His drunken diatribe Monday at the Governor’s Club is not the first time he has embarrassed himself in a bar. We now know that “pussy” is his go-to insult for a white male lawyer who outranks him in #TheProcess pecking order.

It has been suggested on the Sayfie Twitter Ticker, where some Floridians still get some information, that Artiles. a former Marine, may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Let’s put that one to rest. PTSD doesn’t cause bigotry, but alcohol makes bigots more likely to reveal their pre-existing prejudices.

Artiles didn’t much look like a Marine as he stood on the Senate floor to read an insincere, meaningless apology written for him by some hastily-assembled Committee to Save Artiles Career. The Senator from a Diverse Miami Neighborhood shifted on his feet, looking like a rattled schoolboy as he rattled the pages of his prepared text.

When people can’t exercise the control and judgment we expect of a third grader, there is often a medical explanation. Let’s hope someone loves Artiles enough to help him find out.

OSCAR BRAYNON TO ARTILES: APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED via Florida Politics Senate Democratic Leader Braynon says fellow Sen. Artiles’ apology for using racial epithets and obscene insults is “not enough” and “the Senate must be compelled to act.”

“Senator Artiles appears to have an issue with people who don’t look like him, who don’t think like him, and who don’t act like him,” Braynon said. “Worse, this isn’t just one isolated incident; rather, it’s an extremely troubling pattern that continues to escalate.”

SENATE SETS TIGHT TIMELINE FOR INVESTIGATION

Senate Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto has appointed the chamber’s top lawyer to investigate a complaint by next Tuesday seeking to remove Artiles from office. Senate President Joe Negron announced the move Wednesday in a memo to senators. Benacquisto “found that the complaint states facts supporting a finding of probable cause,” meaning it’s more likely than not that Artiles violated a Senate rule governing its members’ conduct.

Negron appointed Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts to be a special master, a quasi-judicial officer who hears cases and makes recommendations. Her “report and recommendation to the Committee on Rules (is due) by the close of business on Tuesday, April 25, 2017,” Negron said. 

— “Disgraceful Artiles incident wasn’t Joe Negron’s finest hour” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

ARTILES WANTS TO DEPOSE BLACK LAWMAKERS CALLING FOR HIS OUSTER via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Artiles is taking a defiant stance in the face of black lawmakers calling for him to be tossed from the Senate. Not only will he not resign, Artiles said he will run for re-election in two years and that he’ll fight the Rules complaint filed against him by hiring a lawyer and deposing all the members of the black caucus to show that he didn’t call Gibson a bitch, per se, and that he’s not a racist.

“There were several comments in the black caucus that were inaccurate, incorrect and not corroborated by me,” Artiles said. “Several comments made in the black caucus put me in a bad light because that’s not what was said.” Artiles said his dispute with Gibson stemmed from her vote against his legislation concerning property tax value adjustment boards. He responded by questioning her on her legislation concerning “Baker Acting” minors. “Audrey, stop being a b— on my bills and I’ll stop being a f—— ass—- on yours,” Artiles said he told her.

TWEET, TWEET:

CALLING FOR ARTILES RESIGNATION:

Andrew Gillum (read here)

Chris King (read here)

Equality Florida (read here)

Tampa Bay Times (read here)

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BILL SETTING STATEWIDE RULES FOR UBER, LYFT GOES TO GOVERNOR via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – After a four-year battle in the Florida Legislature, lawmakers passed statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft that would undo a patchwork of local rules across the state. Lawmakers were quick to send the measure (HB 221) to Gov. Scott, who has yet to take a definitive stand on the issue. If it is signed into law, Florida would create a single statewide set of rules on the ride-hailing industry. Uber and Lyft currently have tens of thousands of drivers in Florida, and the proposed legislation would help them expand their app-based services throughout the state. With this bill, local ordinances targeting ridesharing services would be overturned July 1. That includes local rules in the Florida Keys where Uber and Lyft can’t operate.

From left to right, the PR and lobbying team of Kasra Moshkani, Javi Correoso, Stephanie Smith, Colin Tooze, Cesar Fernandez, Brad Nail, Natalia Montalvo and Anna Alexopoulos celebrate Wednesday’s final passage of statewide regulation for rideshare companies, including their client, Uber.

RICHARD CORCORAN ACTUALLY THANKS FSU FOR RETURNING CONTROVERSIAL APPROPRIATION via Florida Politics – Corcoran thanked Florida State President John Thrasher for returning money from a now controversial appropriation. The university got part of an appropriation for Florida Psychological Associates, a firm operated by friends of Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican. “I recognize that the lack of direction … placed FSU in a situation it did not seek,” Corcoran wrote in a letter dated Tuesday, saying Thrasher’s willingness to return the money was “commendable.”

HOUSE OKS LEGISLATION TARGETING SOARING WORKERS COMPENSATION PREMIUMS via Florida Politics – The Florida House approved a workers’ compensation fixTuesday intended to answer the Florida Supreme Court’s objections to the system by adding flexibility on attorney fees in benefits challenges, and by boosting benefits for injured workers. The measure, HB 7085, passed on a vote of 82-37. Danny Burgess, whose Insurance & Banking Subcommittee pulled together the various interests in hours of hearings on the bill, conceded, “This product is not perfect.” Still, it would close a “statutory gap” in disability benefits and extend them from the existing 104 to 260 weeks; require carriers to grant or deny benefits quickly; and ensure appointment of a worker representative to a state panel that sets medical reimbursement rates compensation, he said.

ASSOCIATED INDUSTRIES DIGS THE BILL: “Since the Florida Supreme Court ruled Florida’s workers’ compensation system unconstitutional, AIF’s workers’ compensation task force has been saying we need solid measures that address Florida’s floundering system. Floridians deserve a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system, not one that leaves injured employees at the mercy of unscrupulous trial lawyers.  HB 7085 will help give Florida’s business community the tools needed to ensure injured workers are receiving benefits in a timely manner and at affordable prices to employers.”

CHECK OUT THIS “VIDEO OP-ED” FROM THE HOUSE ON THE WORKER COMP BILL:

HOUSE VOTES TO REPEAL FLORIDA’S PIP MANDATE FOR AUTO INSURANCE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The House voted to replace Florida personal-injury protection insurance mandate for motorists with a requirement that they buy bodily injury protection, upending an insurance system in place since 1971. “Today, we have the ability to start thinking about personal responsibility in a different way, and shifting that paradigm in the state of Florida in how we do auto insurance,” sponsor Erin Grall said. “It’s difficult to think about doing something different after 40-plus years, but it shouldn’t keep us from doing what’s best for Floridians,” she said. HB 1063, approved on an 89-29 vote, would require motorists to carry minimum bodily injury coverage worth $25,000 for injuries to another person, and $50,000 for injuries for two or more people.

HOUSE ADVANCES BILL GIVING POWER TO STATE LEGISLATORS FOR CRAS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics– A modified bill to put additional limits on Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRA) advanced in the House Government Accountability Committee. Local governments use CRAs to promote affordable housing, economic development, health and safety in under-served neighborhoods. They hold a set percentage of property taxes paid by residents of a community, investing that money — also known as tax incremental funding (TIF) — back into the area. Sponsored by Valrico Republican Jake Raburn (HB 13), the bill originally would have eliminated all CRAs formed after July 1, prohibit CRAs from taking on any new projects or debts after Oct. 1 and end all the state’s CRAs by 2037. However, that proposal received furious pushback from local officials throughout Florida. Raburn’s new bill would allow for the creation of CRA’s to continue, but only by having a local government official get buy-in from a state legislator, who would have to pass it as a local bill. His measure also limits what a CRA can spend their funds on.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS PUSH TO GIVE HOSPITALS GREATER SAY IN EXPANSION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – For four decades, hospitals wanting to expand or open new facilities have had to get the state to agree there’s a need for more health care in their community. It’s a rule that Republicans in the Florida House say creates unnecessary burdens on the free market. This week, they’ll be passing a bill to repeal it. But opponents of the repeal worry that allowing hospitals to build beds wherever they want will encourage health facilities to build in wealthy areas, leaving poor communities with limited options and safety net hospitals strapped for cash. Legislation (HB 7) to repeal the regulations, called CON (certificate of need), is expected to pass the Florida House, where it is a priority of Speaker Corcoran … It also has the endorsement of Gov. Scott, who called it one of his top health care priorities this year.

CHEERS: HOUSE ‘BEER GLASS’ BILL CLEARS LAST COMMITTEE via Florida PoliticsFlorida bars and restaurants could be gifted with free branded beer glasses under a bill that’s now ready for the House floor. The legislation (HB 853) was OK’d with no debate by the Commerce Committee, its last panel of reference … It would allow distributors to give to bars and restaurants up to three cases per year of glasses from brewers that are imprinted with beer names and logos. Now, glasses have to be sold. The measure has stoked controversy, however. Smaller craft brewers have said they can’t afford to keep up with what will likely be a flood of free glasses from Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser and Bud Light.

SENATE DEALS “LOW HANGING FRUIT” IN HOUSE GAMBLING OFFER via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – (Sen. Bill) Galvano said he won’t offer any major changes to the Senate’s proposal, which embraces the expansion of gambling in Florida and is at complete odds with the House’s proposal that cracks down on gambling. Instead, his focus will be on clearing up definitions of certain games like slot machines and dealing with “low hanging fruit” like a recent lawsuit involving a company that has made a computer game that is very similar to a slot machine. Under current law, casino-style gambling is generally illegal in Florida, and these games are exclusively granted to the Seminole tribe outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

SENATE VOTES TO ALLOW BEER ADS IN THEME PARKS, ‘MERLOT TO GO’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The measure (SB 388), sponsored by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson … eases the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. Universal Orlando has supported the bill. Some beer industry representatives had privately complained. However, they “fear being extorted by the theme parks.” The bill also repeals a state law to permit wine bottles of all sizes to be sold. That includes the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles. Further, it would repeal another state law that requires diners to order and consume a full meal — “consisting of a salad or vegetable, entree, a beverage and bread” — before they can take home an opened bottle of wine.

ANOTHER SESSION WILL END WITH THE REVILED WRITE-IN LOOPHOLE INTACT via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Another year will pass without lawmakers closing the notorious “write-in loophole” that candidates, consultants and political parties use to manipulate election outcomes by preventing independent voters from having a voice in primary elections in all 67 counties. Rep. Danny Burgess … filed a one-sentence bill intended to close the loophole. It reads: “If a primary election would, if not for the presence of one or more write-in candidates, be open to all qualified electors pursuant to Sec. 5(b), Art. VI of the state constitution, the primary election shall be open to all qualified electors.” (Simple enough, right?) Burgess’ HB 1381 never received a hearing.

EYEBALL WARS RAGE AS DOZENS OF MEDICAL GROUPS OPPOSE OPTOMETRISTS, CLAIMING ‘SERIOUS THREAT’ TO CARE via Florida Politics – A growing number of medical professionals have joined forces in a wave of disapproval of optometrists in Florida’s “Eyeball Wars,” which is now making way through Tallahassee. HB 1037, which seeks to allow optometrists to perform surgery and prescribe opiates, among other things, now sits on the agenda of the House Health & Human Services Committee. This week, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at University of Miami School of Medicine became the latest medical group to publicly oppose the bill, adding its name to a list that now stands at two dozen. In the letter, Bascom Palmer Ophthalmology Chair Dr. Eduardo Alfonso, joined by Vice Chair Dr. Steven Geddeand medical director Dr. Stephen Schwartz, warn: “There are no shortcuts to learning to safely perform eye surgery. Ophthalmologists complete four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical education, one year of internship, and then three years of ophthalmology residency training, such as that provided at Bascom Palmer … In summary, we believe that HB 1037 and [Senate companion] SB 1168 represent a serious threat to patient safety, public welfare and quality of care … The citizens of Florida deserve far better than the superficial and inadequate ‘training’ that is provided for in these bills.”

FANTASY SPORTS INTERESTS MAKING LATE LEGISLATIVE PUSH IN FLORIDA via Florida PoliticsA fantasy sports advocacy group is emailing supporters, asking them to write to Florida lawmakers to “keep fantasy sports in the Sunshine State.” Fantasy Sports for All, backed by FanDuel, provides multiple pre-written calls to action their customers can send to legislators … “There are more than 3 million of us in the state that love to play fantasy sports. Please pass legislation that ensures we can continue playing the games we love” … Members of the House and Senate plan to meet in conference Thursday to begin working out differences between their gambling legislation passed this year. The Senate’s bill would “create the Fantasy Contest Amusement Act to regulate daily fantasy sports; ” a House bill, separate from its gambling package, declares fantasy sports to be non-gambling and thus legal to play.

SHOES ARE STARK REMINDERS OF SEXUAL ABUSE via Florida Politics – An emotional and eye-opening display featuring about 1,000 shoes worn, decorated and submitted by sexual assault survivors of all ages from across the state of Florida – with accompanying stories – are decorating the Capitol rotunda through Friday of this week. They commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The display, hosted by Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV) asks others to “Walk in My Shoes” – the shoes of someone who has been affected by sexual violence. “Our smallest shoe was submitted by the mother of an infant, and the largest shoe was sent in by a 50-year-old man,” said Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book, an abuse survivor.

***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.***

HAPPENING TODAY – FLORIDA SPORTS DAY AT THE CAPITOL — The Florida Sports Foundation will celebrate all thing sports during Florida Sports Day at the Capitol on Thursday. The event runs from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., and is meant to showcase the sports entities that make Florida one of the top sports destinations in the state. The event will feature mascots from Florida’s professional teams, race cars, and an interactive fishing boat from the Coastal Conservation Association Florida. The organization will also recognize the amateur sports Athletes of the Year during a ceremony at 12:30 p.m.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Judiciary Committee will discuss a series a bills, including an estoppel bill, when it meets at 8 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. Financial literacy is on the agenda when the Education Committee meets at 9 a.m. in 102 House Office building. Over in the Health & Human Services Committee, members will be asked to take up a bill to remove requirement to pre-register cosmetic products with DBPR when they meet at 9 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up several bills when it meets at 10 a.m. in 412 Knott. The committee is expected to take up a bill to implement the August 2016 solar power constitutional amendment, a bill to allow residents of a county to object to materials used in the classroom, and a bill to create pilot projects to cultivate, process and test industrial hemp.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will present the Freedom Award to to Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez,” Cary Roque and Angel de Fana for their efforts to fight for freedom and democracy in Cuba during a ceremony at 9:30 a.m.at The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, 1200 Coral Way in Miami. He’ll then head to Tampa, where he will attend a groundbreaking ceremony for NewSouth Window Solutions’ new manufacturing and distribution facility at 2 p.m.at the Crossroads Commerce Center, 4330 Williams Road.

NO BLACK BEAR HUNT FOR 2017 via The Associated Press – The state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 7-0 on Wednesday to direct their staff to revamp the bear management plan and report back in two years. That came after a motion to hold a bear hunt this year was voted down 4-3. FWC executive director Nick Wiley said before public comments that while the agency believes science and population numbers support another bear hunt, there is still more work to do to convince the public.

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DID ‘PUTNAM FOR GOVERNOR’ TWITTER FLUB BREAK ELECTION LAW via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam appeared to skirt state election law Wednesday when his Twitter account mistakenly posted a message that bore an “Adam Putnam for Governor” logo — even though he’s not 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.

DANIEL SOHN ANNOUNCED AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER BID via Florida Politics — Daniel Sohn announced Wednesday he was throwing his hat in the race to replaced Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in two years. In a 2 minute and 30 second video announcing his intentions, Sohn he plans to meet with Floridians, business and environmental groups about how to improve the state. “Now there is no harm in recognizing that the success of Florida’s economy lies within the agricultural industry, for after all it is Florida’s economic engine,” he said in the video. “But Florida deserves a leader that can continue focusing on the needs of our industries, while beginning to do what Florida should have already been doing best — taking care of our people.” According to the campaign’s Facebook page, Sohn current serves as the district aide to Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson. Edmonson, according to a news release Wednesday, is coordinating his campaign. According to the campaign’s Facebook page, Sohn current serves as the district aide to Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson. Edmonson, according to a news release Wednesday, is coordinating his campaign.

