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Sunburn for 3.14.17 – Press skits tonight; Fineout finds out; Kionne McGhee to lead House Dems; Eyeball wars flaring up

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.

HAPPENING OVERNIGHT – WIND SCRUBS SPACE X LAUNCH via Florida Today – SpaceX is expected to try again early Thursday to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and commercial communications satellite from Kennedy Space Center, after strong winds scrubbed the mission’s first countdown on Tuesday.

The launch team called off the attempt while the rocket was being fueled, with more than a half-hour remaining before the launch window opened at 1:34 a.m.

The mission’s backup launch opportunity is at 1:35 a.m. Thursday, the opening of another two-and-a-half hour window that closes at 4:05 a.m.

Thursday’s forecast is considerably better, with a 90 percent chance of favorable conditions, according to the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. The odds were only 40 percent “go” heading into Tuesday’s countdown.


Wait, what?

Yes, it’s Press Skits, tonight at The Moon (as usual) in Tallahassee.

While the lineup of the skits is a closely guarded secret till showtime, Fineout last month posted a photo of himself—seemingly from rehearsals—wearing a cowboy hat and red shirt, while brandishing two (toy) long-guns.

“Locked and loaded for the 2017 press skits,” he said on Twitter. The mind boggles.

“The event pokes fun at politicians and policy in Florida’s capital city,” the website explains. That’s one way of putting it.

The theme this year is “The Crony Awards,” and “a couple of surprise guests” have been promised. Does this mean Gov. Rick Scott will attend?

To counterbalance the press, the House and Senate will have their own videos, no doubt skewering the newsies (and hopefully themselves).

If you haven’t yet bought tickets, floor seats have sold out but there may be general admission left for $30 each, plus fees, at the Moon box office. Call ahead to confirm: (850) 878-6900.

Remember, proceeds benefit the Barbara L. Frye Scholarship, awarded yearly by the Capitol Press Corps to high school seniors and college students pursuing journalism study.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; show starts at 7:30 p.m. The Moon is at 1105 East Lafayette Street.

Coming from the Capitol, you’ll probably take a right at Fineout pumping a play-shotgun. He’ll be the one shouting, “Yippee-kai-yay, Governor!”

TWEET, TWEET: @FLPressCorps: Breaking: Due to high demand we have add’l 25 floor seats for Press Skits we are opening up in morning.

A REMINDER of just how funny and relevant Press Skits can be via David Johnson. (Click on the image to watch the video.)

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DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 19; NFL Draft – 44; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 51; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 51; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 172; Election Day 2017 – 237; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 275.

CDC: DON’T DONATE SPERM IN 3 FLORIDA COUNTIES DUE TO ZIKA via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press – Men from three Florida counties shouldn’t donate sperm because of a small risk of spreading Zika, U.S. health officials said … The guidance had previously applied to Miami-Dade County, the only place in Florida where there’s evidence the virus was spread by mosquitoes. But infections were reported in people in South Florida who couldn’t clearly be linked to Miami-Dade … the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the advice should extend to two counties north of Miami — Broward and Palm Beach. The recommendation applies to men who lived or traveled in those counties since June 15. Zika is mainly spread by mosquito bites but it can also be spread through sex. People can be infected without getting sick, and the virus can remain in semen for months.

FLORIDA’S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE TICKS UP TO 5% IN JANUARY via Florida Politics — Florida’s unemployment rate ticked up in January, reaching 5 percent for the first time in a year. The January unemployment rate marks a slight uptick from December, when state officials reported an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. The statewide rate is higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. Despite the increase in the unemployment rate, Gov. Rick Scott lauded private sector employers Monday for creating more than 50,000 jobs in January. The governor made the monthly jobs announcement at Herc Rentals in Bonita Springs, and used his appearance to once again take aim at lawmakers who voted to support a bill (HB 7005) to eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs. “It makes no sense to me,” said Scott.

