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Sunburn for 01.27.17 – Lake O plan off to slow start; Trump policies impacting Fla.; Scott v. Corcoran again; Happy birthday, Laura Boehmer!

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

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

PROPOSED PLAN TO BUY LAND SOUTH OF LAKE O OFF TO SLOW START

So far, 2017 has been unkind to proponents of buying land south of Lake Okeechobee. That’s the takeaway from two January Senate committee meetings that have been held on the issue.

In the titanic legislative battle pitting landowners, minority residents from the Glades and state and water management district officials against Senate President Joe Negron and environmental groups, the Senate committee looking into the issue has heard testimony largely in favor of sticking the historic Everglades restoration plans first started in 1999.

For the proponents of buying land, you might say things have not gone as planned. Outside of Everglades Foundation scientist Tom Van Lent, the committee has yet to hear from a credible third-party expert making the case for buying up more land. Instead, they have heard speakers such as South Florida Water Management District Director (SFWMD) Pete Antonacci, DEP Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Colonel Jennifer Reynolds acknowledge that the state has plenty of land to build the reservoir Negron is proposing.

Even some of Negron’s constituents aren’t having any of it. According to the Stuart News, earlier this week, minority residents from Pahokee expressed concern about his plans to buy 60,000 acres of farmland, which they say would devastate their community. On Wednesday, those residents were front and center in a meeting in Tallahassee. Representatives of the “Guardians of the Glades” included former Pahokee Deputy City Manager Tammy Jackson-Moore and pastor Robert Rease from Belle Glade.

Senate leadership has insisted the process will be driven by science. And it turns out that the science used by the Everglades Foundation may not be as solid as previously thought. Earlier this month, SFWMD Hydrology and Hydraulics Bureau Chief Akintunde O. Owosina wrote a scathing letter to Everglades Foundation scientist Van Lent, alleging that among other things, “the assumptions you made in the model input were obviously selected to reduce northern storage and create an outcome in favor of southern storage.” The letter set off several rounds of exchanges between the Everglades Foundation and the water management district – a sideshow environmental groups and Negron simply can’t afford.

In a statement released by the SFWMD, the district once again challenged Van Lent’s assertion that buying land is necessary for fixing the problems in the east and west coast estuaries. In response to Van Lent’s presentation, the district noted that its scientists found Van Lent’s claim that storage south of the lake is preferable to storage north of the lake “misleading” and “the product of an agenda-driven academic exercise.”

The district also provided a quote from University of Florida scientist Dr. Wendy Graham from her Jan. 11 appearance before Bradley’s committee indicating the benefits of storing land south of the lake versus north of the lake are about the same. According to Dr. Graham, “”If you want to protect the estuaries, it’s pretty equal north or south of the Lake.” Except the fact that according to Negron, storage south of the lake will cost more, requiring $2.4 billion for land AND a reservoir.

In an era where Republicans are leading the charge against “fake science,” will Senate Republicans have the courage to defend the plan under those circumstances?

ARM-TWISTING TIME: JOE NEGRON’S SUSPECT RESERVOIR BILL FILED via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – One day after Sen. Rob Bradley‘s Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources heard stakeholders pour their hearts out over the potential good and bad of a 60,000-acre reservoir on private property in the middle of the Everglades Agricultural Area — a departure from the restoration plans already in place — Bradley filed Senate Bill 10, Water Resources … the No. 1 priority of Senate President Negron … I hope these folks won’t consider the bill a done deal, even though Negron holds a tight rein on his chamber … There’s a great deal of collateral damage to consider. For example, we haven’t yet heard from the Taxpayers Association in Palm Beach County, or anywhere in the Glades, which stand to lose a significant chunk of private property from their tax rolls. Senate Bill 10 authorizes bonding a portion of proceeds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, set aside by the voter-approved Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014), to purchase land and construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee “to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.”

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IF YOU READ ONE THING – DOOMSDAY CLOCK MOVES CLOSER TO MIDNIGHT via Jonah Bromwich of the New York Times – On Thursday, the group of scientists who orchestrate the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic instrument informing the public when the earth is facing imminent disaster, moved its minute hand from three to two and a half minutes before the final hour. It was the closest the clock had been to midnight since 1953, the year after the United States and the Soviet Union conducted competing tests of the hydrogen bomb.

