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Sunburn for 02.02.17 – Scott’s jobs summit, Chamber’s insurance confab kick-off; Ag. Commish candidates galore; Major Latvala fundraiser

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.

Get ready, Florida: Gov. Rick Scott wants to talk J-O-B-S.

OK, we get it. That’s not really surprising. It’s clearly his favorite topic. He’s been singularly focused on bringing more of them to the state since he ran for office back in 2010. His speeches are peppered with jobs numbers; and at least once a week you can find him at a small business somewhere in the state applauding job growth (no matter how small) and handing out his “Governor’s Business Ambassador Award.”

But Scott is taking his devotion to jobs to the next level, hosting a two-day summit at the Caribe Royale in Orlando this week to bring together “business, education, economic development and community leaders to discuss how to keep bringing new jobs to Florida.”

“A job is the most important thing to a family, and we must fight to make sure our children and grandchildren have every opportunity to succeed in the Sunshine State,” Scott said in a statement announcing the summit last week.

The event is expected to be similar to Scott’s successful 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit. While that focused largely on preparing Florida’s students for the workforce, the 2017 event appears to focus on economic development development.

And why wouldn’t it? The summit directly follows theEnterprise Florida meeting, also taking place at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, where economic incentives will surely be discussed.

It also comes just days after Scott officially rolled out his fiscal 2017-18 budget, which included $85 million in economic incentive dollars and $76 million in marketing money for Visit Florida. Both organizations have come under fire in recent months, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said there is no chance either will be funded in the his chamber’s budget.

That doesn’t mean the need for cash won’t come up, especially since the agenda appears tailor made for discussions about the benefits of Scott’s ask.

There’s a panel discussion dubbed “Florida Economic Development: Past, Present, and Future;” one called “International Trade: Florida is a Gateway to the World;” and one called “Tourism: Florida’s Jobs Generator.”

Eric Silagy, the president and CEO of Florida Power & Light, is expected to talk about marketing Florida; while Jonathan Grella, with the U.S. Travel Association, is set to discuss why tourism matters. Ken Lawson, the newly named president and CEO of Visit Florida, is expected to speak, as is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Scott will take part in a panel discussion about disaster response, as well as give the keynote address today.

The fun doesn’t end when Scott gives his closing remarks this afternoon. There’s a networking reception immediately after the first day’s festivities, and Scott is expected to be in attendance. He’ll be introduced by CFO Jeff Atwater.

Don’t even think about skipping out early. On Friday, there are panel discussions scheduled on how talent drives business and entrepreneurship. Chris Hart IV, the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, is also expected to take the stage.

The 2017 Jobs Summit kicks off at 1 p.m. today at the Caribe Royale, 8101 World Center Drive in Orlando.

ALSO HAPPENING TODAY – FLORIDA CHAMBER KICKS OFF INSURANCE SUMMIT IN MIAMI —The Florida Chamber’s 2017 Insurance Summit kicks off today at the JW Marriott in Miami. The two-day event is meant to bring together industry leaders to discuss ways the state can build a “safer, stronger future for Florida’s consumers.”

The event kicks off with welcome remarks a “state of Florida’s Future” speech at 8:30 a.m. by David Hart, the executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. Bryon Ehrhart, the global head of strategic growth & development at Aon, is expected to take the stage around 8:50 a.m. to give a speech titled “Insurance Reality Check: How Are We Doing.” The event also features a panel discussion with members of the media on ways to educate consumers, and a discussion called “Preparing for the Storm: Hurricane Forecasting, Modeling and Aftermath.” Lorilee Medders, the director of the Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center, will moderate that panel, which features Richard Knabb, the director of the National Hurricane Center, and Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

CFO Jeff Atwater is slated to give the keynote address during lunch; while Robert McClure, the president and CEO of the James Madison Institute, will discuss insurance reforms needed now. The afternoon is expected to be full of panels discussing assignment of benefits, including a panel on who profits from fraud and abuse, and steps to fix the problems. The summit runs through Friday.

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DONALD TRUMP RAISED $15 MILLION IN DECEMBER via Ken Vogel of POLITICO – Trump’s re-election efforts are off to a strong start financially, according to campaign finance reports showing that Trump’s three committees brought in a combined $15 million last month and finished the year with $16 million in the bank. The committees – Trump’s campaign and two joint fundraising vehicles created by the campaign and various Republican Party committees – disbursed nearly $32 million from Nov. 29 through Dec. 31.

