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Sunburn for 2.22.17 – Session is coming; Lyft & Uber bill heads to floor; Negron’s nice CRC picks; press conferences galore

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.

EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

With two more weeks till the 2017 Legislative Session, the battle lines already are being drawn between Richard Corcoran’s House of Representatives and Gov. Rick Scott.

Whoops, there we go again. The press does this every year: Gin up a compelling narrative to lead into the session. Shocker, it usually involves some type of conflict.

Like … Despite the governor’s best attempt to publicly shame lawmakers who support the measure, a House effort to kill Enterprise Florida and many business incentive programs, and strip VISIT FLORIDA down to its financial birthday suit was voted out of Appropriations Tuesday.

The other side of the rotunda signaled it doesn’t want to play along, with Jeff Brandes in the Senate emerging as a voice of reason.

He filed legislation to provide more oversight to the controversial public-private economic development organization, focus on small business, and include the $85 million Scott has requested for incentives.

So where’s the middle ground? Is there any? (See, that’s high-minded concern for compromise and progress.)

“Not that I’m aware of,” House budget chair Carlos Trujillo told the press corps, keeping to his script. “I think philosophically we’re opposed to the notion of the state [cliché alert!] picking winners and losers in economic development.”

Does that mean, heaven forbid, that the chambers and Scott are in “collision course” mode on incentives, with a possibility of “blowing up” Session, to combine another two of the Capitol’s favorite but tired expressions?

“If we pass a bill and the Senate doesn’t pass the bill, then obviously it’s a non-starter,” Trujillo said. “If both chambers agree to pass some substantive legislation, then it goes to the governor’s office and he can make a decision as to the merits.”

Yes, that is the way the system works, in a Schoolhouse Rock sort of way. But c’mon Carlos, ratchet up the drama! We need a story! Should we, say, gird for a special ‘veto override’ session this year? Eagerly awaiting an answer…

SESSION IS COMING — As if we weren’t already thinking the 2017 Legislative Session was going to be interesting enough, the House released a new video Tuesday previewing the upcoming 2017 Legislative Session. The 60-second spot is reminiscent of a “Game of Thrones” advertisement, with ominous music, stormy skies of the Old Capitol and snippets of Speaker Corcoran’s swearing-in speech. Click on the image below to watch the video.

CLICK AND READ THE ENTIRE BLOG POST – HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL TWO WEEKS BEFORE SESSION via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – On a nice night in northeast Tallahassee, Florida’s two legislative leaders appeared before a modest-sized crowd at Holy Comforter Episcopal School to give their thoughts on the upcoming 2017 session. … While he cracked jokes about his escalating feud with Gov. Scott over the fate of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, Corcoran and Negron did not contradict each other or dismiss each other’s ideas. Corcoran stressed that education – not the demise of economic development programs such as Enterprise Florida – was the “number one priority” for the House this year.

Corcoran, while noting that the “details” may prove challenging, also agreed with Negron that something should be done to reduce the discharges from Lake Okeechobee that led to toxic algae blooms along Florida’s coast. This is noteworthy since the agricultural community and sugar growers are exerting considerable pressure to defeat Negron’s bill to acquire land south of the lake in order to store water. In the past Corcoran had questioned the plan because of its cost and its reliance on borrowing by issuing bonds for the land purchase.

… Negron for his part said he remains an “optimist” that he and other Republicans can set aside their differences in the weeks ahead. He said there were a lot of “large issues”  to sort out and that he thought the instant back-and-forth played out on social media was a disruptive force But he also noted that the three most powerful men in Florida – Scott, Corcoran and Negron – are all lawyers. “We all realize there’s a time and place for debate, there’s a time and place for trying to make your point in a colorful persuasive way, and then there’s a time to get the job done, a time to do what the people sent us here to do,” Negron said.