WHITE HOUSE ABRUPTLY HALTS OBAMACARE ADS via Paul Demko of POLITICO – The Trump administration has pulled the plug on all Obamacare outreach and advertising in the crucial final days of the 2017 enrollment season … The decision sends the clearest signal yet that President Trump is determined to fulfill his campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare. Hours after being sworn in, Trump issued his first executive order allowing federal officials to start unwinding parts of the law.

WHITE HOUSE POSTPONES EXECUTIVE ACTION ON VOTER FRAUD INVESTIGATION via Madeline Conway of POLITICO – The White House said that Trump would sign an executive action to begin an investigation into voter fraud Friday or Saturday, postponing a move … Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters … Trump returned “a little late” from the Republican leadership retreat in Philadelphia and “got jammed up on some meetings that needed to occur,” prompting the delay. Earlier in the day, Spicer had said that Trump planned to sign the action around 4:30 p.m. If signed, the executive action is sure to prompt a rebuke from Democrats, who argued on Wednesday that such a probe is unnecessary and could be used to increase voter suppression going forward.

TRUMP TO VISIT MAR-A-LAGO NEXT WEEK, SOURCES SAY via Shannon Donnelly of the Palm Beach Post – The Red Cross Ball is famous for the attendance of Washington big-shots, but this year’s event is offering the biggest shot of all: The Prez … Trump will be in da house next weekend and will likely make an appearance at the 60th annual gala. This apparently came as a surprise to the organizers of the event. When told of reports that the Federal Aviation Administration was designating a presidential level no-fly zone around Mar-a-Lago, the organizer said “I’d be surprised if he showed up. The White House just sent us the tribute video he made for the ball because he probably wouldn’t be able to make it.” Then, the callback. “The president will be in town next weekend after all, as it turns out, and if he doesn’t stay for the entire event he will definitely stop in. So, you were right.”

— THE TRUMP EFFECT ON FLORIDA — 

IN ORLANDO, NANCY PELOSI SLAMS DONALD TRUMP ON MEXICO WALL ORDER via Joe Burbank of the Orlando Sentinel – The former U.S. House speaker, was in Orlando to administer a ceremonial Oath of Office to newly-elected, 10th District Congresswoman Val Demings … Pelosi and Demings met with Orlando media after the ceremony and responded to questions with a scathing assessment of President Trump’s executive order to build a wall on the Mexican border.

MIAMI-DADE MAYOR ORDERS JAILS TO COMPLY WITH DONALD TRUMP CRACKDOWN ON ‘SANCTUARY’ COUNTIES via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Fearing a loss of millions of dollars for defying immigration authorities, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez … ordered county jails to comply with federal immigration detention requests — effectively gutting the county’s position as a “sanctuary” for immigrants in the country illegally. Gimenez cited an executive order … by Trump that threatened to cut federal grants for any counties or cities that don’t cooperate fully with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Since 2013, Miami-Dade has refused to indefinitely detain inmates who are in the country illegally and wanted by ICE — not based on principle, but because the federal government doesn’t fully reimburse the county for the expense.

BOB BUCKHORN SAYS TAMPA IS NOT A SANCTUARY CITY, DOESN’T INTEND ON CALLING ICE ANYTIME SOON via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – At a news conference with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson … discussing their support for Trump’s call to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure in the U.S., Buckhorn backed away from any perception that Tampa is a sanctuary city. “We are not a sanctuary city, and that’s more of a semantic term than anything. There’s no legal definition to that,” he told reporters, before adding that the city has never engaged in helping to deport the undocumented. “We are not Customs; we are not I.C.E. We are not searching people who have chosen to live here and have not yet got citizenship,” the mayor replied. “That’s not something that we believe in, and not something that I support.”

ANDREW GILLUM ON IMMIGRATION ORDER: WRONG TO FORCE CHOICE BETWEEN ‘SECURITY AND COMPASSION’ via Lynn Hatter of WFSU – The definition of a sanctuary city is broad: but it usually applies to those with some sort of policy or law in place that governs interactions with federal immigration enforcement agencies. Tallahassee has no such language on its books, but officials say the city is also not going to go out of its way to enforce the immigration mandates coming out of President Donald Trump’s administration. A recent presidential executive order would restrict some federal funding to sanctuary cities … [Tallahassee Mayor] Gillum says the order criminalizes people based on their immigration status. “These are working people who pay taxes in our country,” Gillum writes. “They are attending public schools alongside our children and graduating as valedictorians and standout students. They are critical members of our local, state and national economy, and contribute to the culture of our society. A decision between security or compassionate immigration policy are false choices, we can have them both.”