STEVE HOUGH: FLORIDA’S CHANCE TO FIX ITS ‘RIGGED’ ELECTION SYSTEM via Florida Politics – Florida has a once in a generation opportunity to fix our “rigged” political system via the Constitution Revision Commission. If you’re like me, you don’t need some expert to tell you about the adverse effects of gerrymandering. Acrimonious partisan rhetoric, high-dollar campaign financing, and a terrible closed primary system locking out 3.1 million independent voters in our state, has allowed power to shift from citizens to politicians and party leaders. Despite very little notice of the commission hearings, Floridians are packing rooms to speak their minds. One of the key topics cited by dozens of speakers: getting rid of the horrible closed primary system that locks out over a quarter of our registered voters and forces politicians to cater to a small fraction of the electorate during the primary, where the majority of races are actually decided. These primary voters are often the most ideologically extreme in both major parties. The commission will continue these public hearings for some time. It’s critical we keep up this drumbeat at every meeting, and increase the volume. The time is now. The concern is real. We demand change. We want open primaries. Commissioners, are you listening?

FLORIDA PROSECUTORS’ GROUP TO WEIGH IN ON RICK SCOTT’S SIDE IN ARAMIS AYALA DISPUTE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association – which represents the state’s 20 state attorneys including Ayala – will be filing an amicus brief against her and supporting Gov. Scott‘s power to reassign state attorneys’ cases. The association filed a motion requesting the chance to weigh in as a friend of the court on Scott’s side, and the Florida Supreme Court quickly approved it … Ayala challenged the governor’s authority to do so last week in a write of quo warrento to the Supreme Court, and in a separate lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Her colleagues, apparently, agree that Scott has the power to intercede and reassign state attorneys’ cases.

PERSONNEL NOTE: ALEX BURGOS DEPARTING MARCO RUBIO’S OFFICE, JOINING TECHNET AS VP via Florida Politics — TechNet, a network of technology CEOs and executives, announced Wednesday that Burgos would serve as its vice president of federal policy, government relations and communications. “As a seasoned veteran of Capitol Hill and federal campaigns at all levels, Alex brings a wealth of policy experience, deep relationships, and strategic vision to TechNet,” said Linda Moore, the president and CEO of TechNet in a statement. “We are excited to welcome Alex to the TechNet team and believe his wide range of skills, experience, and insights will take our federal advocacy programs to new levels of success.” Burgos joined Rubio’s team when the Miami Republican was first running for office, serving as his campaign’s communications director. He would go on to serve in the same role in Rubio’s U.S. Senate office. “Serving Senator Rubio and my home state of Florida has been the honor of a lifetime, and now I’m thrilled to partner with TechNet’s members to advance the policies that will spur the next chapter of America’s incredible innovation story,” said Burgos in a statement.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Lisa Aaron, Lisa Aaron Consulting: McAfee, Inc

Randy EnwrightClay BarkerJames Rimes, Enwright Consulting Group: Marsy’s Law for All

Gregory Black, James DaughtonAimee Diaz LyonAndy Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton: Donate Life Florida

Ron BookKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Association for Clear and Compassionate Governance of Substance Abuse Treatment

Candice Ericks, Ericks Advocacy Group: True Frame

Kenneth GrangerDean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Philips North America; Tellus

James Harris, James E. Harris Jr.: Hartman & Tyner, Inc

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Lutheran Services Florida

Ashley Kalifeh, Capital City Consulting: Philips North America

Steven Marin, Marin and Sons: Florida Power & Light Company

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Marsy’s Law for All

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of Orlando

David Singerson, Capital Hills Consultants: Hartman & Tyner, Inc

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Tech Ambience

Stephen Winn, Stephen R. Winn and Associates: Association for Clear and Compassionate Governance of Substance Abuse Treatment

***How does drug pricing work?  Find out at DrugBenefitSolutions.com and get the facts on how PBMs reduce prescription drug costs for Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs.***

LOUD SEX SOUNDS INTERRUPT PRO TENNIS MATCH IN FLORIDA via The Associated Press – Frances Tiafoewas about to serve Mitchell Krueger during their match in the Sarasota Open when he paused and flashed a smile of disbelief over the sound of a woman moaning in pleasure. Broadcaster Mike Cation initially described the sounds as coming from someone playing a pornographic video in the stands, but later said they were coming from an apartment nearby. Both players had fun with the situation while the crowd laughed. Kreuger hit a ball sharply in the direction of the sounds, and Tiafoe screamed, “It can’t be that good!” Cation later saluted the responsible couple on Twitter, writing “Sounds like you guys had a good time!” Click on the image to below to watch video from the match.

GONDOLAS WILL RISE AGAIN AT WALT DISNEY WORLD via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Walt Disney World Resort will erect a gondola ride between two of its parks and three hotels, but it’s nothing like the Skyway attraction that once linked Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The 10-passenger gondolas will have six stations and with three lines linking Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, the Caribbean Beach Resort and the lakeside area that straddles Pop Century and the Art of Animation resorts … ski-style gondolas may help alleviate the wait for some guests. The Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group, an Austrian/Swiss manufacturer of trams, cable cars, chairlifts and urban people movers will develop the system. The company built the Hogwarts Express elevated train between the two Harry Potter lands at Universal Orlando Resort.

LAST KILLER WHALE IS BORN AT A SEAWARD PARK via Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press – The Orlando-based company said the orca – the last in a generation of whales bred in confinement – was born Wednesday afternoon. SeaWorld did not immediately name the calf because the park’s veterinarians had not yet determined whether it was male or female. The mother, 25-year-old Takara, was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced in March 2016 that it had stopped breeding its orcas. The gestation period for orcas is about 18 months. The calf will be visible to visitors either in the orca stadium pool at the San Antonio park or in two adjacent pools. Observations about the calf and Takara by SeaWorld trainers will be provided from the moment of birth to researchers trying to fill gaps in their data about wild killer whales.

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – If it’s Thursday, it must be Italian Day at the Governors Club with minestrone soup; Italian meat & cheese salad; Mediterranean green salad – iceberg, romaine, red onion, Kalamata olives, crouton, grape tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, pepperoncini – seasonal greens; three dressing sections; rosemary rose pork loin; chicken cacciatore; gnocchi with olive oil & Parmesan cheese; grilled vegetables and Italian style zucchini.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to state Rep. Randy Fine, our friend Bill Rufty, and the handsome Justin Thames.

Sunburn for 4.19.17 – Just another slow day in the Capitol

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

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

PRO-POT FORCES WANT MORE RESTRICTIONS? WAIT, WHAT?

Legislating can be a complex convoluted mess. I get that.

But the complex convolution has hit an apex when the pro-Amendment 2 forces are lobbying – and to be really clear, SUPPORTING – a limitation on how many dispensaries a medical cannabis license holder can open.

Yes, these same forces (and I won’t name names here, but you know who you are) have convinced several Senators to support a highly restrictive limitation on the number of retail outlets a licensee can have. You can’t make this up. Those who support allowing the broadest number of patients the opportunity to have medical marijuana are supporting the most severe restrictions on licensees.

And don’t give me the malarkey about Pennsylvania doing it. No, it doesn’t. You can’t compare Pennsylvania’s non-vertical model with Florida’s. That comparison makes no sense.

Here’s the “logic.” If we restrict the number of outlets, then patients will be denied, people will scream and yell and then Florida lawmakers will be forced to expand the number of licenses. (So, if they are in that situation, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if they just expand the number of dispensaries each licensee could open? Sorry, I digress.)

Look, we get it. The pro-Amendment 2 forces want more licensees. The bid losers want more licensees. Other farmers/growers and those with cash-burning pocket holes want more licensees. So they are using this tactic to force someone’s hand.

But this seems a little risky. It feels more than a little disingenuous to try and force the hand of lawmakers with such a plan that could seriously backfire. What if they actually passed this? Then where are we? Licensees won’t be worth 1/10th what they are now. Patients will be denied access for at least another year or two. And the pro-medical marijuana forces will have cut their noses for spite.

We hear a lot about the 71% who voted to support Amendment 2. We hear that from those who want expansion and who demand it now. Yes, the vast majority of Floridians voted to allow sick people to smoke medical weed. And there are some excellent people pushing to make sure a fair law implements the will of the voters.

Good.

But if those same people are pushing for severe restrictions for some political game, well someone is going to be mad.

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CLEARS MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL, DESPITE CONCERNS FROM ADVOCATES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics –  HB 1397 by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues would implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The proposal now heads to the Health & Human Services Committee, the final stop before a vote of the full House. The bill, among other things, calls for a 90-day waiting period before a physician can recommend medical marijuana; prohibits smoking, vaping and edibles; and calls for new licenses to be issued after 150,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry. While generally viewed as more restrictive than the Senate proposal (SB 406), Rodrigues said he has been in negotiations with the Senate about what the final proposal could look like. “This bill is a work in progress,” said the Estero Republican. “Our goal is to produce a bill that honors the spirit of the constitutional amendment.”

HOUSE DEMOCRATS WAKE UP ON WEED via Florida Politics – Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee – led by the always entertaining, snarky and whip-smart Jared Moskowitz – suddenly woke up on medical marijuana. It was a huge turnaround from just a few weeks ago. When HB 1397 – the House’s medical marijuana implementing legislation, filed by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues – had the first hearing a few weeks ago in the Health Quality Subcommittee, it sailed through with nary a word from Democrats on the committee. This was somewhat surprising, given medical marijuana’s political history in Florida. The issue has always enjoyed a significant degree of bipartisan support with voters, while divided along sharply partisan lines in Tallahassee. While 118 of 120 House districts gave Amendment 2 north of 60 percent support in the November elections, Democratic districts were much more likely to offer support – in the mid-to-high 70s. Given the current disparity between the implementation proposals of the House and Senate, as well as Rodrigues’ acknowledgment of negotiations already occurring between the chambers, Democrats might necessarily have a degree of input on this legislation, as they have carved out for themselves on gaming.

TWEET, TWEET:

SPEAKING OF POLLARA… WHY I HOPE JOHN MORGAN RUNS FOR GOVERNOR BUT DOUBT HE WILL via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – So many see Morgan as a potentially game-changing candidate for Florida governor in 2018. Alas, as much fun as he would be to cover, my hunch is Morgan ultimately takes a pass. Why? Because he seems to be enjoying himself enormously these days, feeding his entrepreneurial passion on little-noticed ventures that could revolutionize the legal industry. Because running for governor of America’s biggest swing state would draw endless nasty attacks that could seriously damage the Morgan family brand as he hands off the Morgan & Morgan firm to his sons. Because accomplishing top Morgan priorities, especially raising the minimum wage, would be easier through a ballot initiative much like his medical marijuana initiative, than running and serving as governor. And because Morgan has a driving desire to be liked and sounds like he truly loathes the idea of subjecting himself to a campaign.

SCOOP – SCOTT ARCENEAUX JOINING ANDREW GILLUM CAMPAIGN via Florida Politics — The former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party is joining Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign as a chief strategist. “I’m thrilled to welcome Scott Arceneaux to our growing campaign for Governor. Scott brings a wealth of knowledge and savvy about the Sunshine State to our team, and I’m excited to welcome him as our chief strategist,” said Gillum in a statement. “Over the years he has fearlessly led the Florida Democratic Party on the fights that matter: securing and protecting affordable healthcare; standing up for every Floridian no matter where they come from or who they love; and protecting our natural resources and environment. I can’t wait for him to join us on this journey to win back the Governor’s Mansion in 2018.” Arceneaux, who had served as the executive director since 2009, announced he was resigning in January. The announcement came just weeks after Stephen Bittel was elected chairman of the state party. … Prior to joining the Florida Democratic Party, Arceneaux served as a general consultant for the Democratic Governors’ Association, was the national political director for Chris Dodd’s presidential campaign; and has served as campaign manager for congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns.

— “Phillip Levine courts Orange County Democrats ahead of likely run for Governor” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

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FRANK ARTILES CURSES AT BLACK LAWMAKER — AND REFERS TO FELLOW REPUBLICANS AS ‘NIGGAS’ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald Frank Artilesdropped the N-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation — after calling one of them a “f*cking asshole,” a “b*tch” and a “girl,” the two senators said. Over drinks after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol, Artiles told Sens. Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart had risen to his powerful GOP leadership role because “six niggers” in the Republican caucus had elected him. Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston that he’d used the word “niggas,” suggesting the slang term was not meant to be insulting

… Artiles apologized to Gibson after he’d been reported to Republican leaders and news reporters started asking questions. “In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” Artiles said in a statement. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.” To Gibson and Thurston, it was clear Artiles wasn’t referring to them or to any other Democrats as “niggas” but apparently to six Republicans who favored Negron for the job over Sen. Jack Latvala.

ARTILES’ EXCUSE: “I’m from Hialeah.

SEN. PREZ ISSUES STATEMENT LATE TUESDAY NIGHT: “Senator Braynon reported this incident to me earlier today, and I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner. My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening. Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President. Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow’s sitting, during which he intends to formally apologize to Senator Gibson on the Senate Floor.”

THIS IS WHAT ARTILES THINKS OF THE SENATE PRESIDENT: “He called Joe Negron a pussy,” said Sen. Thurston

BILL GALVANO COMES CLOSE TO CALLING FOR A RESIGNATION BUT STOPS SHORT: “Senator Audrey Gibson is an admired colleague and a personal friend, and under no circumstances should ever have been spoken to in such a reprehensible manner. I understand that President Negron is allowing Senator Artiles to formally apologize on the Senate floor tomorrow. Such comments cannot be repaired by a formal apology, but I trust that it is an appropriate step to be taken by the President and the Florida Senate to handle this matter, and to ensure that this behavior is not tolerated and does not happen again.”

FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CALLS ON ARTILES TO RESIGN: “Frank Artiles must resign now. His use of horrific racist and sexist slurs towards his colleagues is disgusting, unacceptable and has no place in our democracy or our society. This is just the latest in a string of violent, hateful incidents in which Artiles blames his ‘temper’. There is never an excuse for racism or misogyny and the people of Florida aren’t buying it. Resign now.”

OH BOY: “Secret 2014 record caught Artiles using ‘hajis’ slur” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

TIA MITCHELL REMINDS US of the story that took down Ralph Arza: “Florida GOP lawmaker resigns after scandal

ARTILES HAS ASKED FOR A POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE at the beginning of today’s floor Session so he can formally apologize.

HERE’S WHERE IT COULD GET INTERESTING: The Senate Judiciary Committee hears two of Artiles’ top priority bills Wednesday: SB 12, a claims bill against the Department of Transportation on behalf of the family of Jacksonville man who was killed when his car skidded out of control because of standing water from a clogged drainage basin. He also seeks approval for a more controversial bill, SJR 134, which is a constitutional amendment to require Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties to elect their sheriffs. Sitting on Senate Judiciary are both Sen. Gibson and Sen. Thurston, each of whom was at the receiving end of one of Artiles’ racial slurs at a Tallahassee bar on Monday night. More from Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald here.

BTW, TUESDAY WAS ALREADY A BAD DAY FOR ARTILES: “Panel swats Artiles’ handwritten amendment as Miami toll fight continues” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

***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.***

RICK SCOTT PUSHES AHEAD FOR VISIT FLORIDA FUNDING via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott went once more unto the breach Tuesday, pressing his case for full funding of the state’s VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency. The Republican governor—surrounded by VISIT FLORIDA’s CEO Ken Lawson, board chairman William Talbert, and others—spoke with reporters outside his Capitol office. The GOP-majority House of Representatives, which at first wanted to eliminate the agency, instead reduced its budget to $25 million for next year … Scott mentioned that Florida is getting shellacked by ads—“…and they’re nice,” he said—from Utah, Michigan, California, Texas, and Georgia trying to divert tourists. “If we want even more tourists, we’re going to have to spend more money,” Scott said. “We have plenty of money in the budget … but the House has really limited our ability to market the state.”