UNDER RADAR, STATE OF FLORIDA SPENT $240M ON LAWYERS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Gov. Scott and other top Florida Republicans frequently complain about government spending, but they have quietly spent more than $237 million on private lawyers to advance and defend their agendas, an Associated Press investigation has found. Florida taxpayers have also been forced to reimburse nearly $16 million for their opponents’ private attorney fees. That means an overall $253 million has been spent on legal fights, including a water war with Georgia and losing battles to test welfare recipients for drugs, trim the state’s voter registration lists and ban companies that do business with Cuba from bidding on government contracts. “A quarter of a billion dollars is a gosh lot of money,” said Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a business-backed group that scrutinizes state spending. Much of the state’s legal spending doesn’t show up in the normal process of assembling the state’s $82 billion budget.

LAWYERED UP? A LOOK AT WHAT THE STATE HAS SPENT MONEY ON via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Here’s a look at some of the spending on outside lawyering Florida taxpayers have had to pay for under Republican leadership:

—More than $100 million in fees paid to lawyers by state agencies, including an expensive water rights struggle with Georgia. The water wars have been waged for nearly 20 years, but costs soared after Scott pushed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. This total also includes money billed by lawyers defending the actions of the Legislature and governor.

— Nearly $16 million paid to opposing lawyers after losing battles over voting rights, gay marriage, drug testing and other controversial policies. This includes $12 million to attorneys who represented pediatricians who contended Florida violated federal mandates by failing to deliver critical health services to 2 million children on Medicaid; more than $800,000 to lawyers working for the American Civil Liberties Union; and nearly $513,000 to lawyers who defeated a state law targeting businesses doing business in Cuba.

— Nearly $20 million spent by the Legislature defending budgets that advocates say shortchange public schools and Republican-drawn legislative and congressional districts. The state won the education lawsuit at its first turn, but the courts sided against them on districts and approved changes that upended the state’s political landscape.

— About $111 million since 2011 through its risk management division on legal cases over auto accidents, employment disputes and worker’s compensation claims against state government.

FIRST ON FLORIDA POLITICS – REPORT: DELINQUENCY DOWN IN FLORIDA, DESPITE A HOST OF CHALLENGES via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Despite several challenges facing the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), it has managed to lower youth arrests during the fiscal year for non-violent offenses. This reduction in delinquency came through the increased use of civil citations, according to a 2017 report on the DJJ by the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA) … entitled “Securing Florida’s Future by Protecting Florida’s Children: The State of the Roadmap to Excellence” … says that in FY 2015-2016, 121,968 children were served by the DJJ, with many children being served in their own communities. In the latest delinquency report just released by the Florida DJJ, juvenile arrests have dropped another 7 percent during FY 2015-16, resulting in a six-year decline of 37 percent. Considerable success has been achieved with the expansion of civil citation and use of detention alternatives. P

Per the report, counties showing the most improvement are Miami-Dade County with a 12 percent drop, Broward County with an 8 percent decrease, Orange County with a 7 percent drop, Palm Beach County with a 6 percent decrease and Hillsborough County with a 2 percent drop. But without sufficient support, maintaining these continued reductions in keeping at-risk youth from falling prey to the so-called “school to prison” pipeline might not last, said Catherine Craig-Myers, executive director of FJJA.

‘FOSTER SHOCK’ DOCUMENTARY TAKES FLORIDA’S PRIVATIZED CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM TO TASK via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics –A documentary film about Florida’s privatized child welfare and fostering programs — made by a Guardian ad Litem and filmmaker from Palm Beach — casts a draconian look at what happens to children when they are taken from abusive situations at home and become dependents of the state, at taxpayer expense, often to their peril. “Foster Shock,” which is currently being screened around the state at community viewings and nationally film festivals, was directed and produced by Mari Frankel, who has also served as a Guardian ad Litem (person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the best interests of a child) for the last several years. Her film paints the picture of a bleak and broken system funded to the tune of roughly $3 billion per year of Florida taxpayer money. The film also argues that a sizable chunk of that money often goes to the six-figure salaries of the executives running the so-called “community-based care” agencies (CBCs), like Eckerd Kids, whose own executive director, David Dennis, earned $708,028 in the fiscal year 2015, according to publicly-available IRS 990 statements.