FEDERAL HIRING FREEZE COULD HARM PANHANDLE ECONOMY via Melissa Nelson Gabriel of the Pensacola News-Journal – Trump issued an executive order implementing a hiring freeze for federal civilian employees. The order exempts military personnel, but does not define “military personnel” as active duty service members only or as Defense Department civilian workers who support the military. “The main thing is that the order does exempt military personnel, but there is no definition of who that is,” said Tim Kauffman, a spokesman for the Washington-based American Federation of Government Employees. “It is unclear if that is just uniform personnel or if it includes civilian workers.” Kauffman said his organization had received a lot of questions from federal workers wanting more details about the hiring freeze. AFGE has more than 670,000 members and is the largest union representing government workers, he said.

MOST FLA. AG GROUPS UNAFFECTED BY WITHDRAWAL FROM TPP; CATTLE INDUSTRY IS EXCEPTION via Kevin Bouffard of The Ledger – Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact drew muted reaction from Florida’s agriculture community. One notable exception was the Florida cattle industry, which like its national counterparts strongly supported the pact, known commonly as TPP, because of its potential to open protected Asian markets to U.S. beef. Representatives from growers of citrus, strawberries, tomatoes and ornamental plants said the TPP would not have significantly affected their commodities … Still, Trump’s action could have some lasting effects on future trade deals … But most of the benefits would have gone to farmers and ranchers in western states with easier shipping access to Asian markets.

GUS BILIRAKIS TO TRUMP: MAKE RIDGE ROAD A PRIORITY via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times – Bilirakis released a letter to the president … citing Trump’s executive order to expedite environmental reviews of high priority infrastructure projects. The Ridge Road Extension meets that criteria, Bilirakis said, because of its importance as a planned evacuation route during tropical storm events. He noted Hurricane Hermine damaged more than 2,600 properties in Pasco County with damage estimates listed at $89 million. The multilane highway is projected to cost $102 million and would be elevated through portions of the 6,700-acre Serenova Preserve. The county has set aside more than $40 million to pay for the first phase of the road, from west Pasco to the Suncoast Parkway. The overall tab to the county for consultants and right of way is more than $17 million over the past two decades.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Marco Rubio will discuss an aggressive response to citrus greening, among other issues, at a roundtable with members of the Gulf Citrus Growers Association. Event begins approximately 11:30 a.m. EST at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, 2685 FL-29 in Immokalee. RSVP to christina_mandreucci@rubio.senate.gov.

PORTS CANCEL SIGNING OF PACTS WITH CUBA AFTER RICK SCOTT THREATENS TO CUT FUNDING via Amy Sherman, Mimi Whitefield and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – A high-level Cuban business delegation toured Port Everglades and met with port officials … the planned highlight — the signing of a cooperation pact — was canceled after Scott threatened to cut off state funding to any port that entered into an agreement with Cuba. The Port of Palm Beach also called off its plans to ink a Cuba deal …  Scott said Wednesday that he would ask Florida legislators to restrict funds for ports that “enter into any agreement with [the] Cuban dictatorship.” That risked $37 million over the next five years for Port Everglades, which is in Fort Lauderdale, and $920,000 over the same period for the Port of Palm Beach.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will continue his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” Tax Cut Tour, which highlights his proposed $618 million in tax cuts, at a 1 p.m. news conference at Storm Smart, 6182 Idlewild St. in Fort Myers.

SCOTT GIVES SPEAKER CORCORAN AN EARFUL ON ETHICS REFORM via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – As the Florida House embarks on aggressive ethics reform mission that will target the Legislature and executive branch, House Speaker Corcoran asked Scott‘s office for suggestions … Corcoran got an earful of suggestions, at least one of which appears to be directed at Corcoran himself … including closing the loophole that allows legislators to fly on planes chartered by political parties and political committees; requiring legislators to disclose cases in which they are seeking state money for nonprofit groups; and prohibiting lawmakers from suing state agencies. Another Scott suggestion would prohibit legislators from working for law firms that lobby the Legislature — a proposed change that strikes at the very heart of how Florida’s “citizen Legislature” operates … change as a necessary safeguard “to ensure that all funding decisions are made free from any undue influence, whether real or perceived.”