SCOTT’S INSPECTOR GENERAL: ‘I WANTED TO LEAVE ON MY TERMS’ via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald Melinda Miguel, the top investigator for two governors who has been accused of suppressing whistleblowers at the state’s prison agency and most recently was assigned the task of sorting through the financial troubles in Opa-locka … she said she wanted to leave before the arrival of a new governor and before legislation advances that adds new powers to her office. Although her tenure under Scott was challenged by his aggressive former general counsel, Pete Antonacci, who asked her to delay the release of a prison report, and she came under fire by Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor and other commissioners, Miguel said the governor never interfered with her investigations.

SENATE PRESIDENT CAN’T SAY IF LEGISLATURE WILL END ON MAY 5 AS SCHEDULED via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – We asked Senate President Joe Negron if he has any doubt the Legislature will finish on time. “I can’t predict the future, so I don’t know exactly how things will unfold,” the Republican from Stuart said. “I have every expectation that we’ll be able to complete our business on time. As I’ve said before, it would be a sad commentary on the legal profession if two lawyers couldn’t get their work done on time.” Negron, an attorney, was referring to House Speaker Corcoran, who is also an attorney.

HOUSE SPEAKER: PUSH FOR TOUGHER ETHICS LAWS DEAD via Gary Fineout of The Associated PressRichard Corcoran says a push to give Florida some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation is dead for this year’s Session, and he’s blaming Senate Republicans for showing “zero interest.” [Corcoran] pushed to enact several far-reaching proposals, including one that would ban legislators and elected officials from lobbying state government for six years after leaving office. The House overwhelmingly passed them, but the legislation has not moved in the state Senate. “The Senate has shown us they have expressed zero interest in holding elected officials accountable and draining the swamp,” said Corcoran … he’s not giving up and will seek other ways to place his proposals into law, including asking the state Constitution Revision Commission to put them before voters in 2018 or launching a petition drive to get them on the ballot.

$1.5 BILLION HEALTH CARE DEAL WITH FEDS MAY NOT BE A SURE THING IN THE FLORIDA HOUSE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – House Health Care Appropriations chairman Rep. Jason Brodeur, said that it “depends on what kind of assurances we get from the federal government.” The federal government agreed to revive the Low-Income Pool at $1.5 billion last week after it was set to end. Though it is clear that the money will be funded mostly by the federal government with the remainder coming from state or local governments, the full terms of the agreement are not yet clear. “We have a promise and that’s great. We’d love to have it,” Brodeur said. “What I’d like to see is a printed letter that outlines the terms of what we’re talking about.”

HOUSE BUDGET CHIEF’S ABSENCE STOKES RUMORS OF AMBASSADOR APPOINTMENT via Patricia Mazzei and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo was conspicuously absent from a meeting of the Florida House budget committee he leads. The reason? Word in the state Capitol was that Trujillo is away in Washington — interviewing with Trump’s administration for a potential ambassadorship to Latin America. The powerful budget chief was an early Trump supporter, one of only a handful of state elected officials to back his long-shot candidacy early. He’s been under consideration to be ambassador to Argentina or Panama.

HOUSE PR MACHINE TURNS TO ITS VERSION OF STATE BUDGET via Florida Politics – The House has released a new “explainer” video to explain its proposed 2017-18 state budget. And—fun!—it’s a cartoon. “Don’t have time to read hundreds of pages?” it starts. “That’s OK, because we’ve got the Florida House budget in under a few minutes.” Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.

SENATE GIVES FULL SUPPORT TO POLLUTION NOTIFICATION RULES CHANGE via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – The Senate bill (SB 532) cleared the Senate unanimously … Under the Senate bill, those responsible for a spill would need to notify the DEP within 24 hours of the hazard being discovered. The DEP would then be mandated to issue a public emergency notice. If operators do not comply, they could be penalized $10,000 for each day the spill goes unreported. The House version of the bill has yet to go through a committee hearing.

GROVELAND FOUR FAMILY MEMBERS GATHER TO HEAR LEGISLATURE’S APOLOGY via Florida Politics – The House voted unanimously Tuesday to apologize to survivors of four African-American men who were brutalized in 1949 following a false accusation of rape. The House also approved an apology to the survivors of abuse at the Dozier and Okeechobee schools for boys, and approved plans for memorials to children who died on the Dozier campus in Jackson County. … “Today, tears of joy,” said Carol Greenlee, daughter of one of the men, in a whisper, “for releasing my family from prison. For releasing my nieces, my son, my brother, from the dark cloud, the shame, and the stigma that have been put upon them.” Speaker Corcoran called the episode “a dark cloud on our history.” He said he hoped the apology and financial compensation would bring the family “along the road of feeling there is some justice in our society.”

LAWMAKERS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ABOUT GROVELAND FOUR APOLOGY — Democratic Leader Bobby Dubose was joined by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Gary Farmer, and other state lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday to ahead of a vote on a bill apologizing to the families of the Groveland Four. “We the state of Florida were wrong,” said Dubose. “The injustice these men and their families encountered is hard to put into words. The memories can’t be erased, the pain they endured can’t be fixed, but today we have opportunity to provide closure to these families in the form of an apology.” Click on the image below to watch the video.

BOOZE BILL READY FOR VOTE IN SENATE via Florida PoliticsA bill that would allow advertising by beer companies in the state’s theme parks is ready for a final vote in the Senate. The measure (SB 388), carried by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, was heard on the floor Tuesday and placed on the third reading calendar … The bill also repeals a state law to permit wine bottles of all sizes to be sold. That includes the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles … Further, it would repeal another state law that requires diners to order and consume a full meal — “consisting of a salad or vegetable, entree, a beverage, and bread” — before they can take home an opened bottle of wine.

CRAFT BEER BILL CLEARS SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government was the latest successful stop for Young‘s craft beer bill, bringing small-batch brewers one step closer to self-distribution. SB 554 allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year to distribute kegs (not bottles or cans) to other Florida craft breweries. That applies as long as breweries don’t have distribution deals already, and has raised concerns among the beer industry that it would subvert their distribution model. “This bill is designed to help the smallest of the small brewer,” said Young. “This is the bill for the little guy … simply to help the smallest of the small.” Young noted that once these brewers have distribution deals, they are cut off from this law.

HOUSE LEADERS WON’T SAY IF THEY’LL ACT ON SCHOOL RECESS. PARENTS GROW IMPATIENT via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – All that Florida parents want is guaranteed daily recess for their elementary school children. Just 20 minutes a day to allow for a brain break and some playtime. But for the second consecutive year, that relatively simple request seems increasingly in jeopardy — despite overwhelming public and legislative support — thanks to obstruction by a few influential lawmakers in the Florida House. House Speaker Corcoran won’t have a conversation about school recess, and his top lieutenants offer only deflection when asked what the House will do. Parents want a vote.

HOUSE HEALTH CARE POLICIES STALL IN THE SENATE via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – House Republican leaders have been saying the only way to control health care costs in Florida is to force patients and doctors to understand the true price of their decisions, whether they are considering a knee replacement or surgery as the best option for knee pain. They offered their own health care overhauls at a time when congressional Republicans have struggled to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Now health care has taken a back seat in the Legislature, overshadowed by larger fights over Everglades restoration, gambling, charter schools and tax cuts. The Florida Senate isn’t acting on the House bills, and House leaders said they won’t sacrifice their other agendas to salvage health care legislation this year. House Republicans, however, have hoped that at least two measures could pass the Senate: direct primary care, SB 240, and allowing patients to stay in ambulatory surgical centers for up to 24 hours, SB 222.

HOUSE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BILL SURVIVES DEMOCRATIC FLOOR AMENDMENTS via Florida Politics – The House defeated a series of Democratic amendments to its version of a workers’ compensation fix Tuesday, with sponsor Danny Burgess promising the bill would “enhance the fairness and the balance of the workers’ compensation system in Florida.” Burgess, whose Insurance & Banking Subcommittee drafted the legislation, also predicted a decline in premiums, following the 14.5 percent rate increase that began taking effect in December. “We are told it could be up to a 5 percent reduction,” he said. Still, Democrats complained the bill was written more to please employers and insurance companies than working people. “When are we going to put the workers first?” Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw wondered.

DANNY BURGESS OP-ED: IT’S VITAL FLORIDA WORKERS GET CARE THEY NEED via Florida Politics – No matter what side of the “jobs argument” you are on, one thing is certain. There can be no job without a worker to perform that job. That’s why there’s workers’ compensation insurance – which is coverage purchased by an employer to provide benefits for job-related employee injuries. In Florida, virtually all businesses are required to carry it. Even the most ardent detractors of the 2003 reforms will admit that the elimination of those reforms will increase insurance premium costs to small business. I’ve been fortunate, thanks to Speaker Corcoran and Chairman José Felix Diaz, to lead an effort to prevent that job loss and fix the system. We’ve proposed, and this week will pass, the largest and most comprehensive set of reforms to Florida’s workers’ compensation system in 15 years. It was vital to me that injured workers get the care they need, while protecting the jobs of the very workers who have been injured.

— “Bill calls for more audits of state pension system” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. As of Tuesday, April 18th, 1,041 bills have been placed on the calendar in the Florida House. Of those, 796 are sponsored by Republicans, 135 are sponsored by Democrats, and 110 bills have bi-partisan co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 76.5% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 13% are Democratic, and 10.6% are bipartisan.“

HAPPENING TODAY – FHA NURSES DAY IN THE LEGISLATURE — Got a headache? There’s a good chance you’ll find a nurse roaming the halls of the Capitol on Wednesday. The Florida Hospital Association is hosting its first FHA Nurses Day in the Legislature. The event is meant to be a chance for the front-line nurse leaders to advocate on behalf of all patients, and includes networking events, presentations and opportunities to meet with lawmakers.

HAPPENING TODAY – GOLF DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Florida Golf Day at the Capitol is Wednesday, and the annual event is meant to highlight the economic impact that the sport has on the Sunshine State. And oh, what an impact it is. Want to enjoy the festivities Wednesday? There will be a House versus Senate charity putting challenge at noon on the second floor rotunda; a PGA pro will be offering lessons throughout the day in the Capitol Courtyard; and there will be exhibits on the second and third floors throughout the day.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Kristin Jacobs will join Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence to unveil the “Walk in My Shoes” display in the Capitol Rotunda at 12:30 p.m. The display features more than 750 shoes worn and submitted by sexual assault survivors from across the state. The display is meant to commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Legislators are expected to join Tony Lima, the executive director of SAVE; Jessica Fernandez, the executive director of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans, and economist Dale Brill to discuss conservative support for workplace equality and other LGBT nondiscrimination protections at 6 p.m. at the Southern Public House, 224 East College Avenue in Tallahassee.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Commerce Committee will take up a host of bills, including a proposal (HB 1351) to implement the August 2016 solar power constitutional amendment, when it meets at 8 a.m. in 212 Knott. A bill (HB 13) that would prohibit the creation of new community redevelopment agencies will be up for discussion with the Government Accountability meets at 8 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The Senate will hold a floor session beginning at 10 a.m., and is scheduled to begin discussion on a bill (SB 392) that would require students to take a half-credit financial literacy course to graduate. A bill (SB 832) that would preempt local governments from regulating the operation of drones is slated to be discussed during the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee at 1:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building. The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee is expected to take up a bill dealing with the Florida black bear when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in 37 Senate Office Building. Look for the Transportation Committee to discuss a bill (SB 918) that would allow the use of ignition interlock devices for someone convicted for the first time of a second-degree misdemeanor DUI.

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

FEDS SAY FLORIDA BEARS ARE NOT ENDANGERED via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – “This is very good news based on sound science for both the black bear and the people of Florida,” Larry Williams, head of the South Florida field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release. “State, local and industry partners are doing some incredible and really visionary conservation work across Florida.” Although the news release says the agency’s finding is based on “a robust investigation” into the status of the bear, the news release cites no information about it other than the computer modeling previously done by the state agency declaring that there were 4,000 adult bears — at least, before the bear hunt there were.

ACTIVISTS TO STATE: DON’T ALLOW BEAR HUNT IN 2017 via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel –“Floridians don’t want another hunt,” said Kate MacFall of the Florida chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, one of the groups planning to speak up at the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting near Tallahassee. Thomas Eason, a wildlife biologist nicknamed “Dr. Bear” by FWC commissioners, said his presentation won’t include anything specific about another hunt, but the topic is always raised during public comment. An agenda item on the commission’s website describes the scheduled discussion as an update that will touch on “bear populations, habitat conservation, conflict-management efforts and public outreach” over the past year. Six months after the 2015 hunt, FWC announced results of a long-awaited bear-population survey. It described the species as “strong, robust and growing.” “We’re hoping FWC does finally listen to what the public wants,” said Bryan Wilson, Central Florida coordinator of Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

EDITORIAL: NO MORE FLORIDA BEAR HUNTS via the Tampa Bay Times – Almost two years after Florida allowed its first bear hunt in a generation, the controversial topic is back on the agenda of wildlife managers. This time, thankfully, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff is not recommending holding another bear hunt, and commissioners should follow that lead when they consider the issue Wednesday. After the 2015 hunt resulted in the senseless killing of more than 300 Florida black bears despite enormous public opposition and questionable science, there is no more reason now than there was then to allow open season on these animals. The Florida black bear’s comeback is a wildlife management victory that should be celebrated, not perverted by another unjustified hunt.

CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL WILL MEET AT GULF COAST STATE COLLEGE via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will hold its Panhandle public hearing at Gulf Coast State College on Wednesday, May 3. The hearing will begin at 4 p.m. Central Time (CT). The hearing will be in the Amelia Center Auditorium, 5230 West Highway 98, Panama City, 32401. A Google map link is here. The event will also be live-streamed by The Florida Channel on www.TheFloridaChannel.org. The 37-member body is going around the state to get public input as it reviews and considers changes to the state’s governing document.

MARTIN DYCKMAN: CLEMENCY AND FLORIDA’S OVERBEARING ‘POLITICS OF DEATH’ via Florida Politics –Despite his profound opposition to capital punishment, LeRoy Collinssent 29 men to their doom during his six years as Florida’s governor. He was in anguish each time. To some people, that example casts a poor light on Aramis Ayala … whose announced decision to seek no death sentences is the crux of an unprecedented battle in the Supreme Court with Gov. Scott and, now, the Florida House of Representatives. But it is Scott and five of his predecessors who come off worse in comparison with the totality of Collins’s record. The awesome power to commute death sentence has been a dead letter in their hands. Meanwhile, 276 condemned men and women have been spared by executive action in 22 other states — including Alabama, Texas and Louisiana — and the federal government. It is hard to understand or excuse why Florida’s most recent governors have refused to spare anyone. Perhaps they have believed that the judiciary is infallible. But it is not.

FLORENCE SNYDER: RICHARD CORCORAN, PLEASE SHOW SOME LOVE TO OUR REAL LIFE SMOKEYS via Florida Politics – Trained professional foresters and the people at parks ‘n rec are easily among Florida’s best ambassadors. These stewards of “Real Florida” have been instrumental in attracting tourists since before Mickey Mouse was born, and they work for a lot less cheese. This crowd is not prone to whining, or crying wolf. It takes a body blow to the budget to make them ask that we think for a moment about the work they do in the places where the wild things try to survive the wildfires that are engulfing the state … Even Gov. Scott thinks it’s a crisis. Yet the House proposes cutting $10 million — roughly 25 percent — of the current state parks budget. That’s chump change to the swells and potentates at the Capitol, but in the hands of Florida’s land management professionals, it covers a lot of weed-pulling, lawn mowing, landscaping, and protecting the public from the invasive species that generations of Florida lawmakers never had the wit to do anything about. More importantly, they are the real-life Smokey Bear, doing whatever it takes to prevent wildfires that increasingly threaten our economy, our way of life, and in some cases, the actual lives of firefighters, park personnel, residents and tourists.