TRUMP LOSES LEGAL FIGHT OVER GOLF CLUB MEMBERSHIPS via Andy Reid of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – A federal judge ruled that Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter should pay $5.8 million to people who argued that while waiting for membership deposit refunds, they were charged annual dues and fees – even though they were barred from using the golf course, restaurant, spa and other amenities. Barring people still paying fees from using the club “revoked or canceled their memberships” and entitled them to refunds within 30 days, according to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra’s ruling. The judge also wiped out any fees and other club charges that had accrued since Dec. 31, 2012, for those who were part of the lawsuit.

BUDWEISER WADES INTO IMMIGRATION DEBATE WITH NEW SUPER BOWL AD via Amar Toor of The Verge – Budweiser has injected itself into the debate surrounding Trump’s controversial immigration orders with a new Super Bowl ad about the company’s origins. The one-minute ad, titled “Born the Hard Way,” tells the story of how Adolphus Busch immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the 1800s, which led to the creation of the Anheuser-Busch brewing company (now AB InBev, the world’s largest beer company). The dramatized origin story shows Busch on a long, arduous voyage to St. Louis, where he meets Ebert Anheuser, fittingly, over a beer.

CRITICS DON’T EVEN WANT ANIMATRONIC TRUMP TO SPEAK via The Associated Press – An online petition was started last week, asking Walt Disney World to keep an animatronic Trump silent in its Hall of Presidents attraction. The attraction has animatronic figures of all U.S. presidents … The petition says Trump ran a campaign filled with hateful speech and he doesn’t deserve to have a voice at a place like Disney World in Florida. The Hall of Presidents temporarily closed earlier this month so the new animatronic president could be installed. It reopens in June.

BEYONCÉ, TIM TEBOW FOR PREZ? INVALID VOTES SPIKED IN FLORIDA via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – A report released by state officials showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn’t cast a valid vote for president. The “non-valid votes” include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank … invalid ballots outnumbered Trump‘s margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida’s 29 electoral votes. And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time. “There were some people who were very disgruntled,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, giving the read of some fellow election officials on the report.

WOMEN’S MARCH ACTIVISTS TO HOLD MEETINGS THROUGHOUT FLORIDA THIS WEEKEND via Florida Politics – Activists who traveled to D.C. for the historic Women’s March, or participated in one of the several protests … will be holding meetings up and down the Sunshine State this Saturday to strategize on what happens next … In Tampa, that meeting will take place at 4 p.m. at the Jimmy Keel Regional Library, 2902 W. Bearss Ave. In St. Petersburg, interested members will be meeting at 4: 00 p.m. at Nova 535, 535 Mlk Jr. … In Tallahassee, the meeting will take place at 4 p.m. at the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, 2015 Fleischmann Road. In Gainesville, the meeting will take place at 1 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, 4225 NW 34th St.

DENISE GRIMSLEY RUNS FOR AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER IN 2018 via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – State Sen. Grimsley played up her background in agriculture, ranching, nursing, business and politics as she threw her hat in the ring. “I offer my candidacy to serve as Florida’s agriculture commissioner as a continuation of the public service that has meant so much in my life … I began my working life with a passion for nursing and helping people in difficult situations. I continue that today as a hospital administrator. I’ve operated our family businesses and know treating the customer well and with respect is key to any success.” Grimsley current chairs the General Government Appropriations Subcommittee and is the vice chair on the Ethics and Elections Committee. She also serves on the Agriculture Committee.

>>>Look for Trey McCarley and Kris Money to handle fundraising for Grimsely’s campaign.

EX-SEN. LISA CARLTON CONSIDERING RUN FOR STATE AG COMMISSIONER via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Hours after Sen. Grimsley announced she was running for Florida Agriculture commissioner, Carlton confirmed she is weighing getting into the contest as well. Orlando Republican Paul Paulson has also filed for the seat. Carlton, a Sarasota County Republican and rancher, was in the Florida Senate from 1998 to 2008. She said since then she has stepped completely away from politics to focus on raising her family and her family’s citrus and cattle ranch businesses.

>>>Sources close to Rep. Matt Caldwell say he continues to strongly consider running for Ag. Commish and is receiving “massive” encouragement to do so.

MATT GAETZ DRAFTS BILL TO ‘COMPLETELY ABOLISH’ THE EPA via Alexandra Kaufman of the Huffington Post – Matt Gaetz … sent the email to lawmakers who might co-sponsor the legislation, which would shutter the EPA by the end of next year. “Our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance, too often leading to closed doors and unemployed Americans,” Gaetz wrote. “It is time to take back our legislative power from the EPA and abolish it permanently” … he cited a statistic from the American Action Forum, a conservative policy group launched in 2010 by Republican heavyweights, stating that “it would take more than 94,200 employees working full time to complete one year of EPA paperwork.”