RICHARD CORCORAN: SCOTT’S ETHICS PROPOSALS NOT PERSONAL via Florida Politics – “I read the letter,” Corcoran said in an afternoon media availability. “Clearly, they have somebody in mind, it seems like … it’s not me.”

… CORCORAN ALREADY VEXED BY SENATE GAMBLING PLAN via Florida Politics – House Speaker Corcoran is saving the profanities—for now. At a Thursday press availability, he was asked about comments by a lobbyist involved in this year’s gambling legislation, which the Senate has taken the lead on with an omnibus bill (SB 8). The person was overheard in a Capitol corridor saying he had spoken with the Speaker about the bill: “He’s not going for this free-for-all … He is going to let [the Senate] have their kitchen-sink charade for now.” “Those aren’t words that I would use,” Corcoran told reporters. “I probably would have used more profanity.” He quickly added with a smile: “I’m just kidding.”

RICHARD CORCORAN APPOINTS TWO LEGISLATORS TO INVESTIGATE ‘WATER WARS’ LEGAL BILLS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – [Corcoran] asked two legislators with finance backgrounds to investigate the $100 million in legal bills the state has received in the protracted lawsuit against Georgia over access to water in the Flint-Chathoochee-Apalachicola River basin … he has asked Rep. Bill Hager, an attorney expert witness in insurance matters and Rep. David Richardson, a forensic auditor, to look at the bills. He said he supported the litigation but “the question is: what is the fair market cost.” “I think you’re going to find really fast that defending the rights of Floridians, yes, it’s an absolutely worthy expense,” Corcoran told reporters. “Spending $100 million in legal fees, we are getting gouged and that needs to be fixed.”

KEITH PERRY FILES BILL TO CREATE 10-DAY BACK-TO-SCHOOL SALES TAX HOLIDAY via Florida Politics – Under the proposed legislation (SB 490), certain school supplies would be tax exempt from Aug. 4-14. The proposal would include clothing, backpack and sneakers that cost $100 or less; pens, pencils, notebooks, markers, calculators and lunchboxes that cost $15 or less; and laptops or desktop computers that cost $1,000 or less. Scott’s proposal includes a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday, which he estimates would save Floridians $72 million.

THE TAX CUT THAT HISTORY SHOWS SCOTT IS MOST LIKELY TO GET FROM LEGISLATURE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times –  The bulk of Scott‘s tax cut plan is aimed at business. Scott’s plan would cut a 6 percent sales tax that businesses pay on leasing property to 4.5 percent in 2018. That would cut taxes by $454 million for businesses, but lawmakers say economic forecast show that would lead to budget deficits without big cuts or more revenue elsewhere. The sales-tax-free shopping holiday would take $72 million out of the budget … The Legislature has refused to cut the tax on commercial leases twice in the last three years when Scott has made similar requests to cut the tax. Meanwhile, the back-to-school shopping tax has traditionally more acceptable to state lawmakers, though in various forms. Since 1998, the state has had a sales-tax-free shopping week in all but four years. It’s been as long as 10-days and as short as three.

SENATOR’S IRE, POLITICAL INTRIGUE SWIRL AROUND $500M S. FLORIDA COMMUTER RAIL CONTRACT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The public authority that oversees a South Florida commuter rail service is set to award a more than $500 million contract to a company whose bid was tens of millions of dollars higher than its competitors, each of whom was deemed ineligible for the same technical flaw. Officials from the rival bidders said the process raised red flags, and at least one prominent state senator is angered by the issue, which also comes steeped in lobbying and political intrigue. The winner of the South Florida Regional Transit Authority (SFRTA) contract operates Tri-Rail, a commuter rail service that runs on 70.9 miles of track between Jupiter and downtown Miami. The contract could be up a 10-year term. At its scheduled meeting … the board is set to consider an intent to award the contract to Herzog. But that won’t happen if state Sen. Jeff Brandes gets his way. “Obviously, any time there is a contract like this, I think there should be added scrutiny because of just some of the issues that surround it … We are going to pay special attention to it.”