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – MOTHER MAY HAVE SEEN DAUGHTER KILL SELF ON SOCIAL MEDIA via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – Naika Venant, a 14-year-old Miami girl, hanged herself Jan. 22 and broadcast her death on Facebook Live. Hundreds of people watched her three-hour broadcast, some of whom pleaded with the girl to reconsider her decision. But others urged her to take her life, calling her names and saying that the broadcast was fake. That included a user called Gina Alexis, the name used by Naika’s mother, Gina Caze, according to an abuse complaint reported to DCF Feb. 9. The user posted comments that could be considered “mentally injurious to her suicidal child” and did not seek help for her daughter, the report states. The following statement was posted by the user in the moments leading up to the death: “#ADHD games played u sad little DCF custody jit that’s why u where u at for this dumb s–t n more u keep crying wolf u dead u will get buried life goes on after a jit that doesn’t listen to there parents trying to be grown seeking boys and girls attention instead of her books.”

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RICK SCOTT STUMPS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TOURISM DOLLARS IN TALLAHASSEE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Proponents of keeping Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA have been repeating the talking point that even Coca-Cola, king of market share, still advertises … Scott kept driving home his counter-frame to House Speaker Corcoran‘s “corporate welfare” narrative that killing the state’s economic development organization and tourism marketing agency will kill jobs. “Here in Tallahassee, we need to diversify the economy, we need to get more tourism, we need to get more manufacturing companies,” he said, at a business roundtable at the Danfoss Turbocor Compressors plant. “It’s not going to happen if they shut down Enterprise Florida and if they decimate VISIT FLORIDA, so I’m going to be working every day, traveling the state fighting for jobs. This about making sure every family in this state doesn’t have the struggles mine did when I growing up.”


ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a rally to call on lawmakers to fully fund Visit Florida at 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.

TOP OP-ED: JOE HENDERSON: AFTER ENTERPRISE FLORIDA FIGHT, SCOTT HAS LITTLE POLITICAL CAPITAL LEFT via Florida Politics – To save his most-favored Enterprise Florida agency, the governor put a public campaign that included visits, robo-calls, videos and a public mocking of House Speaker Corcoran. It didn’t work, at least not yet. The House dealt the governor a stinging rebuke last week with by passing HB 7005 – or what Scott calls “job-killing legislation” – by an overwhelming 87-28 vote. Scott responded with a statement reading in part, “Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.” It was easy for Scott to get his way when he arrived in Tallahassee on a populist wave, promising to produce jobs and get Florida out of the Great Recession. He certainly wasn’t the only political leader in the land who favored subsidies to jump-start the economy. Now that those jobs have been created – Scott claims more than 1.3 million overall so far – the mood in Tallahassee has shifted away from what Corcoran calls “corporate welfare.” That has forced the governor into a defensive posture that he clearly isn’t used to and hasn’t shown evidence yet of mastering.

SCOTT’S IDEAS FOR TEACHER INCENTIVES DIDN’T RESONATE; LEGISLATURE HAS OWN PLANS via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott’s recommendation for $58 million in teacher incentives in 2017-18 essentially called for eliminating the controversial “Best & Brightest” program that’s been around for two years. In its place, Scott called for a handful of different kinds of incentives, including recruiting Bright Futures scholars to become teachers and eliminating teacher certification fees. But both the House and Senate don’t want to scrap “Best & Brightest,” they want to expand it — significantly — and they want to flood the program with as much as $250 million, five times more than this year. Each chamber released its own proposal last week wanting to ensure more teachers, and now principals, could qualify for a bonus going forward.

SCOTT SIGNS DEATH PENALTY FIX INTO LAW via the Associated Press – Florida will now require a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed under a bill signed late Monday by Gov. Scott, who has remained relatively quiet about the problems with the state’s death penalty law in recent months. Lawmakers rushed to get the bill passed on the fourth day of their legislative session in hopes of fixing a death penalty law that’s been found unconstitutional twice since January 2016. It’s been seen as a better-than-nothing option for death penalty proponents as well as opponents.