SPOTTED at Holy Comforter for the panel: Slater Bayliss, Mike Harrell, Paul Hawkes, Emory Mayfield, Paul Mitchell, Adam Potts, Jay Smith

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BILL TO KILL BUSINESS INCENTIVES, ENTERPRISE FLORIDA CLEARED FOR HOUSE FLOOR via Florida Politics – A House bill that would abolish the Enterprise Florida economic development organization, eliminate a throng of business incentive programs, and strip the VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency down to a barebones $25 million budget cleared its second and final panel Tuesday. That means the measure (HB 7005), OK’d by the House Appropriations Committee on an 18-12 vote, is ready to be considered by the full House when the 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7. The vote was another hit to Gov. Scott, an advocate of both agencies and economic incentives, which he says create jobs for Floridians … (But the bill) could well be dead on arrival in the Senate. State Sen. Jeff Brandes … filed his own economic development legislation Tuesday. It would leave VISIT FLORIDA alone, and overhaul but not get rid of Enterprise Florida and incentive programs.

UBER-FRIENDLY RULES IN FLORIDA CLEAR ANOTHER HURDLE via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – The House Government and Accountability Committee voted favorably 21-1 on House Bill 221 by Reps. Jamie Grant and Chris Sprowls … . The proposed rules include level one background checks that don’t require a driver’s fingerprints. Uber and Lyft have both objected to fingerprint background checks. Instead, drivers would have to undergo a background check analyzing multistate/multijurisdictional criminal records, the national sex offender database and a complete driving history.

JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS, DEATH PENALTY BILLS CLEAR FINAL HOUSE COMMITTEE VOTES via Florida Politics – Bills that would require unanimous jury votes to impose the death penalty, and ask voters whether to impose term limits on appellate judges, were headed to the House floor following their approval Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee. … The committee also approved HB 65, which would allow victims of terrorist acts to sue perpetrators and their enablers in state court; and HB 301, requiring the Florida Supreme Court to report each year to the the governor, attorney general, and legislative leaders the number of cases still pending 180 days after oral argument.

FLOOD INSURANCE, HMO LIABILITY LEGISLATION CLEAR SENATE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics -A Senate committee approved bills Tuesday that would encourage Florida insurers to write flood insurance as an alternative to expensive federal coverage, and would allow patients to sue HMOs for declining to cover doctors’ treatment recommendations in bad faith. “Why shouldn’t the HMOs be held liable for the decisions they make and the doctors aren’t making, and people are dying?” said Sen. Greg Steube, the Sarasota Republican behind SB 262. … Sen. Jeff Brandes sponsored the flood insurance bill — SB 420. “We want more admitted carriers to write,” Brandes said following the 7-1 vote in favor his his bill.

IN MAJOR TALLAHASSEE REVERSAL, MANDATORY SENTENCES CALLED A WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee … voted unanimously for SB 290 that would end minimum mandatory sentences for non-violent offenses like Powell’s. The massive shift in the tough-on-crime bills of the last two decades that filled prisons and created what both liberals and conservatives now believe has been a subclass of lifers in jail and a waste of tax money. The “prison diversion bill” will save the state $131 million in avoided costs and put 1,001 fewer people in jail, said Sen. Darryl Rouson, the bill’s sponsor. The measure allows judges to depart from the 118 minimum mandatory sentences in Florida law but excludes drug traffickers. It restores the Florida Sentencing Commission, which existed from 1982 to 1997, but limits its scope to determining the severity ranking that adds points to an offenders’ record based on certain offenses. Anyone who commits a violence offense, is not eligible for the court’s leniency.

HOUSE LOBBYING BAN EXTENSION CLEARED FOR FLOOR via Florida Politics – A measure to increase the ban from two years to six years on former lawmakers and statewide elected officers lobbying their colleagues after leaving office is now cleared to be considered by the full House of Representatives. The House Rules and Policy Committee OK’d the measure (HJR 7001) unanimously on Tuesday. As its second and final review panel, it’s now available to be discussed on the House floor when the 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7. Extending the lobbying ban is a plank of Speaker Corcoran‘s program to create a “culture of transparency” in state government.

IMPASSIONED MOMS GATHER IN TALLAHASSEE TO RAIL AGAINST GUN BILLS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Some of the bills passing through this year’s legislative session would lift “gun-free” zones for concealed carry permit holders and allow them to carry their weapons in places like airports and public schools. Other bills would allow CCW permit holders to bring their firearms to public meetings and on college campuses and another would shift the burden of proof in “Stand Your Ground” cases. Moms Demand Action, a wing of the Everytown organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, intends to send a message to state lawmakers and big time gun lobbyists that these laws could have dire consequences on public safety. “The gun lobby has never encountered opposition in Florida like they’re encountering now and they don’t know how to react to it,” said Florida chapter leader Michelle Gajda. “They don’t know how to react to real citizens standing up and demanding that they operate in the sunlight.” Florida gun groups criticized the group for their statements, calling Everytown’s attempt to assume the mantle of a grassroots organization taking “hypocrisy to new heights.”