VISIT FLORIDA DEFENDERS SWARM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE HEARING via Florida Politics – Tourism business owners flocked to a Senate committee room Thursday to plead the case for Visit Florida, the state’s embattled tourism promotions agency. Representing both large operations and independent hotels and restaurants, they urged members of the Appropriations Committee to let the agency continue to sell Florida to potential tourists in the United States and overseas. Sheldon Suga, a manager at Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, brought 1,000 letters from hotel housekeepers and desk clerks, charter boat captains, and other tourism employees. “Individuals who rely on tourism in this state,” he said. “They don’t have the ability to bring tourists to this state. Visit Florida does.”… Committee chairman Jack Latvala was openly sympathetic. “This is an issue that this committee will give a lot of attention to — the Legislature is going to give a lot of attention to,” Latvala said. “The tourism industry employees 1.2 million Floridian,” he said. “It’s an industry we cannot turn our back on. We can’t crawl in a hole and pull a blanket on top of us. We have to compete economically with other states that also advertise and offer things to folks to come to their states.”

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE LOOKS INTO STATE COURTS’ CASELOAD BACKLOGS – via Florida Politics – The percentage of the Florida Supreme Court’s caseload still pending after 180 days doubled after the U.S. Supreme Court upended the state’s death penalty system last year, a court representative told a House panel looking into court delays on Thursday. In Hurst v. Florida, the justices in Washington invalidated Florida’s death penalty because the law gave too much discretion to judges instead of juries in handing down death sentences. Death row inmates filed appeals en masse. The court in Tallahassee is still weighing a response. “That has completely held up the death penalty cases in Florida,” said John Tomasino, clerk of the Florida Supreme Court. The court has set a standard for deciding cases within 180 days. The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee held hearings into how quickly  the high court and other appellate and trial courts are clearing their caseloads. Since 2006, the Florida Supreme Court has left between 1 percent and 4 percent of its cases lingering past that deadline. In 2015, the percentage was 3 percent. It swelled to 6 percent in 2016.

REPORT DECRIES POLITICAL INFLUENCE, LOW DIVERSITY IN FLORIDA JUDICIARY via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – A new report released by Progress Florida … is sharply critical of creeping political influence in the state’s judiciary, as well as its lack of ethnic and racial diversity … changes made in 2001 to the bodies that send the governor a list of judicial nominees from which to name an appointee, Judicial Nominating Commissions, undermines the merit selection process. It also says the changes subvert the 1970s reforms that were aimed at picking appellate judges based on who has the best qualifications rather than who best aligns with the governor politically. The report also criticizes the disproportionately low number of Hispanic and African-American judges, faulting Gov. Scott for doing nothing to help.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Travis Blanton, Jon Johnson, Dale Patchett, Johnson & Blanton: Hamilton County Development Authority; Marquis Software Development; Multitype Library Cooperatives

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Florida Courthouse Therapy Dogs LLC.

Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: Tech Care for Kids, Inc.

James Card, Larry J. Overton & Associates: Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc.; Henderson Behavioral Health

Christopher Carmody, GrayRobinson: STEPS, Inc.: Tech Care for Kids, Inc.

Christopher Dawson, Katie Flury, GrayRobinson: City of Orlando; STEPS, inc.; Tech Care for Kids

Angela Dzewiecki, Peebles & Smith, Inc.: Florida Acupuncture Association; Metroplan Orlando; ToHo Water Authority

Julie Fess: Sarasota Kennel Club

Martin FiorentinoJoseph MobleyMark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: YMCA of Florida’s First Coast

Fausto GomezManuel Reyes, Gomez Baker Associates: Miami Shores Villages

John Charles Gray, GrayRobinson: American Maglev Technology, Inc.; Metro Orlando Economic Development; Williams Acquisition Holding Company

Christopher Hagan, Akerman LLP: Florida Solar Energy Industries Association; Miami-Dade County

Mike Haridopolos, Mike Haridopolos: South Central Florida Express, Inc.; Southern Gardens Citrus Groves Corporation; Southern Gardens Citrus Nursery Corporation; Southern Gardens Citrus Processing Corporation; United States Sugar Corporation.

Michael HarrellJames Magill, Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Sportsman’s Land Trust

Kari Hebrank, Wilson & Associates LLC: Florida Energy Pipeline Association; Florida Gas Transmission Company; Florida Home Builders Association

William Helmich, Helmich Consulting: OSCR

Larry Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc.; Henderson Behavioral Health, Okeechobee County School District

Diana Padgett, Timmins Consulting: North Florida Community College Foundation

Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: No Casinos, Inc.