***Learn the facts! FHCA knows Florida’s seniors deserve the best! The Senate’s proposed nursing home reimbursement plan creates incentives for quality and will dramatically improve care for our seniors.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Trulieve will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. in Miami to announce the opening of its Miami dispensary, located at 4020 Northwest 26th Street. The location is the company’s fifth cannabis dispensary in the state.

TAMPA AIRPORT EXPANSION TRAPPED IN TALLAHASSEE CROSSFIRE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A $2.3 billion expansion of Tampa International Airport, is at the center of a nasty power struggle among local legislators that could derail their work on a state budget. House Speaker Corcoran wants state auditors to review the first phase of the airport project, citing possible cost overruns and construction setbacks based on TV reports. The Senate has already rejected an audit, but Corcoran said he will demand that it be in a compromise budget that must be finished in two weeks, which means the Senate will have to capitulate or risk a stalemate. “When you’re spending billions of dollars in taxpayer money, nobody should be afraid of an audit, to make sure they’re spending it right,” Corcoran [said]. Airport director Joe Lopano said he keeps his five-member governing board up to date every month on the project’s time lines and budget. “We’re not afraid of an audit,” Lopano said. “We’re very proud of this project. And if the elected officials would like to have an audit, they should. We’re not afraid of that at all.”

JOE HENDERSON: TOM LEE’S RECENT TRAVAILS COULD START THE GUESSING GAME AGAIN via Florida Politics – While the Republican from Thonotosassa is well-known in the Legislature and isn’t afraid to stir things up, he has spoken often about possibly running for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission … I wonder if recent events in the Senate might start Lee wondering again if it wouldn’t be better to work a little closer to home. His well-publicized bill to eliminate public subsidies for the construction of sports stadiums failed to get out of committee. He tried to attach an amendment to the Senate budget that would have triggered the audit, but it was rejected by a voice vote. Those who spoke out against Lee on that gambit included Republicans Dana Young and Jack Latvala, although he did pick up a major ally when House Speaker Corcoran has called for a full airport audit. Bear in mind, Lee doesn’t have to do anything right away. He was elected to a four-year term in the newly created District 20, covering parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

POLITICAL ACTIVIST SAM RASHID SUES 21-YEAR-OLD FORMER HAIR SALON RECEPTIONIST OVER FACEBOOK POST via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay TimesRashid has twice in recent years walked away from seats on prestigious boards because of fallout over his controversial posts on social media. Now, he is suing a 21-year-old former employee for her Facebook post. In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County … Rashid claimed that he has been libeled on social media by Jacqueline Lilley, a former receptionist at a Brandon hair salon and spa he co-owns. The complaint against Lilley includes a screen grab of a March 6 Facebook post about the salon in which she wrote that “the owners are thieves.” The post also states that workers at Divine Designs Salon and Spa were ordered not to communicate with former workers who left on “bad terms” and she urged staff there to leave. Lilley’s post was hardly viral. It attracted more than 39 comments and was “liked” at least 14 times, the lawsuit states. Rashid, 55, is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

APPOINTED: Dr. Lesley Thompson, Daniel Coll and James Muir to the Lower Florida Keys Hospital District.

PERSONNEL NOTE: JANELL HENDREN JOINS NASDA via Florida Politics – After more than four years with Florida Farm Bureau, Hendren is leaving to become Associate Director of Public Policy and Food Safety Programs for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). She starts April 25. Hendren was most recently National Affairs Coordinator at FFB. In years past, she was campaign manager for John Quinones’ congressional bid, and served as political director for House Republican Majority Leader Adam Hasner’s 2012 U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns. Hendren is a Sunday school teacher at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Slater Bayliss, Justin Day, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc

Lauren Bedford, Strategic Access Group: Sunshine Global Health

Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Co.: Sunshine Global Health

Steven Geller, Geller Law Firm: Hartman & Tyner; Las Olas Recovery

John Harris, Robert Stuart, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Petainer Manufacturing USA

Marc Reichelderfer, Landmarc Strategies Inc: Transdev North America, Inc

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Arbor Properties

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Randstad Technologies; TmaxSoft; Centrify

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

***Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) negotiate rebates and discounts from drug companies and drugstores that reduce prescription drug costs for Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs. Learn more at DrugBenefitSolutions.com.***

MARCH MADNESS RETURNING TO TAMPA IN 2020 via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times – Amalie Arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament March 19 and 21, 2020, the NCAA announced … “We’re thrilled,” said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. “We’ve had such a great history of hosting. Our community has always stepped up and really wrapped their arms around the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. We couldn’t be more excited for March 2020.” USF will serve as the host school. Tampa last hosted the event in 2011.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to class act Frank Walker of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Celebrating today are Reps. Cord Byrd and Colleen Burton and Towson Fraser. Happy birthday to two great residents of the ‘burg: Will Newton and Rob Kapusta.

Sunburn for 4.18.17 – All the King’s men & women; Rick Scott hearts Lake O.: Latvala magic at Tiger Bay; Brad Drake is a hero

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

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

— 2018 WATCH — 

FIRST IN SUNBURN – CHRIS KING ADDS KEY STAFF — The Orlando Democrat will announce today he has filed several key positions, including a COO, finance director and South Florida regional director.

Zach Learner, who served as the voter protection director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Florida and the 2014 Charlie Crist campaign, will serve as COO and general counsel, leading day-to-day operations. Raymond Paultre, who most recently served as an adviser to Stephen Bittel’s successful race for the FDP chair, will serve as King’s director of strategic engagement. Stephanie McClung, who served as the finance director for Crist’s congressional campaign and the Florida state finance director for Ruth’s List Florida, has been tapped to serve as King’s finance director; while Juanica Fernandes, who most recently served as Enroll America’s Central Florida Regional Organizing Director and the director of Central Florida’s enrollment coalition, has signed on as the regional finance associate. Amanda Sands, who most recently served as digital director for New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern, will serve in the same capacity on King’s 2018 team. King announced he brought Raul Martinez Jr., who served as senior staff on the 2016 Clinton campaign in Florida, chief of staff to Rep. Joe Garcia, and leader of Florida Hispanic outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, on as his South Florida regional director.

“I’m encouraged that so many smart, talented campaign veterans are ready to join me in building a new approach to our politics,” said King. “Our campaign will reflect the diversity, energy and possibility of Florida, and with these additions we’ve taken a great first step in meeting that goal.”

HAPPENING WEDNESDAY:

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN – PART 1: Poll shows good news for John Morgan, but will he run” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s not that we don’t respect our blogging colleagues at the Orlando Political Observer or Gravis Marketing, which conducted this poll; it’s that EVERYTHING we’ve heard from sources supposedly close to Morgan indicate he is less and less inclined to run for governor. From talk of him cutting some major deal with Google to his weariness with the prospect of living in Tallahassee, the chatter increasingly points to Morgan getting as close as he can to taking the plunge, only to back off at the last minute. It would be a quintessential Morgan marketing effort. Of course, the same people close to Morgan who say he’s unlikely to run also say that if he’s provoked enough by Democrats and/or Republicans, he’ll jump into the race. Republicans afraid of facing Gwen Graham or Chris King in 2018 are some of the biggest proponents of a Morgan run.

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN – PART 2:Conservative groups pushes Ron DeSantis to run for governor” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – A better headline for this story is “Pollster Tony Fabrizio pushes Ron DeSantis to run for governor,” because that is what’s at play with this story. Fabrizio, fresh off his masterful work for Donald Trump, is shopping for a client to run in Florida’s expensive GOP primary. That the story, about some organization no one in Florida has ever heard of (The Madison Project) releasing a poll favorable to DeSantis, appeared first on The Resurgent — the blog ran by Fabrizio’s go-to blogger Erick Erickson — is all the proof you need of Fabrizio’s involvement. DeSantis looks good on paper, but he underwhelmed on the statewide stage while running for Marco Rubio‘s U.S. Senate seat. He should just pull the trigger on an Attorney General run.

BILL NELSON, ‘SCARED AS A JACKRABBIT,’ ANTICIPATES SHOWDOWN WITH RICK SCOTT via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times Nelson, the only Democrat holding statewide office, has led a charmed political life, winning three Senate races against weak Republicans. But that may be coming to an end. He wants a fourth term, and his likely opponent is Republican Scott. “The way I approach an election, I assume nothing,” Nelson says. “I run scared as a jackrabbit.” He should. Scott, who has won two close races for governor, looks more battle-tested than Nelson, has more money in the bank and is a perpetual campaigner. On the road constantly, the governor held several roundtables in recent weeks and urged local leaders to save Enterprise Florida from that “job-killing” House speaker, Richard Corcoran. So it surely was coincidental that, with no notice, Corcoran invited Nelson to address the House while the senator was in Tallahassee. As Nelson left, he and Corcoran warmly shook hands. The message to Scott wasn’t very subtle. If Scott and Nelson face each other in 2018, they will be at the top of their parties’ tickets. It will fall to both of them to generate enthusiasm to drive up turnout and help candidates for governor, all three open Cabinet seats and the Legislature.

— “Richard Corcoran’s invite to Bill Nelson a stick in Rick Scott’s eye, maybe more” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will attend the Speak Out Brevard Town Hall Meetings at 6 p.m. at Viera High School Auditorium, 6103 Stadium Pkwy in Melbourne.

SHOT:Political newcomer to run for Agriculture Commissioner” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald

CHASER: This newcomer, Michael Christine, may want to learn how to correctly spell the title of office he is seeking.

PRO-TRUMP GROUP AIRING ADS BACKING BRIAN MAST ADVOCATING REPEAL AND REPLACE OBAMACARE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – America First Policies, an advocacy group formed by six of Trump’s top campaign aides, is starting a $3 million advertising campaign praising 12 select members of Congress who are working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, including Mast from Florida’s 18th Congressional District. “Obamacare is collapsing and bringing our health care system down with it, harming millions of American families,” said Nick Ayers, Chairman of the Board of America First Policies. “The time is now to repeal and replace this terrible law, but we need citizens to engage.” The issue advocacy campaign will be featured on broadcast or cable, on the internet and in phone calls in 12 districts, including CD 18, which stretches from Ft. Pierce to Palm Beach in Southeast Florida.

— 2022 WATCH — 

On Thursday, POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon reported about that Jacksonville Republican Paul Renner‘s hopes to be Speaker of the Florida House in 2022 was on the ropes after he “held an abrupt meeting of House freshman Republicans Thursday, just 15 minutes before the House was set to take the floor to pass its $81 billion proposed budget.” This story expands on that reporting, detailing how a single text message from one House Republican to another almost blew up the race. The post also includes a complete look at the proposed rules the freshman class is considering putting in place to guide how it picks a future leader and analysis of where the Speaker’s race currently stands. Read more here.

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SCOTT BACKS RESERVOIR PLAN FOR TROUBLED LAKE via the Associated Press – Scott said he supports spending $200 million to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike and also supports parts of Joe Negron‘s plan, including building a reservoir on the A-2 site south of Lake Okeechobee. The Governor also announced Monday that he wants state legislators to set aside $200 million this year to help repair the aging federally-operated dike that surrounds the lake. Click on the image below to watch Scott’s press conference.

EVERGLADES FARMERS SUPPORT SCOTT’S PLAN: “We commend Governor Rick Scott for following science and seeking real solutions to address the State of Florida’s environmental challenges,” said spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez. “Expediting repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike will ensure the health and safety of all those who live in the farming communities south of Lake Okeechobee while also providing relief to the coastal estuaries. We are pleased to see this discussion shift from political propaganda to focus on fact-based solutions and real collaboration with the state’s federal partners.  Like the governor, EAA farmers continue to support the comprehensive, science-based restoration blueprint found in CERP to address environmental preservation north, east, west and south of Lake Okeechobee in a way that protects local agriculture, homegrown food and rural jobs.”

SUGARCANE FARMERS COMMEND SCOTT’S LEADERSHIP: “Governor Scott is exhibiting tremendous leadership and showing he understands that the real science provided by the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection should be the basis for these critical public policy decisions,” said spokesman Ryan Duffy. “We support not taking any additional private farmland out of production and we support saving jobs. We will continue to work with legislative leaders to develop a bill we hope to be able to support.”

TWEETS:

— @Rob_Bradley: Thanks to @FLGovScott for his leadership on fixing Lake O. No toxic discharges = jobs and tourism!

— @DSimmonsFL: Lake O needs our help and I applaud @FLGovScott for his leadership. Let’s all fight for Florida’s environment and add $200M today.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a roundtable discussion about Zika preparedness at 9 a.m. at the Duval County Department of Health, 900 University Boulevard in Jacksonville.

GOV’S OPIOID LISTENING TOUR GENERATES SKEPTICISM, CONCERNS via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post – As other governors declare a state of emergency and increase spending on treatment, Scott has called for four 90-minute sessions, including one May 1 in West Palm Beach. The timing is an issue as well. The workshops in the first week of May take place at the same time as the final week of the annual legislative session, casting doubt on whether some key officials will attend. Still, Scott’s approach left some recovery advocates and family members wondering if it’s even worth attending. Some say they’re skeptical that 90 minutes is enough time to hear their concerns, much less allow state officials to provide them with information and spell out best practices, as a state news release suggests.

DOH SECRETARY CELESTE PHILIP PRESSED ON OPIOID CRISIS AT SENATE HEARING via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – The Senate Health Policy Committee approved Philip to head the state Department of Health, but not before pressing her on the opioid epidemic and why Gov. Scott has not declared a public health emergency. Philip told the committee that the Department of Children and Families is the lead agency on mental health and substance abuse problems — not the Florida Department of Health. Philip said the agencies would travel to Manatee, Palm Beach, Orange and Duval counties and that the goal of the meetings was to “see what’s needed and what each of the different agencies that will be present can offer.” She added that “if there are specific activities that could be tied back to the role the department has in statute I think we would certainly be open to hearing what that would look like.

FLORENCE SNYDER: FLORIDA’S OPIOID CRISIS, PART 5 – HEY FLORIDA, TALK TO THE HAND! via Florida Politics – One hour isn’t much time for a Senate subcommittee “confirmation hearing” on the heads of the agencies as important to “health and human services” as the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration. But that’s what Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chairwoman Anitere Flores allotted, and not one second longer. So, you’d think that AHCA’s acting secretary Justin Senior and DOH’s Interim Surgeon General Celeste Philip would each get a half-hour of the committee’s time … but you would be wrong. Senior’s “hearing” was a tongue-bath and tummy rub that consumed most of the hour. To be fair, the feds had just dropped 1.5 billion into the AHCA’s coffers. Maybe Flores & Friends think that cash came Florida’s way due to Senior’s executive brilliance, as opposed to Trump‘s synergistic bromance with Gov. Scott. Or maybe they were running out the clock to get Philip safely to the border of Munchkinland and out of Oz altogether before she stumbled over that pesky poppy field.”

SCOTT CHIEF INSPECTOR GENERAL RESIGNS via Florida Politics — Melinda Miguel, the state’s chief inspector general, is stepping down. Gov. Rick Scott announced Miguel, who has served as the governor’s chief inspector general since 2011, has resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Her last day, according to the Governor’s Office, was Monday. Over the years, she served stints at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Elder Affairs, Department of Education, and the Attorney General’s Office. In 2006, she was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Council of State Agency Inspectors General, a role she served in for about a year. “Melinda has done a great job serving our state as Inspector General, and I’m extremely grateful for her commitment to ensuring government remains accountable to Florida taxpayers,” said Scott in a statement. Scott announced Eric Miller, who currently serves as the inspector general at the Agency for Health Care Administration, will serve as the Governor’s Chief Inspector General.