DISPUTE OVER BILL FRAYS NERVES, EXPOSES FRACTURES IN JOE NEGRON’S SENATE LEADERSHIP TEAM via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The trial lawyers were on the cusp of scoring a big win against the business and insurance lobby, their deep-rooted political rivals, but then state Sen. Lauren Book entered the legislative committee room. Book … was a “no” vote on the bill that would expand prejudgment interest to civil cases, but the new mother of twins hadn’t been expected to show because her infants had been up all night and she was exhausted. Senate Rules Committee Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Republican who favored the legislation, had brought it up for a vote and was surprised — some say unpleasantly — when Book showed. The vote got postponed. Benacquisto privately wound up swearing at fellow Republican senator Jack Latvala, who helped persuade Book to appear. The public arm twisting and tense, profanity-laced exchange between Benacquisto and Latvala goes beyond implications for the big-money bill, and signal what could be a rocky road ahead for Senate President Negron.

LAWMAKERS REVISIT BILL THAT PUNISHES SANCTUARY CITY OFFICIALS via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – Republican legislators are pushing again this year with a measure that would punish local officials if they fail to “fully comply” with federal immigration authorities. The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee voted for the bill, which would help enforce Trump‘s promised immigration crackdown. The legislation would penalize officials in so-called sanctuary cities with hefty fines. Local government would also absorb detention costs when holding detainees for immigration authorities.

STATE MAY TRY AGAIN TO DRUG TEST WELFARE RECIPIENTS WHO HAVE FELONY CONVICTIONS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – People who apply to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, commonly called TANF, would be subject to the tests if they had been convicted of a drug-related felony in the last 10 years under the bill (HB 1117). It cleared its first hurdle in the House with an 8-2 vote by the Children, Families and Seniors subcommittee. “Somebody that is receiving public assistance shouldn’t spend those dollars on things like drugs,” said Rep. Chris Latvala, who is sponsoring the legislation with his father, Senate appropriations chairman Jack Latvala. Opponents worry that drug testing will make it harder for people in need to access TANF. Applicants who have a drug felony would have to pay for a drug test up-front at an average cost of about $40. The state would reimburse them if they pass the test.

VOTE ON STADIUM-SUBSIDIES BILL DELAYED, BUT PANEL VOTES AID TO RURAL COUNTIES via Florida Politics – A Senate committee approved legislation Monday earmarking 75 percent of Florida’s take from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster for the eight worst-affected counties, and ensuring small counties will be represented on the oversight board. But the Commerce and Tourism Committee delayed a vote on another high-profile bill, SB 236, to dismantle tax subsidies for professional sports facilities, when sponsor Tom Lee, a Republican from Thonotasassa, failed to appear. “We’re facing a crisis in rural Florida — whether it’s education or health care or infrastructure of economic development,” chairman Bill Montford said of those portions of the agenda.

— “Criminal justice reform task force and other reform bills advance in Florida Senate” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “House panel passes crack down on ‘sanctuary’ communities via the South Florida Sun Sentinel

— “Proposal to make secretary of state an elected position passes 1st House panel via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

— “Rural Economic Development Initiative bill passes 1st Senate panel” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

MAGIC JOHNSON VISITS TALLAHASSEE TO TALK UP MEDICAID MANAGED CARE via Florida Politics – Magic Johnson visited with Senate Democrats Monday to praise Medicaid managed care programs that are using town hall meetings and church outreach to steer HIV, dental, geriatric, and other health care to poor people in 60 Florida counties. The programs have served 9,500 people with HIV during the past four years, Johnson said. Moreover, “our providers and our doctors look like the patients they serve. That’s very important, because they can serve them better, understand their needs,” Johnson said, providing “the best health care they’ve ever received.”Johnson later dropped in on Senate President Negron, and was scheduled to meet with Senate Republicans later in the day.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, retired professional basketball player and current president of operations for the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA, shakes hands with Senator Bill Montford after a meeting with the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus about health care.