CHARLIE CRIST NAMED TO THREE KEY FINANCIAL SERVICES SUBCOMMITTEES via Florida Politics – Crist, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was tapped to serve on three of its principal subcommittees. Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, which covers all matters relating to banking, including oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, mortgages, and federal regulators of financial institutions; Monetary Policy and Trade, which has jurisdiction over the Export-Import Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, which impacts access to capital and interest rates; and Oversight and Investigation, which is tasked with overseeing administration actions relating to financial services to promote good governance in this sector.

CRIST PUTS HIS WIFE ON THE PAYROLL via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Carole Crist … Is now on his campaign’s payroll. Campaign reports show the wealthy former New Yorker received two payroll payments in December totaling $6,500, and another $417 payment. “She’s a great woman, my best friend, smart, loyal and driven and plays an integral part in this campaign,” said Crist, describing his wife as the “campaign director” who also plays a big role in raising money. Anti-nepotism rules bar members of the U.S. House from hiring family members for official staff positions, nothing prevents them from using political committees to hire relatives.

CHLOE CONEY RETIRING AS U.S. REP. KATHY CASTOR’S DISTRICT DIRECTOR via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – Starting in 2007, Coney helped launch Castor‘s district office in Tampa and worked on constituent service and outreach as a wave of foreclosures and business losses hit Tampa during the Great Recession. Coney grew up in Tampa, and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Florida A&M University. She received a master’s in biblical counseling from Florida Beacon Bible College in Largo. In 1992, she founded the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa … she oversaw job training and home ownership counseling for thousands of people, construction of affordable homes in East Tampa, an infusion of new businesses and the opening of a youth center in place of an abandoned bar. With Coney’s retirement, Marcia Mejia, Castor’s communications director, will become district director.

VAL DEMINGS WANTS HER COMMITTEE IN CONGRESS TO OVERSEE ‘THE WALL’ via Florida Politics – As Trump moves forward on his plans to build a massive, potentially $25 billion wall along the Mexico border, Demings wants assurance that Congress will have some oversight of the project … Demings introduced an amendment to the oversight plan of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that could give that committee some control, regardless of how the president wants to do the wall. Demings, an Orlando Democrat, is a member of that committee. She is also a ranking member on that committee’s Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs. Her amendment would give the committee control to examine costs associated with construction, maintenance, increased surveillance, environmental effects, and compensation for affected property owners as well as look at the effectiveness and source of funding for the wall.

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DAYS UNTIL: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 8; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 10; Valentine’s Day – 12; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 33; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 40; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 92; FSU vs. Alabama – 212; Election Day 2017 – 277; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 315.


SCOTT, STATE CABINET OK RYAN MATTHEWS AS INTERIM DEP SECRETARY via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday formally approved Ryan Matthews as interim Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Matthews will serve until Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam decide on a permanent replacement for outgoing Secretary Jon Steverson … Matthews, named deputy secretary last year, had been in charge of the department’s air, water, and waste pollution programs and for overseeing the agency’s regulatory districts.

MICHELLE DENNARD IN LINE FOR CAREERSOURCE FLORIDA PRESIDENCY via Florida Politics – Current CareerSource Florida Vice President of Policy Dennard was the top-scoring candidate for CareerSource’s president and chief executive officer job following interviews of three finalists conducted Jan. 20 by the agency board’s search committee. She scored highest on all three interview scorecards forwarded to Gov. Scott … The CareerSource Florida board will officially select its new president at a Feb. 8 meeting.

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JOE NEGRON: LAKE OKEECHOBEE LAND-BUY BILL WON’T PUT SUGAR MILL OUT OF BUSINESS via Isadora Rangel and Tyler Treadway of – Negron … believes his proposal to build a reservoir on about 60,000 acres south of the lake wouldn’t put a Belle Glade sugar mill out of business, as opponents have claimed. He’s not looking to buy land that’s heavily farmed, and “we can work with landowners” to minimize potential impacts to jobs and production … “I think there’s a way we can structure this in a way that will have minimum impact on production and not to the extent you would be shutting down a factory or any kind of production” … Negron tried to allay concerns from residents of Pahokee, Belle Glade, Clewiston and other rural communities that rely heavily on the sugar industry, the largest owner of acreage south of the lake. Those communities have organized groups to condemn a bill filed last week as a jobs killer.