HOUSE TO INTERVENE IN SUPREME COURT CASE BETWEEN SCOTT AND STATE ATTORNEY via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The House is stepping into the legal battle between Scott and Aramis Ayala over the death penalty … the House’s lawyers asked for permission to file a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Scott, who transferred 23 death penalty cases to another state attorney after Ayala said she would not seek the death penalty in Orange and Osceola counties. Ayala has asked the court to tell Scott he is acting outside his constitutional powers to reassign cases and give them back to her office. The court gave the House permission to file its brief.

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FIRST ON #FLAPOL – AMENDMENT COULD LIMIT THE NUMBER OF LOCATIONS ALLOWED TO DISPENSE MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Florida Politics — Sen. Frank Artiles filed an amendment  to the Senate proposal (SB 406) Monday that appears to place a cap on the number of retail facilities from which medical marijuana treatment centers can dispense medical marijuana. According to the amendment, medical marijuana treatment centers “may not dispense marijuana from more than 3 retail facilities.” The amendment does not limit “MMTC facilities that only dispense low-THC cannabis and sell marijuana delivery devices to qualified patients.” … A second amendment by Artiles would require the state to issue of the four remaining licenses to a “veteran business enterprise.” That amendment also calls on the state to “grant preferential and bonus scoring criteria for applicants that, at the time of the initial application, are veteran business enterprises … which meet the requirements to be awarded and registered as an MMTC.” … Senate records show Sen. Bobby Powell has filed an amendment meant to encourage minority participation in the in MMTC operations and subcontracting.

FIRST GAMING CONFERENCE LASTS FIVE MINUTES via Florida Politics – Senate and House members selected a chair (Sen. Bill Galvano), a vice-chair (Rep. Jose Felix Diaz), received a side-by-side printout comparison of the two gambling bills this year, then spoke to reporters for longer than their actual meeting. The next meeting of the conference will be no earlier than Thursday, Galvano said. The aim is to hammer out differences between the two bills: The Senate is largely for some expansion of gambling in the state; the House wants to hold the line. “I don’t want to raise anybody’s expectations,” Galvano said of the negotiation, at the same time adding that “inaction is not an option.”

IN TIGER BAY SPEECH, JACK LATVALA TEES OFF ON HOUSE  via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – In a take no prisoners speech that lasted nearly an hour … Latvala lived up to his reputation as one of the Senate’s biggest flamethrowers, hammering the House, some legislative rivals, and a wide range of policy issues. The speech at Tallahassee’s Capital Tiger Bay Club began with a laundry list of things Latvala said he was “hopeful” the Legislature could focus on, including boosting higher education, addressing the state’s pending water shortage, and creating high-wage jobs — before he unloaded on what he described as “an all-out assault on economic development programs.” It was a reference to the House proposal to slash funding for Visit Florida and to abolish Enterprise Florida, both mostly taxpayer-funded economic development and marketing programs. “Someone could tell me I could be elected to the House for life and I still would not do it,” he told the crowd.

NO FURTHER HEARINGS ON GUN BILLS IN SENATE JUDICIARY AFTER ALL via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Earlier this month, Senate Judiciary chairman Greg Steube [said] he wasn’t giving up on holding a hearing for some of his more controversial gun bills this year, which proposed to eliminate some “gun-free” zones in Florida. But it appears the Sarasota Republican is backing off. His committee will meet for the final time Wednesday and, while it’s a packed agenda, there are no gun bills slated to be heard.

BILL TO REMOVE LIMIT ON NUMBER OF TRAUMA CENTERS MOVES IN HOUSE via Florida Politics – A bill that would do away with a cap on how many trauma centers can open in Florida cleared its latest committee Monday … GOP state Rep. Jay Trumbull of Panama City … said the motivation for the bill was to end the flow of litigation against the state’s Department of Health, which now is charged with reviewing the need for new centers and approving them. Almost every time a new application is filed, the department is hit with some kind of legal action, usually from neighboring hospitals that already operate a trauma center. Records show 31 cases have been filed since 2014, most at the administrative hearing level, and the state has spent over $900,000 on outside attorneys in the last year and a half.

BIGGER WINE BOTTLES COULD BE COMING TO FLORIDA via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Current law generally makes it illegal to sell wine “in an individual container holding more than 1 gallon.” A typical bottle is 750 milliliters, roughly a fifth of a gallon. Jeff Brandes … offered an amendment to a booze-advertising bill (SB 388). The amendment, adopted without objection, repeals the bottle-size law. It would allow wine bottles of all sizes, including the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles. The bill would even allow the mammoth 50-liter “Sovereign” — the equivalent of a whopping 67 standard wine bottles.

BILL SPONSOR BOWS OUT OF FIGHT OVER SHORT-TERM VACATION RENTALS via Florida Politics – The Senate sponsor of legislation crimping local restrictions on Airbnb and other home vacation rentals abruptly cried uncle Monday — confusing a committee room full of lobbyists, plus a few committee members. Sen. Greg Steube acquiesced in a late amendment by Sen. Jeff Brandes that essentially gutted his bill. CS/SB 188, as amended, passed on a vote of 5-3. … The amendment persuaded some Community Affairs Committee members, but not all. “I’ve told so many cities and other folks that I was a ‘No’ on the bill, and now it’s changed and I’m trying to figure it out,” Republican Aaron Bean said. “I’m going to say ‘No’ kind of quietly.”

RARE TIE VOTE DEFEATS MOVE TO KILL SPORTS SUBSIDIES via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – In an political issue rife with Tampa Bay tensions, the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee killed a bill (SB 236) by Sen. Lee that would have wiped out a 2014 program to give subsidies to qualified sports entities. Lee called it a “giveaway program” that’s bad for taxpayers, and he testified that $390 million has been set aside for stadium improvement projects but no money has been spent. His bill was in trouble from the outset because his nemesis on a number of issues this session, Sen. Jack Latvala … is on the tourism panel and supports keeping the program. Latvala was joined by two allies, Republican Sen. George Gainer and Democrat Bill Montford, to kill Lee’s bill. Siding with Lee, and voting to end the subsidy program were Sens. Dana Young; Travis Hutson and Jose Javier Rodriguez(Lee himself is not on the committee).

AFP … SAYS “SENATE GOES TO THE MOVIES AND SPORTS CLUBS ON TAXPAYER DIME”: “We are disappointed in Florida Senators that passed on an opportunity to eliminate a corporate welfare program dedicated to handing out taxpayer dollars to privately owned sports teams,” said AFP state director Chris Hudson. “This is an absurd use of taxpayer resources that should be dedicated to legitimate functions of government. … “After successfully fending off Hollywood special interests last year, the Senate is unfortunately pushing to risk using tax dollars to get into the movie making business once again. … The Senate should not be picking winners and losers between a transient industry and the critical needs of our citizens.”

… LAUNCHES NEW DIRECT MAIL PIECE FOCUSED ON BUDGET — The new piece is meant to highlight the differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. The mail pieces urge Floridians to call their senators and tell them to “cut wasteful spending and focus on real priorities.” “As both chambers gear for budget conference, we hope that the Florida Senate will abandon attempts to increase Floridians’ property taxes, cut over $700 million in pork, and join the House in eliminating funding for Enterprise Florida,” said Chris Hudson, state director for AFP-FL. “We are going to educate Floridians about the stark differences in spending between the House’s and the Senate’s proposed budgets.”

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SENATE PANEL BACKS EXPANDED GARDINER SCHOLARSHIP ELIGIBILITY via Livi Stanford of redefinED.org – SB 902, by Sen. David Simmons … would expand eligibility for the program to include children who are deaf or visually impaired, as well as those with rare diseases or traumatic brain injuries. It defines rare diseases as those affecting populations of fewer than 200,000 in the United States. In what became a theme for the meeting, Simmons said the program does not hurt public schools but assists them. “The Gardiner scholarships have shown that there is no one size that fits all to helping these children and these families with these kinds of challenges,” he said. “These are extreme challenges, challenges which those who have faced them, most have stood up and met those challenges. This is one tool that we as a government can, in fact, help these children and these families.”

RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE OVERHAUL READY FOR SENATE FLOOR via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee passed a bill that makes changes to the organization of the Rural Economic Development Initiative … REDI, tasked with facilitating economic development in rural areas, would see a series of changes to its membership under SB 600, including three membership positions appointed by the Senate president, House speaker and executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. The bill directs the appointments to consider “the state’s ethnic, racial and gender diversity,” according to a staff analysis. The chair would have the ability to create committees as needed to address any issues that come up. A similar House bill (HB 333) has two more committee stops.

SOME VETS NOT HAPPY BILL PENALIZING MEMORIAL VANDALS MAY BE STALLED IN SENATE via Sascha Cordner of WFSU – The bill makes it at least a third degree felony to deface memorials honoring the memory of Veterans, First Responders and astronauts. Today, the minimum penalty is a second-degree misdemeanor charge. Rep. Brad Drake is sponsoring that effort in the House … after unanimously passing three House committees, it’s now headed to the floor. But, it has not been heard in any committees in the Senate. Its first stop would be the Senate Criminal Justice Committee chaired by Sen. Randolph Bracy … Sen. Greg Steube – the bill’s Senate sponsor—says he’s tried to get the bill on Bracy’s agenda to no avail. For Pensacola resident Cal Daniel, a young war re-enactor—stiffer penalties are warranted. He says he’s visited several areas where tombstones and memorials were vandalized. “And, as a historian, I quickly realized that underage or not, these were premeditated,” said Daniel.

POLITICAL CLASH OVER REGIONAL TRANSIT DIVIDES TAMPA BAY SENATORS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Sen. Latvala … offered a bill (SB 1672) in a Senate committee to create a revamped Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, the latest in a decade-long and so far ineffective effort to craft a regional approach to transit, including a light rail system linking Tampa and St. Petersburg. But Sens. Jeff Brandes and Tom Lee overrode Latvala with an amendment that strips the authority of its independence by requiring legislative approval for any local spending on a light rail system and barring the authority from spending money to advocate for light rail in a voter referendum. The amendment passed easily in the Senate Community Affairs Committee, which Lee chairs. “Voters of Hillsborough County and Pinellas County have rejected these in the past,” Brandes said. “My goal is that this doesn’t become an opportunity for Greenlight Pinellas 2.0,” referring to the latest rejection of a transit plan by county voters.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Kionne McGhee and the Alliance for Safety and Justice will hold a press conference and prayer vigil focused on criminal justice reforms that advocate for alternative options to incarceration for first-time and non-violent offenders at 12:15 p.m. on the fourth floor Rotunda near the House side.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — Medical marijuana will be on the table when the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittees meet today. The full appropriations committee is set to discuss Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues’ bill (HB 1397) to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment when it meets at 9 a.m. in 212 Knott. The Senate subcommittee is slated to discuss Sen. Rob Bradley’s proposal (SB 406) when it meets at 4 p.m. The House Ways & Means Committee will hold a workshop on the communication services tax when it meets at 10 a.m. in 17 House. The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a proposal (SB 766) that would crack down on the use of skimming devices used to obtain credit card information when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in 27 Senate Office Building. The “Best and Brightest” teacher-bonus program (SB 1552) is up for discussion when the Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 1:30 p.m. in 412 Knott. A proposal (SB 554) to give craft breweries a boost will be discussed when the Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 4 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building.

HAPPENING TODAY – LAW ENFORCEMENT AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS APPRECIATION DAY — Take a minute to thank a state law enforcement officer, Tuesday. The Florida Benevolent Association will host its annual Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers Appreciation Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second floor Rotunda.

TWEET, TWEET: @Daniel_Sweeney: Tomorrow is Florida Keys Day! Key Lime Pie, cocktails, seafood. Best county day of the session.

LARGE COUNTIES PUSH BACK ON HOUSE’S PROPOSED $200M CHARTER SCHOOL INCENTIVE via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Miami-Dade County Public Schools is “actively lobbying against” HB 5105, a spokeswoman said, and Duval County schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti sent a lengthy letter to the Florida Senate … urging lawmakers to “please use logic and reject” the House’s bill. The Senate has yet to formally discuss the “schools of hope” legislation that the Republican-led House passed last week along party-lines. The legislation seeks to attract specialized, out-of-state charter schools to come to Florida and compete with struggling traditional schools so that students currently attending such schools have another option … school district administrators — echoing some of the opposition expressed by House Democrats — say they have concerns about the proposal.

TEACHERS UNION CALLS FOR PROPER FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN NEW ADS via Florida Politics – The statewide education association released two advertisements in response to several measures being advanced by the Legislature. The proposals, education officials said, would under fund public schools and harm public school students. “Students are at the center of everything we do. That’s why we are fighting for students and for better public schools,” said Joanne McCall, the FEA president. “We’re fighting against too many tests that do nothing to help our children and working to ensure that schools and students have the resources they need for success.” The House voted 70-44 to approve a $200 million plan to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The bill, a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, would offer up money to build what are being called “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods across the state, many in urban and poor areas.

JEB BUSH’S EDUCATION FOUNDATION PRAISES ANITERE FLORES IN WEB AD via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The ad from the Foundation for Florida’s Future proclaims that “Sen. [Anitere] Flores is working to give teachers more time to teach” and directs viewers to a webpage, which offers the foundation’s explanation of the original versions of SB 926 and HB 773 — Flores’ and Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.’s testing legislation. The foundation had a hand in crafting the legislation, according to Flores, and has a stake in ensuring its passage. The legislation is a way for Republican lawmakers to delicately respond to intensifying complaints from parents and teachers upset about overtesting and the “high stakes” associated with those statewide exams. The education accountability system Florida uses stems from Bush’s legacy of linking student assessment scores to school grades and funding.

BRAD DRAKE: HERO – State Rep. Drake’s quick thinking may have saved a child from drowning on Sunday. Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican, was attending an Easter get-together at the home of Mary Beth and Ryan Tyson, Associated Industries’ Vice President of Political Operations. Their son John David, who has Down syndrome and can’t swim well, fell into the backyard pool. Drake instantly dived in and pulled the 6-year-old to safety. “He has such a big heart and always had such a heart for John David,” Mary Beth Tyson told Florida Politics. “Years after his birth (Drake) is still wearing a ‘Down syndrome awareness’ bracelet in honor of John David.”

EX-PSC REGULATOR, PARKS DIRECTOR LISA EDGAR CHARGED WITH DUI, HIT AND RUN via Carl Effers of the Tallahassee Democrat Lisa Edgar was arrested Saturday on DUI and property damage charges. Edgar, 53, resigned from her parks position in late February after two months on the job, citing an immediate family emergency. Before working as parks director, Edgar served on the PSC for three terms starting in 2005 and as the deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. She was booked into the Leon County Jail on two counts each of DUI with property damage and hit and run causing more than $50 in damage. Florida Highway Patrol reports say at about 7 p.m. Saturday, troopers responded to a crash on Centerville Road near the intersection with Pisgah Church Road. The driver of the other vehicle told troopers he was traveling south on Centerville Road when a Mercedes-Benz, later discovered to be driven by Edgar, was unable to stay in its lane and hit his driver’s side mirror as it passed.

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FLORIDA’S LEADING ECONOMIST ON SPORTING EVENTS ISN’T AN ECONOMIST via Noah Pransky of WTSP — The state of Florida spends nearly as much money every year on professional sports stadiums as it does maintaining the state’s top tourist attraction, its beaches. However, 10Investigates found the author of so many economic impact reports that support public sports subsidies may not be the expert economist state leaders believe he is. The resume of Mark Bonn, Ph.D., a professor at Florida State University’s Dedman School of Hospitality, boasts of dozens of reports compiled for municipalities all across Florida, including some statewide organizations. … But 10Investigates uncovered emails suggesting Bonn encouraged the gaming of numbers to help justify a large public stadium renovation project. And several established economists call Bonn’s work deeply-flawed, resembling marketing propaganda more than an economic analysis; which may be appropriate, since Bonn’s background is in marketing, not economics.