— “’Arnold Palmer Expressway’ designation gets committee nod” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “Bill to make Miami-Dade County Sheriff an elected position advances in Florida Senate” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “Funding for St. Johns River, Keystone lakes gets initial nod in the Senate” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

— “Linda Stewart bill would extend homeowner protections from bad drywall projects” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

— “Senate committee OK’s 3 bills: job protection, veteran IDs, emergency management” via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics

SHOULD FOOD STAMPS BE USED TO BUY SODA AND CANDY? A TAMPA BAY LAWMAKER SAYS NO via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo of Lecanto … an industrial engineer and a dermatologist, says that something has to be done about the rising rates of obesity in the U.S., especially among children. “The fact that we’re allowing junk food as the most common purchased item leads to non-nutritional states and disease,” Massullo said … “I don’t want the government to get into the nitty-gritty of our lives, but I also don’t want government making us sick.” Massullo filed House Bill 593, which would add soft drinks and candy to the list of items that cannot be bought with electronic benefit transfer cards issued as part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, along with alcohol, gambling, slot machines, commercial bingo halls and adult entertainment. It’s a public health issue but it’s also about the extent to which conservative, free-market Republicans want to control behavior.

TOUGH QUESTIONS FOR POLITICIANS BLOCKING TOUGHER TEXTING & DRIVING LAWS via Noah Pransky of WTSP – With public support overwhelmingly in support of tougher texting-while-driving laws … 10Investigates took tough questions to Florida’s leading lawmakers, including those described by Tallahassee insiders as “roadblocks” to toughening the state’s weak texting laws. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and State Sen. Jeff Brandes both listed a litany of reasons Floridians probably shouldn’t expect any changes to the texting law in 2017, but three themes stood out: 1) Concern that texting bans may not make roads safer; 2) Concern over civil liberties; 2) Concern over civil liberties. When asked why it was any different from the state’s seat belt ban, Brandes had trouble explaining. “The major difference…is people (get pulled over for not) putting on their seat belt. But (with texting),” Brandes said, “(officers) can just pull you over because they see you have a phone in your hand.”

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

PREPARING FOR AN EFFECTIVE CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION via Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte for the Tampa Bay Times – If the legislative leadership is interested in having a productive commission process, they can do three things: Appoint a diverse commission, free from instructions and able to listen to suggestions from the public. Provide adequate resources for the commission to operate and communicate. Use the Legislature’s joint resolution power to clean up useless and outdated language in the Constitution even before the commission makes its proposals. Finally, the Legislature can begin cleaning up the Constitution before the commission meets. Over the years, the document has accumulated numerous outdated sections and much useless language. In three articles, the Constitution allows the two chambers to eliminate useless language by adopting a joint resolution, requiring no action by the governor or the electorate. This can begin with the 2017 Legislative Session.