William Peebles, Pebbles & Smith: City of Mount Dora; City of Tampa; Florida Acupuncture Association; Monroe County Board of County Commissioners; Orlando Utilities Commission

Evan Power, Ramba Consulting: City of Daytona Beach; Florida Automobile Dealers Association; Florida Concrete & Products Association

Richard Reeves, GrayRobinson: Florida Distillers Guild

Robert Reyes, Capitol Group: Florida United Businesses Association; United Association Services, Inc. (d/b/a FUBA Workers’ Comp)

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Seavin, Inc.

David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: Oakley Groves, Inc.

John Wayne Smith, Peebles & Smith: City of Mount Dora; City of Tampa; Monroe County Board of County Commissioners; Orlando Utilities Commission

Christopher Snow, Snow Strategies, Inc.: All Kids Care of Orange Park

Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: 3M Company

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Seavin, Inc.; STEPS, Inc.; Tech Care for Kids, Inc.

Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Tech Care for Kids, Inc.

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BOG CHAIRMAN SAYS UNIVERSITIES MUST FOCUS ON PREPARING STUDENTS FOR JOBS, BOOST RESEARCH via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat – Florida’s public universities are showing progress but must continue their focus on graduating students prepared with skills for the job market, increasing research and ensuring access, Board of Governors Chairman Tom Kuntz said …  Kuntz said a major focus for this year will be strengthening ties between the universities and the business community to make sure students are majoring in areas that will lead to job growth in Florida. “First, aligning degrees to match high-skilled workforce needs is a high priority for our system,” Kuntz said. “Students should be graduating with degrees that provide them with the skills to engage in meaningful productive work. In looking at how we can improve on preparing students to enter the workforce, we’ve asked two questions: (1) are our students equipped with the skills they need to step into high-skilled jobs, and (2) are we offering degree programs that align with those needs?”

SUIT CLAIMS ELECTRONIC CRAPS MACHINES RIPPED PLAYERS OFF via Nick Sortal of the Miami Herald – Lawyers filed suit Jan. 20 against Interblock, which manufactures electronic table games worldwide. The suit also names the Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano Beach, where the games the complainants named in the suit are located. The suit claims the dice game takes too large of a commission on certain winnings. Live dice games and roulette are illegal in Florida, but in 2012 electronic versions of the games — with bouncing dice and spinning wheels — were declared legal … The casinos make money, naturally, when patrons lose a bet, but they also take a portion when patrons win. That’s the rub with the Interblock craps game. It advertises that it takes 5 percent of each dollar plunked down in a successful bet; but it actually takes 5 percent of a player’s winnings. In certain bets, that commission amounts to 10 percent, rather than 5 percent, the suit argues.

THIS IS WHAT MEDICAL MARIJUANA LOOKS LIKE IN TAMPA via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Trulieve opened its first medical marijuana treatment center in Tampa … the company’s third dispensary in the state. The treatment center is not what some would expect … medical marijuana products offered at Trulieve under state law are behind a locked door that only patients or their registered caregivers can access. The medical marijuana comes in a non-euphoric strain low in the high-inducing chemical THC and three strains of full-strength medical marijuana. None of those strains are available to smoke. They come in pills that can be taken orally, like an aspirin; as tinctures, which are also taken orally; and two types of inhalation devices that work similar to an e-cigarette. All are packaged in containers reminiscent of those a patient would receive at a pharmacy.

TRI-RAIL’S HALF-BILLION DOLLAR, SINGLE-PROPOSAL DEAL RAISES QUESTIONS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The South Florida Regional Transit Authority will consider awarding a deal to run the state’s largest public commuter railroad, Tri-Rail — worth up to $511 million — after tossing all competing bids, including some asking far less money. Some rejected bidders, including Tri-Rail’s current operator, Maryland’s Transdev Services, are fuming and challenging …Transdev went to court to block the award; initially getting a temporary restraining order. In depositions filed in the Transdev court case against the transit authority … the agency’s procurement director Christopher Bross testified that he had the power to accept the bid prices at face value, but chose instead to interpret that some bidders had included conditions on their pricing; so he disqualified them. Bross did so, he testified, without asking the bidders to clarify. Transdev argued in court that the bid price was, as the law required, clearly stated and not conditional, and would not have been changed as Bross had testified he assumed to be a prospect.

SPOTTED in the Vanity Fair article about legendary society columnist “Suzy:” Pepe Fanjul and wife Emilia.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our great friend, Laura Boehmer of Southern Strategy Group. Another SSG lobbyist celebrating today is Deno Hicks. Best wishes to our friend Cory Guzzo, too.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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