AS FIRST PREVIEWED IN SUNBURN – JEFF BRANDES FILES COMPETING MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Brandes‘ proposal (SB 614) completely upends the small medical cannabis program already functioning in the state in favor of more competition. His bill would allow businesses to be licensed as growers, distributors or processers who make pills and oils that can be sold to patients. It would do away with existing caps in state law that allow just seven companies to be in the marijuana business and require them all to grow, process and sell their own products. A competing proposal (SB 406) filed by Sen. Rob Bradley largely keeps that system intact but allows additional licenses to be granted when the number of patients grows.

GREG STEUBE STARTS FILING INDIVIDUAL BILLS TO BREAK UP HIS MAJOR GUNS PROPOSAL via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Steube is following through on plans he announced last week to break up a controversial and sweeping gun measure he had initially proposed (SB 140) into as many as 10 individual bills. Six such bills had surfaced by 4 p.m. … SB 618 lifts the ban on concealed weapons in airport passenger terminals, mirroring a measure already filed in the Florida House. Other individual measures would allow concealed weapons also at legislative meetings (SB 620) and other government meetings (SB 626), in career centers (SB 640), on public college and university campuses (SB 622) and in courthouses so they can be temporarily surrendered at security (SB 616).

RICHARD CORCORAN OUTLINES PATH FOR TRIUMPH GULF COAST BILL via Rick Outzen of Rick’s Blog – Corcoran outlined the path for funding projects with the $300 million settlement from BP oil spill earmarked for Northwest Florida. “I think we figured that part out … I think the question is doing it in a manner that comports with the (Florida) constitution and protecting the rights and the interests of the people in the Panhandle.” He said that House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast has an upcoming workshop on the Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) … “I think that that PCB, and talking with them, will make sure that the money goes to the Panhandle, first and foremost, permanently and indefinitely,” said Corcoran.

HOUSE MEMBER PROJECTS CURRENTLY TOP $200 MILLION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Members of the Florida House have filed 103 appropriations projects bills … and the total currently exceeds $200 million. According to House Rule 5.14, in order for a project to be included in the House budget, it must be filed as a standalone bill, favorably considered in committee, and made with non-recurring appropriations. So far, 9 bills request appropriations that were vetoed in previous budgets, including HB 2073 requesting $3.4 million for the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative. The largest appropriation project filed to date is the $15 million requested in HB 2109 by Rep. Joe Gruters for The Legacy Trail Extension.

TAMPA BAY LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION ATTEMPTS TO FIND ANSWERS FOR REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION FIX via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Tampa Bay’s Legislative Delegation … representing the area’s eight counties, spent two hours in Clearwater discussing how to begin addressing the region’s myriad transportation issues. According to a new white paper prepared by the D.C.-based Enos Center for Transportation for the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional structure for transportation planning, operations and decision-making is paramount to the development of a regional transport network. That conclusion might make an interested observer ask — isn’t that what TBARTA was supposed to be? “They are operating on a shoestring budget, cobbled together on donations from local governments,” said Shawn Harrison, who served on the TBARTA board after its creation. “If we can take that vision and expand, I really do think we do have at our disposal a vehicle that can plan and put assets on the road.”


WHAT STEPHANIE SMITH IS READING – FLA. COURT SAYS UBER DRIVERS ARE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS, NOT EMPLOYEES via Florida Politics – A Florida appellate court has ruled that a former Uber driver isn’t entitled to unemployment benefits because he was an independent contractor, not an employee. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled Wednesday for the Department of Economic Opportunity, the state’s jobs agency, against Darrin E. McGillis. The ruling is another win for the San Francisco-based ridebooking service, which is fighting a multi-state legal battle not to be considered an employer so it doesn’t have to pay certain benefits under state labor laws.

HAPPENING TODAY – CAMPAIGN TO DEFEND LOCAL SOLUTIONS, OTHERS TO HOST PANEL DISCUSSION ON GUN VIOLENCE — The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, started by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, will host a filming of the documentary of Newtown and a panel discussion on gun violence at Florida A&M University Rattler’s Den, 1628 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tallahassee. The documentary chronicles the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Gillum is expected to give opening remarks, followed by the documentary and a panel discussion featuring FAMU Police Chief Terence Calloway, FAMU SGA Vice President Paris Ellis, FAMU SGA Senate President Brandon Johnson, and Jordan Sealey with the FAMU Campus Activities Board. The event begins at 6 p.m., and doors open at 5:30 p.m. The panel discussion is expected to begin around 7:45 p.m. Media is asked to RSVP to

PRIVATE INSURER CLEARED TO ASSUME 15,000 CITIZENS INSURANCE POLICIES via Florida Politics – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has cleared Southern Oak Insurance Co. to take over as many as 15,000 home policies from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Southern Oak is eligible to assume the policies effective April 18 under the “takeout” process — a way for Citizens to shift policies to private insurers. The process is sometimes referred to as “depopulation,” and Citizens’ goal is to let private companies assume as many policies as they can responsibly handle. But the depopulation rate has been slowing. During the first two months of 2016, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved depopulation of 200,000 polices, according to Citizens.