WITH ‘NICE’ PICKS TO CONSTITUTION COMMISSION, DID JOE NEGRON JUST HAND RICHARD CORCORAN AN OPPORTUNITY? via Florida Politics – This will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels. Of the nine picks, former Senate President Don Gaetz and former Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith are the most notable. Undoubtedly, the great orator Gaetz will be one of the loudest voices on the CRC. Yet, for the most part, Negron’s selections were greeted with shrugged shoulders by most of the capital crowd. ‘Who?’ was asked more than once as the names were read out … But, as has been proven this year by the Speaker’s willingness to filet any number of Tallahassee sacred cows, it’s likely Corcoran has more radical ideas for the CRC. And because Negron did not put on the CRC a full slate of loyalists – Don Gaetz’ loyalty lies with Don Gaetz; Chris Smith is a Democrat – Corcoran should appoint a block of like-minded thinkers, including himself.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will discuss legislation to shift the burden of proof to the state in “Stand Your Ground” cases when it meets at 8:30 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will discuss legislation that could change local government’s ability to regulate businesses during its 1:15 p.m. meeting in 212 Knott; while the House Health Innovation Subcommittee will consider a proposed committee bill on “Medicaid Block Grants” when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in 306 House Office Building. The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss ending the so-called “tampon tax” during its meeting at 10 a.m. in 401 Senate Office Building. Craft beer — and how it is distributed — is on the agenda when the Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets at 12:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building; and the Senate Rules Committee will take up the unanimous jury decisions when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: About 100 cancer survivors, patients and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers will hold a brief rally at 9 a.m. at the Florida Heritage Fountain at Waller Park on the west side of the Florida State Capitol to kick off ACS CAN’s annual Advocacy Day event.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Chamber of Commerce will host a conference call at 10:30 a.m. to announce the launch of Floridians for Ridesharing, a coalition advocating for a consistent statewide framework for ridesharing services. The conference call will include David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce; Kim Galban-Countryman, executive director of Lighthouse of the Big Bend; Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. The conference call line is 888-392-4560, and the access code is 1005794.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. David Santiago will take part in a news conference in which the United Way will release a report about the number of people who earn more than the federal poverty level but have a hard time affording necessities. Availability begins 12:15 p.m., fourth-floor rotunda of the Florida Capitol.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Ramon Alexander and Rep. Shevrin Jones will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. outside the House chambers on the 4th floor to discuss their efforts to “Ban the Box.” Both men have proposed legislation that would ban employers from inquiring about criminal histories on an initial employment application.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Congressman Matt Gaetz and members of the Florida Legislature will hold media availability at 3 p.m. in House Room 333 to discuss health care reform and block grants.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Matt Caldwell and U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney will hold media availability around 4:30 p.m. in House Room 333 to answer questions about Everglades restoration and the continuing state and federal partnership. Both Caldwell and Rooney are scheduled to testify during the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee meeting at 3:30 p.m. in 12 House Office Building.

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HAPPENING TODAY — LAWMAKERS HOLD FUNDRAISERS ACROSS TALLAHASSEE — The House Majority, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, will host a fundraising reception for Alex MillerGrallCyndi StevensonAmber Mariano, and Jackie Toledo at 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street. Miller and Toledo will be back at the Governors Club for another event a 5 p.m.; while Reps. Dane Eagle, Mike La Rosa, and David Santiago will hold a fundraiser at their residence, 419 East Georgia Street, at the same time. A fundraiser is scheduled for Rep. Jay Fant at the Florida Realtors starting at starting at 5:30 p.m.; while Rep. Jay Trumbull will be raising money at the same time at The Governor’s Inn. Democrats are also getting in on the fundraising action, Sen. Vic Torres and Reps Richard Stark, Joe Geller and Amy Mercado hosting a fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. at the Florida Realtors Association.

HAPPENING TODAY – SOLAR INDUSTRY DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Solar industry advocates and stakeholders will be at the Capitol all day to tout the 1,700 new solar jobs created in 2016 and to raise awareness about Senate Bill 90, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, which implements Amendment 4. The day-long event is hosted by the Solar Energy Industries Association, FlaSEIA, Advances Energy Economy, and Vote Solar. Tesla is also expected to participate, and will have two Teslas available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Capitol Courtyard for test drives by legislators, staff and other enthusiasts.

SAVE THE DATE: The 3rd annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit is scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 15 at Madison Social in Tallahassee. Sen. Dana Young will sling drinks for the Red Team and Rep. Evan Jenne will pour them for Team Blue. The bipartisan event combines dogs, politics and friendly competition to raise money for the Tallahassee Animal Shelter Foundation, Last Hope Rescue, and the Leon County Humane Society. Last year, Red Dog Blue Dog celebrity bartenders raised nearly $4,000.

UBER, VOLUNTEER FLORIDA TEAM UP TO PROVIDE #SUITSFORSESSION FOR NEEDY – #SuitsForSession  asks well-dressed denizens of the Florida Capitol – members of the Legislature, lobbyists, the private sector, local nonprofits, state agencies and more – to drop off new or gently worn suits, dresses and shoes Wednesday, March 15, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the Third-Floor Rotunda. Volunteer Florida will donate the clothing to nonprofits that serve job-seekers: Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America in Orlando, and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program. For those unable to make it to the Capitol, donors in Leon County can open the Uber app between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. that day and select the GIVE option at the bottom of the screen. Uber will pick up clothing donations for free and deliver them to Volunteer Florida all day.