KIONNE MCGHEE ELECTED LEADER-DESIGNATE OF FLORIDA HOUSE DEMOCRATS via Florida Politics – House Democrats elected Kionne McGhee, a former prosecutor whose challenges as child included the murder of two family members and a diagnosis of mental retardation, as their leader-designate Monday. He won 23 votes against 17 for Bobby Dubose. McGhee now stands to lead his caucus effective at the beginning of the organizational session that will follow the 2018 elections. “I want to say, together, he and I are going to move this caucus forward,” McGhee said of his colleague from Fort Lauderdale. The vote came on the 13th anniversary of McGhee’s marriage to his wife, Stacy McGhee. “Don’t you ever, so long as you step foot in this great country, allow critics to tell you that your past will define you,” he said.

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails the latest breakdown of bills that have been placed on the calendar for a hearing up to this point in Session. As of March 14th, 299 bills have been placed on the calendar in the Florida House. Of those, 250 are sponsored by Republicans, 41 are sponsored by Democrats, and 8 bills have bipartisan prime co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 83.6% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 13.7% are Democratic, and 2.7% are bipartisan.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Government Operations & Technology Subcommittee meets at 10 a.m. in Morris Hall to talk about a proposal to repeal a Prohibition-era law that prohibiting grocery stores from selling liquor alongside grocery and other retail items. The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee is expected to discuss a proposed committee bill that would make changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system when it meets at 2 p.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill to give students who rack up excess credit hours a financial break if they graduate in four yearswhen it meets at 2 p.m. in 212 Knott. Also at 2 p.m.: The House Health Innovation Subcommittee will consider a bill placing new requirements on hospitals that treat patients for drug overdoses when it meets in Mashburn Hall. The Health Policy Committee will discuss a bill that allows patients to stay up to 24 hours at an ambulatory surgical center when it meets at 10 a.m. in 412 Knott. The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Glenn Sutphin during its meeting at 10:30 a.m. in 37 Senate Office Building. The Senate Judiciary Committee will tackle a bill that deals with religious expression in public schools when it meets at 2 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee will discuss a bill allowing electric utilities to invest in natural gas reserves during a meeting at 2:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Caregivers and health care professionals will hold a press conference at 10a.m. on the Second Floor Rotunda to oppose cuts to the Medicaid program. Melanie Sellers, the director of maternal/child at Jackson Hospital; Theresa Brown, the patient financial service representative at Baptist Pensacola; and Shawn Salamida, vice president of Families First Network at Lakeview Center are expected to speak.

IS HOUSE SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE OVER THE WHISKEY & WHEATIES BILL? via Florida Politics – After the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill nearly whiffed in the House, a new twist was filed Monday evening. A proposed amendment on the bill (HB 81) would create dual “liquor package store licenses,” with “Type A” licenses going to stores keeping a wall of separation between booze and other retail items, and “Type B” licenses going to those who sell liquor in the same general space as other goods. Those getting a Type B license also must pay “an additional amount” on top of the annual license fee according to a sliding scale based on population. The bill—sponsored by Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican—is set to be heard Tuesday by the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. Avila also offered the latest amendment.

LAWMAKERS WANT TO CREATE A MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESEARCH CENTER AT MOFFITT via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Two Tampa Bay area lawmakers want to make Moffitt Cancer Center a hub for medical marijuana research, according to legislation filed this month that would allow the center in Tampa to launch research initiatives and provide educational outreach on medical cannabis. “Right now, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting the positive benefits medicinal cannabis can have on patients in certain circumstances, but this legislation will help the state of Florida advance the science and research around cannabis as a treatment option for a variety of medical conditions,” Sen. Bill Galvano wrote in a statement. Rep. Jackie Toledo is sponsoring a companion bill in the House.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On and off: Tyler Teresa is no longer district secretary for Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe GrutersGeeDee Kerr has replaced Teresa.

On: Jeremy Stein is the new district secretary for Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder.

Off: Nicole Pontello Is no longer district secretary for Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner.

On and off: Elizabeth Casimir is no longer district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia WilliamsRobert Moore is Williams’ new district secretary.