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PERSONNEL NOTE: ACLU-FL STAFFS UP FOR TRUMP ERA via Florida Politics – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida announced a bevy of new staff “in preparation for the upcoming fights in the Florida legislature, in the courts, and in cities and counties across the state of Florida,” according to a Wednesday news release. Deputy Director Melba Pearson was an Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County for 16 years … Political Director Kirk Bailey will lead direct lobbying, organizing and campaign initiatives … Staff Attorney Jackie Azis will focus on criminal justice issues … Legislative Counsel Kara Gross, based in Tallahassee, was … Senior Assistant General Counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) … Raymer Maguire IV will coordinating criminal justice reform efforts.


George Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: American Traffic Solutions; The Gasparilla Inn & Club

Joanna Lee Clary Bonfanti, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart PA: Lakeland Electric

Ron Book, Ronald L. Book PA: Renovate America, Inc.; Woolpert, Inc.

Rana Brown, Ronald L. Book PA: Renovate America, Inc.

Chip Case, Jefferson Monroe Consulting: City of Anna Maria

Angela DempseyFred DickinsonErik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Yum! Brands, Inc.

David Griffin, GrayRobinson: Florida Distillers Guild

Christopher Hagan, Akerman LLP: Association of Public Safety Communications Officials

Mike Haridopolos, Mike Haridopolos: Pharmacists Who Care

Lauren Claire Hendeson, Cynergy Consulting LLC: Ascend Learning c/o MultiState Associates Inc.

Lila Jaber, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Broward College Foundation

Jon Johnson, Johnson & Blanton: Florida Voices for Choices

Allison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husban & Daughton PA: American Chemistry Council

James McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Walton County Sheriffs Office

Edward Pozzuoli, Tripp Scott PA: Charter Schools USA; Life Insurance Settlement Association, Inc.

Alex Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

WHAT JEFF BRANDES IS READING: SELF-DRIVING CAR PROTOTYPES NEED LESS HUMAN HELP, DATA SHOW via Justin Prichard of The Associated Press – Self-driving car prototypes appear to be getting better at negotiating California streets and highways without a human backup driver intervening, according to data by California transportation regulators … The data reflect safety-related incidents reported by 11 companies that have been testing more than 100 vehicles on public roads … Waymo, as Google’s self-driving car project was recently rebranded, did far more testing than the other 10 companies combined … reported that its fleet drove itself more than 635,000 miles with 124 safety-related “disengagements,” which must be reported when the technology fails or the backup driver takes control out of concern the car is malfunctioning. Cruise Automation, a startup acquired last year by General Motors, reported driving the second most test miles. Cruise said its prototypes had 181 disengagements over 9,776 miles (185 per 10,000 miles) and that it was “pleased with our progress” during testing on the complex streets of San Francisco.

MARDI GRAS BEGINS SATURDAY AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The Mardi Gras celebration continues for 50 consecutive days. The annual event includes a nightly parade featuring Mardi Gras floats, New Orleans-inspired music, colorful dancers and stilt performers. In a new twist this year, Universal Orlando’s annual passholders can sign up to throw more than a million beads from the parade floats. Float riders are chosen at random and the spots are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. This is the first year the parade will roll through the park every night. The parades only ran on concert nights during previous Mardi Gras celebrations. Also debuting this year, guests that arrive after 6 p.m. can park for free.

SUPER BOWL SPENDING TO REACH $14.1B IN 2017 — The average cost of a Super Bowl party is down slightly in 2017, but the Florida Retail Federation doesn’t think that will stop Floridians from going all out this weekend. Florida families are expected to spend an average of $75 per person to watch Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots on Feb. 5. While the average per person cost is down slightly from last year, total spending across the country is expected to reach $14.1 billion. “Floridians love their football more than just about any other state, and with the Super Bowl being the final game of the year, we expect fans to celebrate the end to great seasons in both professional and college football,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of Florida Retail Federation, in a statement. “The Super Bowl is truly a must-see event for Floridians whether they follow the sport closely or not, and we expect local consumers to load up on food, drinks and decorations for their game watching parties.” In 2015, people spent an average of $82 per person on a Super Bowl party and total spending reached about $15.5 billion.

HAPPIEST OF BIRTHDAY WISHES to one of the best, Katie Webb.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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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