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STATE ECONOMISTS SEE TOURISM GROWTH CANCELING OUT LAGGING HOUSING STARTS via Florida Politics – Nothing emerged during a numbers-crunching exercise by state economists to change the economic picture the Legislature will confront this year — growth in tourism and slack housing starts will offset each other as overall growth produces about $31 billion in general revenues. “Those are going to compensate for each other. So, overall, you end up about where you were, on the same path where we were heading,” said Amy Baker, coordinator for the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Multifamily housing starts ought to be growing faster than they are, Baker said — particularly given young people’s penchant to cluster in rental apartments in cities. The economists suspected a lag time to put together construction deals. Or perhaps builders were awaiting the results of the presidential election. Overall, construction “is growing with population growth, because our population is growing. But the amount it grows per new person is pretty steady,” Baker said.

RDOP IN FLORIDA HOME OWNERSHIP BUT GAINS IN FORT MYERS AREA via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Figures by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the home ownership rate in Florida dropped from 64.8 percent in 2015 to 64.3 percent last year. However, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area had the nation’s third biggest gain in the homeownership rate of major metro areas, going from 62.9 percent to 66.5 percent. At the same time, the Sarasota-Bradenton area had the nation’s second-biggest drop in the homeownership vacancy rate. It went from 3.3 percent to 1.2 percent. Miami had Florida’s lowest homeownership rate at 58 percent. Sarasota had the highest at 73 percent.

‘WE CHOOSE LIFE,’ SAY CHURCHES CALLING TO STOP EXECUTIONS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Members of the Florida Council of Churches and representatives from the AME and Catholic denominations called on lawmakers to pass a moratorium on executions, citing high cost of death penalty appeals, the possibility of wrongful convictions and the impact on victims’ families being forced to relive their loved one’s murder repeatedly in court. “Even if we pass unanimous juries, we still haven’t solved the economic issues and we still haven’t solved the fact that families keep being dragged through this trauma over and over again,” said Rev. Russell Meyer, a Lutheran pastor from Tampa and executive director of the Florida Council of Churches. What’s more, they say, there is a moral problem with the state killing people – even the most depraved criminals. “The church has come today on the issue of life and death,” said AME Rev. James Golden. “We choose life.”

BAR EXAM BOARD NOW SEEKING PUBLIC MEMBERS via Florida Politics – The board responsible for writing the state’s bar examination is looking for two more volunteer members. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners now is seeking “two public members” for three-year terms each, it announced in a Tuesday press release. “A public member volunteer should possess education or work-related experience such as educational testing, accounting, statistical analysis, medicine, psychology or related sciences,” the release said. “A bachelor’s degree is required. Lawyers are not eligible.”

CHILD WELFARE INVESTIGATOR, MOTHER ARRESTED FOR COCAINE, HEROIN IN HOME via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A recently-fired employee of the Florida Department of Children and Families, who had worked as a child protection investigator since 2015, was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies on drug trafficking charges after a warrant was issued for her arrest … Laymeshia Hicks, 25 … and her boyfriend, Xzaiveous Scott, 31, are each facing charges of trafficking in heroin, trafficking in cocaine, possession of a structure to traffic drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. Deputies found the drugs in the master bedroom when they responded to an armed home-invasion call … Scott’s nephews, ages 16 and 18, were there when two intruders forced their way inside and ransacked the house Feb. 17, she said. Investigators found 68 grams of heroin and 288 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of about $35,000 … Sheriff Grady Judd said Hicks’ 3-year-old child was living in the house. Sheriff Grady Judd said Hick’s 3-year-old child was living in the house.