HOW A TINY FLORIDA NEWSPAPER BECAME A MUST-READ IN THE TRUMP ERA via Benjamin Freed of the Washingtonian – The [Palm Beach] Daily News or “Shiny Sheet,” as it’s known to locals for the higher-than-usual-quality paper it prints on — typically covers events at Palm Beach’s charity galas, local real-estate transactions and goings-on in town government. It’s only got about 5,000 subscribers, but it’s become required reading for a Washington that is still struggling to make sense of the 45th President. … The Shiny Sheet doesn’t score the big national-security or palace-intrigue scoops that deep-pocketed news organizations like The Washington Post and New York Times do, but its role as a chronicler of South Florida’s swells has allowed it to break its share of presidential news.

ON THIS WEEK’S ROTUNDA — As thousands of people marched in cities around the country to demand that President Trump release his tax returns, business owners call for the reform of the national tax code. Trimmel Gomes talks with Barney Bishop, immediate past president of Associated Industries of Florida. Gomes also interviews the chair of the Constitution Revision Commission, Carlos Beruff. Plus, Florida folk songwriter and performer Tom Shed tells the story of sex, race, and murder in Florida politics with the song “Bolita Sam” about the 1952 case of Ruby McCollum and Sen. Leroy Adams.

BIG SUMMER FOR DISNEY PARKS: PANDORA AND GUARDIANS OF GALAXY via Beth J. Harpaz of The Associated Press – The Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! attraction opens at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim … Pandora – The World of Avatar is a 12-acre land opening at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom … But the creative designer behind the attractions says you don’t need to know anything about either movie to enjoy them. The premise of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride is that the Guardian superheroes have been captured and riders must participate in an adventure with a character called Rocket Raccoon to free them. The ride incorporates multiple scenarios for resolving the storyline so that riders have a slightly different experience each time they go through it. At Pandora, there are two rides plus retail and dining components. Riders on Avatar Flight of Passage fly through the forest on the backs of creatures called banshees to participate in a tribal coming of age ceremony. Riders on the Na’vi River Journey move through the bioluminescent forest on a boat, guided by a mystical singing figure.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Ray Rodrigues, as well as the boss of the Orange Juice mafia, Shannon Shepp, and political consultant Terry Miller. Celebrating today is the reporter who broke my (work) heart, Christine Sexton, as well as Tony Duda and Ed Hooper‘s better half, Lee.

Sunburn for 4.13.17 – Lake O. plan flowing; $1.5B in manna from heaven; Gov. candidates everywhere; And a horse fights a gator

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica and the AP’s new kid on the block, Ana Ceballos…

WATER WOES: FLORIDA SENATE APPROVES PLAN TO STOP TOXIC ALGAE

A reservoir system would be built south of Lake Okeechobee to stop toxic algae discharges from fouling coastal communities under a bill that Florida senators sent to the House Wednesday following extensive debate.

The Senate voted for the bill (SB 10) 36-3, giving a victory to Senate President Joe Negron who has made it a priority during the Legislative session.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley, said the project is designed to avoid a repeat outbreak like the one last summer when “guacamole-water” saturated beach communities in Florida, threatening tourism, and the health of residents and marine life.

“I am not describing a scene from a third world country, but one of the areas most populated in our state,” Bradley said.

The bill provides money for the $1.5 billion project, a cost that the state and federal governments would split. The bill would also accelerate the project’s completion.

“It’s been such a political and financial nut to crack, and now we finally have the political will to get it done,” Bradley said.

As the proposal inched closer to the Senate floor for consideration, it went through a major overhaul including scaling-back the project’s size to take less agricultural land out of production. The plan would create at least 240,000 acre feet of storage, and would store about 78 billion gallons.

The bill was amended after it received pushback from opponents in the agricultural and sugar industries, but both industries remain hesitant to support the proposal.

HOUSE COMMITTEE CHAIR SAYS SENATE EVERGLADES BILL ‘GREAT STARTING POINT’ via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – After an Everglades reservoir bill passed the Senate … state Rep. Matt Caldwell said the measure, a priority of Senate President Negron, “will be taken seriously” in the House. “This give us a great starting point,” said Caldwell, who chairs the House Government Accountability Committee. “We’ve been waiting to see what the final senate proposal would look like. It’s changed several times.” Caldwell … wasn’t sure of the process that awaits SB 10 in the House or whether it will be assigned to committees. “We’re still kind of chewing on that,” he said.

EAA FARMERS: TOLD YOU SO: “Today, the Florida Senate further acknowledged what EAA Farmers have been saying all along: a storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee can be accomplished on state-owned land without the need to acquire additional farmland,” said Danielle Alvarez, spokesperson for EAA Farmers, Inc., following the Senate’s passage of SB 10. “It is critical to Florida’s future to protect local agriculture, homegrown food and rural jobs. We are encouraged that the Senate rejected the fake science paid for by the Everglades Foundation, a special-interest group who is not interested in finding real solutions but, instead, politicizes important matters to try to move their sole agenda forward – taking valuable farmland out of production. EAA Farmers are committed to continuing to work with lawmakers to implement real solutions that will help the coastal estuaries, such as storage north of the lake.”

SUGARCANE FARMERS STILL LOOKING FOR IMPROVEMENT: “This bill is not what we had hoped it would be. It does not resolve the issue of excess water discharged from Lake Okeechobee, which has been the stated priority for the farming communities and those living near the coastal estuaries,” said Ryan Duffy, a spokesman for Florida Sugarcane Farmers. The bill has improved in that it does not take thousands of acres of productive, private farmland by using eminent domain and hopefully will not result in massive job losses in the communities around Lake Okeechobee – whether immediate or eventual. We will continue to work with the House and Senate leadership to address these issues and to make the bill as comprehensive a solution as possible.”

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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION AGREES TO $1.5 BILLION FOR FLORIDA HOSPITALS’ UNINSURED CARE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The pot of money, called the Low Income Pool, was set to expire this year but has been part of broader negotiations over Florida’s Medicaid program between state and federal officials. “Working with the Trump Administration to secure a commitment of $1.5 billion in LIP funding for our state will truly improve the quality and access to health care for our most vulnerable populations,” Scott said in a statement. Three years ago, LIP was a $2 billion a year program funded by local tax dollars and matching federal funds. However, President Barack Obama‘s administration pushed to end the program after Florida refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Federal officials said they were restoring a portion of the LIP program in an effort to give the state more autonomy in its Medicaid program.

HOSPITALS BREATHE A SIGH OF RELIEF: “We commend the Scott Administration and Trump Administration for working quickly to come to an agreement on funding health care for Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association. “This timely decision gives the Legislature the critical  information it needs to develop its Health and Human Services budget.”

RICK SCOTT WARNS STATE NOT SEEING ‘BIG DEALS’ BECAUSE OF LEGISLATURE’S ACTIONS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay TimesScott started his day with another Jobs Roundtable, this time in Orlando, expressing frustration at the House for considering big cuts to both programs. Scott has now held 20 roundtable events since the start of the year calling on people in the business community to pressure the Legislature to keep both Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida fully funded … Scott told reporters after the Florida Cabinet meeting that since the Legislature first started cutting the flow of incentive dollars to Enterprise Florida last year, the state is seeing an impact. While private sector jobs are still growing, the state is “not seeing a lot of big deals” Scott said. “We’ve got to compete,” Scott said about wanting to replenish the job incentive programs to attract more companies to come to Florida.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a jobs announcement at 2 p.m. at the Comcast Operations Center, 15800 SW 25th Street in Miami.

RICHARD CORCORAN: ‘COLLEGIALITY’ IN CAPITOL POINTS TO SMOOTH SESSION FINISH via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – In an interview for the Florida Channel’s “Face to Face, program, Corcoran casually laughed off predictions of a May meltdown. He said [the] scheduled budget debates in both houses shows forward progress and the next step is for the two chambers to agree on spending allocations, the bottom-line numbers that allow will allow House-Senate budget talks to begin. “It’s a great pace. It’s a pace that says we’re going to get done and we’ll be able to work out our differences,” Corcoran said. “If allocations can get done in five to seven days afterward, we’ll absolutely, in my opinion, get done … There’s a lot of collegiality. We recognize our differences but we also, I think, recognize where those differences can be bridged, on both sides … What sells is conflict,” Corcoran told host Beth Switzer.

— “Bill Cotterell: GOP disarray is interesting, but not exactly new” via the Tallahassee Democrat

SENATE PASSES BUDGET WITH LIMITED CUT TO ARAMIS AYALA’S OFFICE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Engineered by state Sen. Randolph Bracy … and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jack Latvala, a compromise was inserted into the budget package that would cut $622,000 from the Office of the State Attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, but restore another $569,000 that the Senate initially proposed cutting. The House of Representatives is still looking at a full $1.3 million cut to Ayala’s office. Under an arrangement put together by Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon, all the money would go to the Judicial Administration Commission, to be redistributed to other state attorneys who get 9th JC cases.

— “After Dems support budget and water bills, GOP leaders dust cobwebs off Dem bills” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

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ANDREW GILLUM, SHEVRIN JONES LAMBASTE CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING PLAN via Florida PoliticsTallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum on Wednesday called proposed House funding for charter schools “a giveaway to (House Republicans’) friends and family.” But Gillum at first wouldn’t answer whether he would veto such funding if he were governor, saying instead he would put a “premium” on fully funding the state’s public school system … Speaker Corcoran has proposed a “Schools of Hope” program, starting with $200 million in financial help for nonprofit companies to open charter schools in the Sunshine State. But it’s been reported that those concerns aren’t interested in coming. Nonetheless, Gillum bemoaned the proposal, which he said would put millions of dollars “in the hands of friends (of Republicans) who are well-heeled and well-connected.”

HOUSE DEMOCRATS VOTE TO STAND AGAINST CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING via Florida Politics – The Florida House’s Democrats agreed to take a caucus position against a proposal in the chamber’s budget that funds charter schools. The budget’s “Schools of Hope” plan sets aside $200 million for nonprofits to open charter schools in the Sunshine State. Democrats say the plan will hurt struggling public school systems. Republicans say they bolster education in low-income areas that suffer from failing schools. Rep. Larry Lee of Port St. Lucie advanced the idea to take a unified stand against Schools of Hope during Wednesday’s caucus meeting. In a floor session later, Democrats bombarded GOP Rep. Chris Latvala, the plan’s sponsor, and others with questions for over two hours about how the money would be spent and the effect on public schools.

HOUSE VOTES DOWN BUDGET AMENDMENT CALLING FOR REPORT ON DEATH PENALTY via Florida Politics — The amendment, put forward by Rep. Sharon Pritchett, called for the state to use money to fund a report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) looking at the death penalty. The report, among other things, would have had to identify the actual fiscal cost associated with maintaining a capital punishment system; the average cost to the state and local government associated with the the execution of a single offender from indictment to execution; and address the “causes driving disparities in capital sentencing outcomes on the basis of demographic factors of the offender and the victim including, but not limited to, race, gender, sex, and geography.” House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo called Pritchett’s amendment an “unfriendly amendment from a very friendly lady.” The amendment failed on a 42-71 vote.

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DO PRIVATE PRISONS SAVE MONEY AS PROMISED? MAYBE NOT, BUT LEGISLATURE KEEPS APPROVING via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – When he was first elected, Gov. Scott was so determined to meet his campaign promise of saving $1 billion on prisons that he pushed through a series of contracts with private operators that on paper claimed to produce millions in annual savings. But the promised savings have never materialized, according to audits done by Rep. David Richardson … who has been a one-man investigation unit into Florida’s troubled prison system. Many of the contracts, which were required to save at least 7 percent a year, actually cost the state more money than taxpayers would have spent if the programs had never been privatized. In some cases, he also found, medical care and access to programming in the private facilities was often worse. “This is not saving the state money because they are more efficient; they are saving money as a contractor because they are denying goods and services to the inmates,” Richardson said.

FLORIDA HOSPITALS CREATED 900K JOBS, NEW ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY FINDS via Florida Politics — The study, completed by the University of Florida and sponsored by the Florida Hospital Association, found Florida hospitals were responsible for creating 901,674 full- and part-time jobs in 2015. The report also found hospitals generated nearly $128.4 billion in total economic contributions during the same period. “Hospitals are the largest employers in many communities across Florida,” said FHA President Rueben in a statement. “Our member hospitals constantly reinvest in their communities and train new generations of health care providers.”

LEGISLATURE STILL HASN’T BEGUN CONFERENCING ON GAMBLING LEGISLATION via Florida Politics – A proposed conference to resolve differences between the House and Senate, originally planned for this week, was postponed till next week. That’s because lawmakers continue to talk with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has six casinos in the state. One lobbyist suggested an end game: Passing only a new agreement on exclusive blackjack rights for the Tribe, promising $3 billion to the state over seven years. Otherwise, the two chambers are at odds, with the House holding the line on gambling expansion and the Senate open to some expansion, including allowing slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties that approved a referendum. House Speaker Richard Corcoran called a compromise “a heavy, heavy lift” and state Sen. Bill Galvano has said he “couldn’t guarantee we’ll ultimately have a final resolution” this year. On Wednesday, the Senate announced its conference members: Galvano, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Oscar Braynon II, Anitere Flores, Travis Hutson and Perry Thurston.

WORTH READING — FLORIDA’S INDIAN GAMING INDUSTRY REBOUNDS AFTER RECESSION BUT NEW COMPETITION LOOMS via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s success in Indian gaming outstripped the industry’s national gaming growth in 2015. Florida gaming revenues soared 9.3 percent. Nationwide, such revenues rose 5.5 percent. This was the sixth straight year of growth following the Great Recession and generated a record $30.5 billion in gaming revenue nationwide. However, the Seminoles’ compact with the state that granted it the right to offer Class III (Vegas style gambling) gaming legally expired in 2015. There are still other legislative possibilities, including whether lawmakers legalize commercial resort casinos. As bullish as the outlook seems, the report on Indian gaming also raises some warning flags. More competition to Indian gaming is possible as more tribes try to gain rights to open their own gaming facilities. Next-generation gamblers share different gaming interests, the report adds, showing little interest in slot machines. And gambling over the internet, the report suggests, may be the greatest threat of all.

DOUG BROXSON: TRIUMPH PROCESS LIKE ‘GILLIGAN’S ISLAND’ via Rick Outzen of Rick’s Blog – When asked for an updated on the legislation regarding the distribution of $300-million of Triumph Gulf Coast funds, State Sen. Broxson said, “It feels like it’s ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ It was just a three-hour tour, and now we’ve been stuck in here for almost six months now.” He explained, “What’s so sad is that we had a very simple process that was set up for the Triumph Gulf Coast. It simply said, ‘As soon as the settlement was completed, the money would be transferred to Triumph.’ Now, through a legal procedure, it ended up in the general fund.” Broxson complained that the Florida House is trying to dictate how the Northwest Florida counties most impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill can spend their share of monies from the state’s settlement with the British oil giant. “It just continued to warp into this concept that really became very complicated.”

JACK LATVALA TO OUT-OF-STATE FRANCHISE GROUP: “YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist – The International Franchise Association is starting to look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. The group … has engineered a series of ham-handed blunders over the past several weeks, including a false claim wrapped in an insult of Senator Jack Latvala. Jeff Hanscom, the IFA’s state director, insists that Latvala did confer with a lobbyist while [Travis] Hutson spoke with the lawyer, but admits it occurred off-camera, where the IFA’s Washington D.C.-based spokesman couldn’t possibly have seen it take place, and acknowledged he wasn’t privy to the details of the conversation. Latvala blasted IFA for the claim … “People in Washington think they are so smart they can comment on things without even being there to see them in person,” the statement read. “That’s why we are all tired of people from Washington.”

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Judiciary Committee will take up several bills, including one dealing with victims of human trafficking, when it meets at 8 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The Commerce Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill to repeal a portion of the law requiring vehicle owners and operators to obtain and maintain personal injury protection coverage when it meets at 10 a.m. in 212 Knott. Over in the Senate, the Appropriations Committee will discuss a bill to create civil citation and similar diversion programs for juveniles when it meets at 9:30 a.m. in 412 Knott. The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would provide tax relief to owners of renewable energy source devices when it meets at 1 p.m. in 401 Senate Office Building. The Environment and Natural Resource Appropriations will talk about funding for beach renourishment when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Bill Nelson is heading to Tallahassee for a day of meetings with state lawmakers. He’ll meet with House Democratic Leader Cruz and the House Democratic Caucus at 1030 a.m. in Room 316 of the Capitol, before an 11:40 a.m. media availability. He has a meeting with state Sen. Jeff Clemens at noon, before attending a meeting with Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon and the Senate Democratic Caucus at 12:15 p.m. Negron is scheduled to meet with Senate President Joe Negron at 1 p.m., before heading to a meeting with House Speaker Richard Corcoran at 1:20 p.m.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: State lawmakers will join advocates to discuss the the state’s fight against human trafficking during a press conference at 10 a.m. on the steps of the Historic Capitol. Reps. Jennifer Sullivan, Ross Spano, and Katie Edwards will be joined by DJJ Secretary Christina Daly; Jerry Haag, the president of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, The Porch Light, and Orphans Heart; Christina Hicks, the founder of Into the Jordan Ministries, and Heather Case, founder of One Purse.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Mayor Gillum will join Osceola County Commissioner Vivian Janer and the Osceola Board of Commissioners for the ribbon cutting for the Center for Neovation at 10 a.m. at 200 NeoCity Way in Kissimmee.

DEMOCRATS FILE COMPLAINT AGAINST ADAM PUTNAM ALLEGING CAMPAIGN VIOLATIONS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The Democratic Governors Association, the partisan political organization determined to defeat Putnam when he announces a campaign for governor later this year, filed the complaint accusing him of violating state law. Citing a March 24 story in the Miami Herald, the complaint alleges that Putnam’s political committee, Florida Grown, gave $1.3 million in lump sum payments to the consulting firm run by his top political consultant, Justin Hollis, without detailing where the money goes in an alleged violation of a law that requires disclosure of individual expenditures when 80 percent of the costs are paid by the political committee. “By only reporting the purpose of these expenditures as ‘consulting’ or ‘political consulting,’ Florida Grown PC is withholding relevant information that the Florida Election Code intends for political committees to disclose under Section 106.07(4)(a)(13),” wrote Elisabeth Pearson, executive director of Washington-based DGA.

PROFESSING LOVE FOR FLORIDA BUSINESS, CHRIS KING VIDEO USES STOCK FOOTAGE FROM LA, WASHINGTON via Florida Politics – In a YouTube video posted last week, the Winter Park affordable housing executive offers his vision of the state of Florida politics. “We need a whole new generation of people to stand up and demand more from our politics,” King says in “Rise and Lead.” Despite presenting a well-produced video, complete with heartfelt testimonials and inspiring words of dedication to the success of Florida business … At the 3:08 mark, King’s video uses a few moments of slick B-roll stock footage, each coming from places far from the Sunshine State … “Construction Workers Talking,” produced in Silverdale and “Business People Writing Notes on Wall” coming from Los Angeles. Would it be out of line to ask a candidate who launched his campaign for governor with a love of Florida business to actually film his first commercial in Florida?

PAM BONDI LOSES FIRST ROUND IN UNREGISTERED CHARITIES LAWSUIT via Florida Politics – The Attorney General has lost a preliminary round in a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson of Tallahassee ordered Bondi to show why he shouldn’t find for the plaintiff, Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith … A list of the unregistered charities alleged in Smith’s suit was disclosed late Tuesday to FloridaPolitics.com, showing that those included Bondi’s own “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” award and “scholarship funds designated by the Attorney General.” Bondi released a lengthy statement, saying Smith had harassed her staff and that his suit is “completely unfounded” and “meritless.”

HAPPENING TODAY – 2017 LAW ENFORCEMENT TORCH RUN KICKS OFF —  Lace up your sneakers, it’s time for the 2017 Law Enforcement Torch Run. AG Bondi will help kick off the annual run benefiting Special Olympics Florida at 11 a.m. in the Capitol Courtyard. She’ll be joined by Dave Sklarek, the state director of the Law Enforcement Torch Run; Education Commissioner Pam Stewart; Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil; and Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo. The Tallahassee leg of the run begins at 10:15 a.m. in the parking lot of Lake Ella Plaza.

WHAT PEOPLE WANT—AND DON’T WANT—FROM CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL via Florida Politics – For as many people who asked the Constitution Revision Commission to do something, there were others who wanted the panel to do nothing at all. And that’s not counting the fringe speakers Wednesday night who told the commission they were “imposters” and “impersonating delegates of the people.” The 37-member panel, which convenes every 20 years to consider changes to the state’s governing document, held its latest public hearing on Florida A&M University’s campus in Tallahassee. Kirk Bailey, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, asked the panel to refrain from proposing amendments that would restrict the state’s judges … “We’ve all heard a lot lately about ‘activist judges’ and we’re anticipating that’s going to be part of a larger narrative about how they ‘overturn the will of the people,’ ” he said later. “Our message is not to succumb to that belief by proposing amendments that will limit the (independence of the) judiciary.”

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – CRC CHAIRMAN OUTLINES RULE-MAKING PLANS via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsCarlos Beruff, who leads the panel charged with reviewing and suggesting rewrites to the state’s governing document, said in a memo that several members will form a committee and “hold noticed and open meetings to deliberate the proposed rules.” Beruff said that the rules working group will include Tim Cerio and Brecht Heuchan, selected by Gov. ScottDon Gaetz and Carolyn Timmann, selected by Senate President Joe Negron; state Sen. Tom Lee and Rich Newsome, selected by House Speaker Richard Corcoran; and Arthenia Joyner and Roberto Martinez, selected by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga. “We will vote on the proposed rules, and on all amendments, at a full commission meeting to be held in early June,” Beruff wrote.

JASON EMILIOS DIMITRIS APPOINTED NEWEST JUDGE ON 11TH CIRCUIT BENCH via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott announced the appointment Wednesday. Dimitris, 46, of Coral Gables, has served as a Dade County judge since 2013. Before that, he was general counsel for the Florida Department of Management Services and chief of staff for the Florida Department of Children and Families. Dimitris also has experience as an assistant U.S. Attorney, an assistant statewide prosecutor, and assistant state attorney. He received an undergraduate degree from Rollins College and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Dimitris fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Victoria R. Brennan.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Jose Bermudez, Becker & Poliakoff: American Clinical Solutions

Jorge Chamizo, Teye Reeves, Floridian Partners: Solarus Medical

Jon Costello, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Veterinary Medical Association

Candice Ericks, Ericks Advocacy Group: Life Insurance Settlement Association, Inc.

Javier Fernandez, Holland & Knight: P & G Investors

Allyce Heflin, Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: HighPoint Technology Solutions

Lisa Hurley, Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: San Felasco Nurseries, Inc.

Milton Schmidt, Steel in the Air: Florida Association of Counties; Florida League of Cities

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Wheeler EMC, LLC

Cameron Yarbrough, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

LARRY AHERN FILES TO RUN FOR PINELLAS COUNTY COMMISSION via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times – … District 6 being vacated next year by commissioner John Morroni. Ahern won re-election for the third time in November to the Florida House in a rematch against Democratic opponent Lorena Grizzle. This will be his fourth and final term in the House. Ahern made recent headlines when he allowed the then-executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board to craft new legislation that would make the nomination process more transparent.

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

BASEBALL HAS BEEN VERY, VERY GOOD TO AIRBNB via Florida Politics — Airbnb, the leader in marketing vacation rental home, announced Wednesday that all 12 Florida cities that host spring training camps and stadiums for Major League Baseball teams saw remarkable spikes in bookings during the baseball spring training that ended last week. All the cities saw significant increases in Airbnb vacation home rental bookings during the five-week spring training, Feb. 23-March 31, compared with the previous five weeks. … “Spring Training represents a foundational component of the local economies for these 12 Florida cities,” Tom Martinelli, public policy director for Airbnb Florida, stated in the release. “By expanding lodging capacity for regions with limited hotel inventory, Airbnb hosts helped welcome more families and baseball fans to their cities while serving as ambassadors for their local communities.”

HAPPENING TODAY — SALTERMITCHELL CELEBRATES OPENING OF LITTLE FREE LIBRARY — Grab a book and head down to SalterMitchellPR, 117 Gadsden Street, at 11:30 a.m. as the firm celebrates National Library Week with the grand opening of the firm’s Little Free Library. People who bring three or more books will be entered in a chance to win a $50 gift certificate from Midtown Reader. Children’s books are appreciated.

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU Thursday is Italian Day at the Governors Club with pasta fagilio soup; tomato, Italian parsley salad – tomatoes, red onion, Italian parsley, olive oil; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; hearts of romaine salad – hearts of romaine, Parmesan cheese, Kalamata olives, red onion, grape tomatoes; Italian sausage & peppers; snapper puttanaesca; roasted herb chicken; parmesan garlic rice and garlic zucchini with tomatoes and onion.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Sam Killebrew, Chris Chaney, and Todd Pressman.

MUST-WATCH: VIDEO SHOWS HORSE ATTACKING GATOR IN A FIELD NEAR GAINESVILLE via the Tampa Bay Times – A video posted on Facebook appears to show a horse attacking a gator at Paynes Prairie near Gainesville “Horse attacking a gator at Paynes Prairie,” Krystal M. Berry writes on her Facebook post. “I’m still shaking.” The video shows the horse grazing, with a few other horses, behind it, when it trots toward a large alligator in a field nearby and stomps it. The gator strikes back, appearing to bite the horse in the leg. The two then separate.

Sunburn for 4.14.17 – Happy Easter Weekend

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

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

EASTER AND PASSOVER AS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE LOBBYISTS AND POLITICAL ASSOCIATIONS

Grab your bonnet, pull out the seersucker and get ready for a good-old-fashion Easter egg hunt.

Americans are expected to spend about $18.4 billion on Easter this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. That projection is 6 percent higher than last year’s record of $17.3 billion, and marks an all-time high in the 14 years the national organization has conducted the survey.

The increase in spending is likely due to how late the holiday falls on the calendar this year. The springtime celebration is nearly three weeks later than it was in 2016, giving folks essentially an extra month to prepare for the holiday.

According to the survey, about 61 percent of consumers plan to visit family and friends to celebrate the holiday. And since Florida a prime winter location for Northeastern and Midwestern grandparents, you can imagine flights to Florida will be jam-packed this week with children and grandchildren hoping to soak in some rays and spend some quality time with their nonnas and papas.

While folks are looking for good deals on airlines like JetBlue, Southwest, American and Delta to celebrate Easter and Passover with their families, those companies have hired top-notch government affairs teams to look out for their interest during the 2017 Legislative Session.

American Airlines has hired Mike Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, and Amanda Stewart with Corcoran & Johnston to work with Dawn White, the company’s in-house lobbyist, on behalf of its interests in front of the Legislature. Delta Air Lines has Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Ron LaFace, and Chris Schoonover with Capital City Consulting fighting for its interests this year.

The legacy airlines aren’t the only ones hiring the big-wigs to fight for their rights before the Legislature, so they can help get you to grandmother’s house in time for the Easter Bunny’s arrival.

Southwest Airlines has hired Bill Rubin, Melissa Akeson, Christopher Finkbeiner, and Heather Turnbull with The Rubin Group and Bo Rivard with Harrison Rivard Ducan Buzzett Chtd. to work with Sherri Hull, its in-house lobbyist, during the 2017 Legislative Session. JetBlue has the team of Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Christopher Chaney, Justin Day, and Stephen Shiver at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners on its side this year.

Once you’re here, you’ve got to eat. The National Retail Federation survey found 57 percent of consumers said they planned to cook a holiday meal and 17 percent said they planned to go to a restaurant.

Regardless of how you celebrated Passover — which began at sundown on Monday — or will be celebrating Easter on Sunday, it’s likely a trip to Publix was in order for the fixings for your meal. When the Florida-based grocery chain needs a hand in Tallahassee it turns to Charlie DudleyJorge Chamizo, and Teye Reeves with Floridian Partners. The threesome works with the in-house team of Lindsey Napier and Thomas Culligan to advocate for the store in the capital city.

Need a dinner recommendation? Oscar Anderson, David Browning, Christopher Dudley, James McFaddin, and Sydney Ridley might be able to come up with one. The Southern Strategy Group team works with Amanda Conochalla, the in-house lobbyist for Darden Restaurants, to represent the restaurant giant’s interests before the Legislature.

The National Retail Federation Survey found 52 percent of consumers said they planned to go to church on Easter. That’s got to be good news to the Florida Catholic Conference and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This year, the Florida Catholic Conference celebrated its 42nd annual Red Mass on April 5, and Reps. Kathleen Peters and Danny Burgess gave readings. When the bishops need an extra hand in the capital city, they turn to Ingrid Delgado, James Herzog, Michael James McQuone, and Michael Sheedy, the organization’s executive director.

Easter isn’t the only springtime holiday being celebrated this week, though. Passover began at sundown on Monday and memorialize the emancipation of Israelites held captive in Egypt after 400 years, culminating with the Exodus and Covenant of Moses.

Florida lawmakers are known to stand with Israel, and this year is no exception. In March, the House adopted a resolution objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. That U.N resolution, among other things, said Israel’s settlement activities constituted a violation of international law. The House resolution (HR 281) proclaimed the House’s opposition to it, and called for the repeal of the U.N. resolution.

The Senate adopted a similar resolution.

The Florida Association of Jewish Federations has an active presence in Tallahassee, tapping Mario Bailey, Ellyn Bogdanoff, Bernie Friedman, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Nicholas Matthews, and Jeremy Shir with Becker & Poliakoff to help advance its causes in front of the Legislature.

With several threats made against the Jewish community in recent months, you can imagine the Ant-Defamation League is working overtime to combat anti-Semitism. The organization acts as “the 9-1-1 for the Jewish community in Florida” and the ADL Florida Office is on the “frontline of ensuring the safety of the Jewish community” in the state.”

Look for David Barkey, the southeastern area counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, to be working on behalf of the organization in Tallahassee.

However you celebrate this springtime, take a moment to enjoy the long weekend before the final stretch of session.

Chag pesach, to all! And a very Happy Easter, too.

RETAILERS EXPECT RECORD-SETTING EASTER SPENDING via Florida Politics – A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation is predicting record-setting Easter spending this year with a projected total of $18.4 billion in spending for the Christian holiday. The prime date for Easter this year … will cause a 6 percent hop in spending over last year when shoppers spent $17.3 billion. The per-person average will also jump 4 percent from the previous year to $152. Nearly nine out of 10 shoppers will pick up food or candy, while 61 percent plan to pick up gifts, and half say they will buy clothing, up from 45 percent last year. About two out of five shoppers plan to buy flowers, decorations or greeting cards. A little under half of those customers will visit department stores, while about a quarter plan to shop small at a local business. Online shopping is also expected to get a 6 percent bump over last year, when 21 percent of consumers made their purchases from the comfort of their home … Overall, food will make up the biggest piece of the pie with a projected $5.8 billion in spending — and that’s not including the expected $2.6 billion spent on candy. Clothes follow at $3.3 billion, gifts at $2.9 billion, then $1.2 billion in flowers and $1.1 billion on decorations.