DISABLED TEEN STUCK IN BROWARD JAIL PURGATORY MAY GET TREATMENT via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – Last week, Broward Circuit Juvenile Judge Michael Orlando ordered the Department of Juvenile Justice not to discuss the teen, 17-year-old Keishan Ross, with the staff of psychiatric hospitals or drug treatment centers who might be considering admitting him. DJJ said the order was just broad enough that it feared a staffing — a discussion with other agencies to go over treatment options — might violate it. The agency asked Orlando to lift the order so administrators could meet in the afternoon with other agency heads. Orlando declined to lift the gag order. The judge signed the order following a hearing last week in which Keishan’s lawyers at the Broward Public Defender’s Office accused a DJJ probation officer of sabotaging an agreement they had reached with a Fort Lauderdale psychiatric hospital. The hospital was going to admit Keishan for a battery of tests to determine his intellectual capacities and the severity of his mental illness. But hospital administrators changed their minds, the lawyers said, after DJJ disparaged the youth and described him as violent and remorseless.

— BEYOND THE CAPITAL —

WITH POLL, PROGRESSIVE GROUP PRESSES BILL NELSON TO OPPOSE NEIL GORSUCH via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – The left-leaning Progressive Change Campaign Committee tried several arguments against Gorsuch in the poll, conducted in seven key states by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. The one that worked best: characterizing Gorsuch as favoring Wall Street over Main Street … In Florida, 64 percent of poll respondents opposed or strongly opposed Gorsuch when the pollster said the judge “sided with big insurance companies, sided with employers who denied wages and retirement benefits to employees, and generally protected big corporations from accountability.” Twenty-three percent said they would support Gorsuch given that description, and 13 percent said it had no impact on their opinion. The message particularly resonated with Democrats, though less so with independents and Republicans.

LIBERAL ACTIVISTS PLAN ‘EMPTY CHAIR’ TOWN HALL FOR MARCO RUBIO IN TAMPA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “Join fellow Tampa Bay constituents as our invited (yet unconfirmed) guest Senator Marco Rubio hears and responds to constituent questions, concerns and issues brought forth in a format of an organized Q&A style evening,” reads a Facebook notice from Indivisible Tampa. Rubio won’t be anywhere near Tampa, Miami or Washington. He’s in Europe this week. A Rubio spokesman last week was dismissive of the tactics and said staff had met with “dozens of these liberal activists.”

HAPPENING TODAY: U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast and Tom Rooney will attend an event with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II interactive cockpit demonstrator beginning 1 p.m. at the Pratt & Whitney West Palm Beach Engine Center, 17900 Bee Line Highway in Jupiter.

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— “Known unknowns: Trying to divine the real numbers in the lobbying compensation reports” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

 Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc.

Gregory BlackJames DaughtonPatricia GreeneWarren HusbandAllison Liby-SchoonoverAimee Diaz LyonAndrew Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton: Florida Creditors Bar Association, Inc.

Joanna Lee Clary Bonfanti, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Florida Public Utilities Co

Sarah BuskJustin Day, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners LLC: The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, NEMA

Martha Chumbler, Carlton Fields Jordan Burt: The Villages

Brittany Dover, Hopping Green & Sams: Shuler Limited Partnership

Christopher FinkbeinerWilliam RubinHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Western Governors University

Lauren Jackson, Ericks Consultants: Handy, Inc.

Scott Ross, Capital City Consulting: OBS Real Estate Holdings, LLC DBA Ocala Gainesville Poker and Jai Alai

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: American Civil Liberties Union of Florida

PERSONNEL NOTE: FRANCISCO GONZALEZ LEAVES JAMES MADISON INSTITUTE via Florida Politics – Gonzalez, formerly vice president of Advancement, has left the organization after nine years. He’s been named the Director of Philanthropy for the National Review Institute, the parent organization of National Review magazine, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. Gonzalez, who will continue to reside in Orlando, starts Feb. 27, He’ll further NRI’s mission with supporters across the country.

PERSONNEL NOTE: MATT GALKA DEPARTS FOR PHOENIX via Florida PoliticsGalka, an on-air reporter for Mike Vasilinda‘s Capitol News Service, has left Tallahassee to join the FOX affiliate in Phoenix. Galka, a member of the SaintPetersblog “30 Under 30” Class of 2015, will be a general assignment reporter at KSAZ starting Monday, Feb. 27, according to FOX spokeswoman Claudia Russo … “I want to be the same person on TV that you could talk to at a bar,” Galka said in a 2015 interview.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Southern Strategy Group’s Nelson Diaz.

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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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