HAPPENING TODAY – FARM SHARE HOSTS FOOD DISTRIBUTION EVENT IN QUINCY — The non-profit organization will be distributing food and providing health screenings to residents of Leon, Gadsden, Liberty, Jefferson, Franklin and Wakulla counties from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the North Florida Farm Share, 18212 Blue Star Highway, #5 in Quincy. The event is free and open to the public. This year, nearly 40.5 million pounds of food has been made available to families, children, the elderly, the disabled and veterans in Florida through Farm Share distribution programs.

THE LATEST TEST FOR THE WHITE HOUSE? PULLING OFF ITS EASTER EGG ROLL via Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times – “FYI manufacturing deadlines for the Easter eggs are near,” said a Twitter post directed at Trump; the first lady, Melania Trump; and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump. “Please reach out!” The message came from Wells Wood Turning & Finishing, the company that supplies commemorative wooden eggs for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, the 138-year-old celebration that has drawn 35,000 people to the South Lawn in recent years. The staff of the company, based in Buckfield, Maine, wondered whether the Trumps planned to continue distributing the wooden eggs as party favors, or whether they were even going to have a White House Easter egg Roll at all. By early March, the White House announced that the roll was on — Monday, to be exact — and soon followed up with a rush order for the wooden eggs.

WORTH THE CLICK: “John F. Kennedy’s last Easter in Palm Beach” via the Palm Beach Post

PROGRAMMING NOTE: So that the staff of Florida Politics can fully enjoy the Easter holiday, there will be no Sunburn on Monday. We will resume publication on Tuesday. 

DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 13; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 20; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 20; MLB All-Star Game – 88; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 141; Election Day 2017 – 206; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 244; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 268.

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AFP-FL RELEASES DIGITAL AD CALLING ON SENATE TO ‘END CORPORATE WELFARE’ via Florida Politics — Americans for Prosperity-Florida is continuing its efforts to try to put an end to economic incentives in Florida. The organization launched a 60-second digital ad campaign Thursday, urging Floridians to “contact (their) legislator and tell them the game’s over: end this corporate welfare.” The release comes one day after the Florida Senate approved its 2017-18 budget, which included money for Enterprise Florida and economic incentive programs. The House budget does not include funding for Enterprise Florida, and the House earlier this year voted to eliminate the agency. “We’re glad that under Speaker Richard Corcoran’s leadership the Florida House is making good stewardship a priority this year so that we can ensure that our hard-earned tax dollars are going to their best possible use,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL, in a statement.

— “Florida Poly cancels contract paid with secret state appropriation” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News

— “Here are millions in tax cuts that Florida lawmakers are considering. Do any save you money?” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

FSU RETURNS $200,000 AMID QUESTIONS ABOUT CONTRACT WITH NASSAU COUNTY PROVIDER via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Records from FSU indicate that Fernandina Beach-based Florida Psychological Associates has only screened 358 students through March despite receiving $590,192 in state dollars. Benchmarks in the contract indicate that 3,800 screenings were supposed by be completed by that time. The contract is worth $800,000 to FPA, which set a goal for its first year of screening 4,500 students plus 2,600 adults involved in the court system in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

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HOUSE APPROVES ‘SCHOOLS OF HOPE’ BILL TO SAVE FAILING FLORIDA SCHOOLS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Legislators approved the “Schools of Hope” bill by a vote of 77-40. Democrats unanimously voted against the bill. HB 5105, sponsored by Reps. Chris Latvala and Mike Bileca would speed up the time for school districts to turn around failing schools in Florida. The proposal would also set aside $200 million in startup costs to attract new charter schools for students attending failing schools statewide. The allotted funds would pay for teacher recruitment and extending school days. It would affect 77,000 Florida students stuck in 115 “D” and “F” schools statewide. HB 5105 would … give districts only two years to fix “failure factories.” Members debated the proposal for hours, disagreeing over how effective the bill would be and how much ‘hope’ HB 5105 would actually give to students trapped in failing schools. To opponents of the measure, the proposal was too risky — and the rewards were less than certain.

— “LIBRE Initiative says it supports ‘Schools of Hope’ ” via Florida Politics

HOUSE, SENATE BILLS TO REPEAL PIP CLEAR COMMITTEES DESPITE QUESTIONS, DIFFERENCES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 8-1 to approve a bill (SB 1766) that would repeal the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, replacing the PIP mandate with a requirement that motorists carry bodily injury protection. The Senate proposal, sponsored by Hillsborough County Republican Sen. Tom Lee, would create a medical payment, or MedPay, coverage mandate of $5,000. That system, according to a staff analysis, would provide “substantially similar coverage to current PIP medical benefits.” That provision is not included in the House proposal (HB 1063) which cleared the House Commerce Committee … That bill, sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, also repeals the portion of the state law that requires motorists to obtain and maintain PIP coverage. Like Lee’s proposal, the House bill replaces the PIP mandate with a requirement to purchase bodily injury protection. The bill increases the minimum bodily injury coverage limits to $25,000 of injuries to another person, and $50,000 of injuries for two or  more people.

SENATE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BILL ACQUIRES FIREFIGHTER CANCER AMENDMENT via Florida Politics – The Senate’s workers’ compensation bill moved out of the Appropriations Committee Thursday after picking up an amendment declaring two forms of cancer occupational hazards for Florida’s 40,000 firefighters. The amendment … names multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. … Sen. Jeff Brandes objected that a bill to the same effect has been stuck in the Community Affairs Committee, and that Senate rules would steer the bill back there rather than to the Rules Committee and the floor. … That’s true only for a “substantial change” to a bill,” amendment co-sponsor Jack Latvala said. He’d offered only a small amendment. “I guess we’ll let the Rules chairman make that determination,” he continued.

SENATE VOTES TO CLEAR UP ‘MISTAKES’ IN SELF-DEFENSE LAW FOR HOMEOWNERS via Florida Politics – A bill clarifying that one need not wait to be attacked in one’s home before resorting to defensive force advanced passed the Senate Thursday. CS/CS/SB 1052 would reconcile conflicting statutes involving self-defense, correcting drafting errors muddying the legal situation made in 2014 legislation, bill sponsor David Simmons said. … A provision in existing law says one must wait to be attacked before using force. But other provisions hold that the right of self-defense begins when one “reasonably” believes it is necessary. … “They must actually believe — not only reasonably, but subjectively believe — that their lives are in danger, and they must reasonably act,” Simmons said at one point in the debate. “How much more do you want to impose upon a homeowner?”

PUBLIC-RECORDS EXEMPTION FOR MURDER WITNESSES HEADING TO GOVERNOR via Florida Politics – The Senate met the two-thirds requirement Thursday to send Gov. Rick Scott a bill creating a public-records exemption for identifying information about murder witnesses. The vote was 34-3 to accept the CS/CS/HB 111, the House version of legislation sponsored in the Senate by Ocoee Democrat Randolph Bracy. Exemptions to Florida’s stringent public-records laws require two-thirds votes in both Houses. The House overwhelmingly approved the measure on March 30. … “It’s long overdue,” Hialeah Republican Rene Garcia said. “Back in our community, the biggest problem we have is that people don’t want to speak up when they see a crime. This bill is going to go a long way to ensure that people’s voices are heard and their identities are kept private.”

SENATORS REVERSE POSITIONS ON TRI-RAIL, PUSH BILL TO LET CONTROVERSIAL CONTRACT STAND via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Just a few weeks ago, both Gainer and Brandes were hostile critics of the contract and Tri-Rail. Brandes … sponsored an amendment that strips away language that he and Scott had pushed for earlier that would have forced Tri-Rail to rebid the $511 million, 10-year contract. Tri-Rail’s operating agency, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, awarded that contract in January after rejecting five lower bids for technical issues that the companies are contesting. The award brought, from Scott, Brandes and Gainer, harsh rebukes, demands for investigations, vows of new state control, as well as demands to rebid the contract. Gainer, a Panama City Republican, introduced Senate Bill 1118 to require those things. Yet Brandes’ new amendment, introduced at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, which he chairs, reverses the demand for the rebid. The amendment was adopted unanimously, then Gainer’s amended Committee Substitute for SB 1118 was approved unanimously.

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CHAMBER ANNOUNCES GAMBLING CONFERENCE MEMBERS via Florida Politics – In alphabetical order, they are Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II, House Commerce chair José Félix Díaz, Senate President pro tempore Anitere Flores, Sen. Bill Galvano, House Tourism and Gaming Control Democratic ranking member Joe Geller, Senate Regulated Industries chair Travis Hutson, House Tourism and Gaming Control chair Mike La Rosa, Rep. Larry Metz, House Appropriations Democratic ranking member Jared Moskowitz, Speaker pro tempore Jeanette Nuñez, and Sen. Perry Thurston. The conference committee will meet next week to iron out differences between the House and Senate’s competing gambling bills. Both include a renewal of exclusive rights to blackjack for the Seminole Tribe of Florida in exchange for $3 billion over seven years. But the chambers differ in many areas, including whether to allow “designated-player games” that are similar to banked card games, like blackjack.

LEGISLATURE MAKES SLOW PROGRESS ON MEDICAL POT RULES via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press – Bills in the Senate and House don’t agree on the details of expanding access to the drug, from adding pot distributors to deciding whether doctors can prescribe marijuana to people who haven’t been their patients for at least three months. The Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley (SB 406) is seen as more permissive and has drawn support from medical marijuana advocates, while the House bill sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (HB 1397) is widely considered more restrictive and is backed by the Drug Free America Foundation. The Senate measure would eliminate a current requirement that a patient be under a doctor’s care for more than 90 days before being able to get a prescription for marijuana — a restriction that would be kept in place under the House version. The Senate bill would immediately expand the number of licenses issued for marijuana distributors in the state, while the House version would require that 150,000 patients sign up for medical marijuana use before expanding the existing pool of distributors.

PAUL RENNER ON ROPES AS PHANTOM 2022 SPEAKER’S RACE GRINDS ON via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Proposed rules changes, quiet caucus meetings, and a series of Wednesday night dinners around Tallahassee are the latest palpable byproducts of a phantom 2022 speaker’s race that is not supposed to be happening — but is in full swing. It has reached a point where there is potential that Speaker Corcoran “takes a look” to ensure the race is not violating new House Republican caucus rules designed to block speaker’s race jockeying until June 30. … Renner held an abrupt meeting of House freshman Republicans Thursday, just 15 minutes before the House was set to take the floor to pass its $81 billion proposed budget. The Jacksonville Republican wanted to address his colleagues about his speaker’s bid, according to several members who attended the meeting.

SUPREME COURT OKS TAXING SATELLITE TV HIGHER THAN CABLE via Florida PoliticsSatellite-television service can be taxed at a higher rate than cable TV, the Florida Supreme Court decided Thursday. Satellite companies had challenged the state’s Communications Services Tax (CST), which now taxes cable service at 4.92 percent and satellite at 9.07 percent. Those concerns, led by DirecTV, said that difference was unconstitutional and asked for a refund. But the high court reversed the 1st District Court of Appeal’s 2-1 decision, whose majority said that taxing the two services differently was wrong.

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION WILL MEET ON UF’S CAMPUS via Florida Politics – The panel that reviews and suggests rewrites to the state’s governing document will meet in Gainesville on the campus of the University of Florida on Wednesday, April 26 at 5 p.m. The public hearing is at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 3201 Hull Road. The event will also be live-streamed by The Florida Channel on www.TheFloridaChannel.org. Future dates include April 27 in Jacksonville-Duval County; May 3 in Bay County; May 10 in Lee County; and May 17 in Hillsborough County.

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GOOD READ – UNIVERSITIES EYE ONLINE TUITION BEYOND FLORIDA – FINALLY via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida — Public higher education institutions … have struggled for two decades to attract students from other states and countries. Administrators have identified the schools’ limited reputations outside their regions and relatively unattractive tuition policies, as well as other states’ regulatory burdens, as hindrances to their success. …But as the State University System aims to dramatically expand online education over the next several years, administrators are renewing their hopes for gaining national traction. They’re lowering out-of-state tuition and betting on a new national network that allows students to register in online programs across state lines more easily. It’s hardly a new idea: Florida would actually be one of the last states to enter the compact, known as the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, or SARA. Skeptical politicians and policymakers have long questioned whether participating would be cost effective for institutions and expressed hesitance to surrender regulatory discretion over how schools based elsewhere operate here. Despite delays, the Legislature looks likely to pass a bill soon authorizing the Sunshine State to join.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

 Oscar Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: Apple

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Ocean Summit Association, Inc.

Kevin Marino Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Sportsman’s Land Trust

Timothy Meenan, Sarah Niewold, Joy Ryan, Meenan PA: Agrimed Industries

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Nuvve

Steve Schale, Schale Communications: Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

WEEKEND TV

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

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include former Republican consultant Mark Proctor, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith, Manatee County Democratic Party Chair Sheryl Wilson and former Rep. Paula Dockery.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: This week Republican Sens. Dana Young and Jeff Brandes will be interviewed by Al Ruechel, while the Common Ground segment will feature Holly Gregory, Ed Narian, and Chris Ingram discussing the Electoral College and whether the country should switch to a popular vote for the presidency. The PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will tackle House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s claims about a jobs contract with Lockheed Martin.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Former Florida State University President and lawmaker Sandy D’Alemberte joins hosts Steve Vancore and Gary Yordon on this week’s episode.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Congressmen Al Lawson and Ted Yoho will be on the show to talk recess, town halls and Syria. HandsOn Jacksonville CEO LeAnn Daddario will also come by to talk about Florida Volunteer Month.

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CHEESY MOVIE LOVERS, REJOICE: ‘MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000’ RETURNS via Robert Ito of The New York Times – After one of the largest Kickstarter campaigns so far, the series is being revived on Netflix with 14 new 90-minute episodes. Joel Hodgson, the creator of the series and one of its first hosts, who has worked as a magician, ventriloquist, stand-up comic and toy designer over the years, said he can’t quite believe his show has reached the big time. “Our show has never been on prime time, and now it kind of is,” Hodgson said. “We were always on at 2 in the morning on cable, or Saturday mornings. Now people can watch at 7 in the evening, if they want.” Hodgson’s original (and ridiculous) conceit is still intact on “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.” A hapless pilot aboard an orbiting spacecraft (the Satellite of Love) is forced to watch the endless parade of B-movies as part of a diabolical experiment conducted by mad scientists. To keep himself company (and to stave off madness), the pilot creates two robot pals, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, who join him in tossing incredulous zingers at the screen as the movies unspool.

SEAWORLD TO ADD NEW RAPID RIVER RIDE ‘INFINITY FALLS’ via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – … the centerpiece of a new themed rainforest attraction. Infinity Falls is scheduled to debut in the summer of 2018. The ride’s 40-foot drop is the world’s tallest river rapid drop … Inspired by the South American rainforests, riders will rush through the feel of an exhilarating Class IV rapids. Guests will sit atop a family-style raft that will wind through a lush jungle setting. A vertical elevator will lift each raft to the top of the ride. The new ride is just another example of how SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment is moving away from animal shows, which have been criticized by animal rights groups for keeping wild animals captive. The company stopped breeding orcas last year and has vowed to focus on education and conservation.

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

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

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

RICK SCOTT DECLARES EMERGENCY AS WILDFIRES BURN AND FORECAST LOOKS DIRE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— KEY OPINIONS —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IT’S SEERSUCKER DAY AT THE CAPITOL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dare we suggest a Seersucker Day, part deux?

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

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO NOT LET THE PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD, MR. SPEAKER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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— KEY OPINIONS —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PULITZER PRIZES ANNOUNCED TODAY; WILL ANY FLA. NEWSPAPERS  TAKE HOME A TROPHY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRAYERS OVER A PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM ARE A FLORIDA FIXTURE via Florence Snyder for Florida Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPENING TODAY:

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

APPOINTED: Sara Gaver to the Florida Rehabilitation Council.

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

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

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

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

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

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: QlikTech, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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