CREDIT UNIONS: A ‘WINNER’ WORTH PICKING via Florida Politics – Free market, corporate welfare, winners and losers. These phrases are uttered every day in the halls of the Florida Capitol while lawmakers are in Session; but, the reality is, government is, across many sectors of society, still in the business of picking winners and losers. One such instance where government picks winners and losers is in the fight between banks and credit unions over public deposits. For years, the credit unions have been seeking legislation that would allow them to accept deposits from public entities, like local governments and universities – just like for-profit banks already do. Yet the powers that be in the Legislature, have kept that from happening. This year, though, lawmakers have a real shot at as we’ve heard so many times before, by getting out of the business of “picking winners and losers” in this industry space and allowing the free market to work … It is not that I am advocating credit unions over for-profit banks; but, this move would allow lawmakers to stick to their principles and remove a protectionist statute from the books and really let consumers, in this case, taxpayer-funded public entities, pick where they want to bank. It’s free market public policy at its best – now let’s see what lawmakers choose to do.

EYEBALL WARS: IT’S ALL ABOUT KNOWING WHO TAKES CARE OF YOUR EYES via Florida Politics – Do you know who is taking care of your eyes? That question is at the heart of “Joanne’s Story” a video about a Vero Beach woman who nearly lost her eyesight after an ophthalmologist caught a rare diagnosis which was missed by her optometrist. Joanne was previously under the care of an optometrist who diagnosed her with a “small cataract.” A retinal surgeon removed the cataract, and Joanne returned to the optometrist for the remainder of her care. After several visits, Joanne was told that “everything was fine.” But everything was not fine. After sensing foreign matter in her eyes, Joanne turned to an ophthalmologist, who then diagnosed a rare fungus infection — a problem unrecognized by the optometrist … the relative lack of instruction for optometrists is why ophthalmologists — who have completed college, a minimum of eight years of additional medical instruction, and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery — are raising their guard in the renewed Eyeball Wars. Ophthalmologists want to ensure they remain the safe, well-trained medical option that millions of Floridians can turn to when faced with serious, debilitating eye diseases. Joanne, who recently died, knew that it was important to know who takes care of your eyes. “I do not feel that optometrists should have the privileges of ophthalmologists,” Joanne says in the video. “I do not feel they are qualified with their background … to become aware of serious eye problems.”

MICHAEL CARLSON: DON’T TRADE A TAX CUT FOR A TAX INCREASE – PRESERVE THE SALARY TAX CREDITS FOR INSURERS via Florida Politics –For three decades, Florida has offered insurance companies a highly effective, performance-based tax credit that has resulted in tens of thousands of good jobs being created or imported to our state. Not only does this credit bolster our state’s economy in a transparent, accountable way, it also helps ensure insurance rates for Floridians stay as affordable as possible. Senate Bill 378 by Sen. Anitere Flores would bring that to an unfortunate end. It would repeal tax credits available to insurers as a way to lower the communications services tax currently levied on telecommunications, video, cable and satellite television and other related services. Cutting one tax but increasing another is a bad trade that would do more harm than good. It would eliminate tax credits that have been working exactly as intended and sets a bad precedent for other businesses considering a move to Florida based on the availability of similar tax credits. Importantly to consumers and businesses, it would amount to a $300 million tax increase that could translate to higher insurance rates for everyone.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

LORANNE AUSLEY ENDORSES ANDREW GILLUM FOR GOVERNOR via Florida Politics – The state representative from Tallahassee on Monday announced her support for Tallahassee Mayor Gillum, a Democrat, as governor. “I have worked closely with Andrew since he was FAMU student body president, serving our community together from our respective roles in local and state government,” Ausley said in a statement. “Andrew doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk.” Ausley added that they “share a passion for children’s issues” … Ausley, an attorney, first served in the Florida House 2000-08 until she was term limited, then was again elected last year to House District 9, representing Leon County.


Late last month, former state Sen. John Legg announced that he would not attempt to return to the Legislature in 2018. Had he run, Legg’s best path to victory was thought to be through north Pinellas’ Senate District 16, where incumbent Jack Latvala is term-limited from running again.

The person who benefits the most from Legg not running is former state Rep. Ed Hooper who, even if Legg was in the race, is the early frontrunner to replace Latvala.

Hooper was in Tallahassee last Monday for a fundraiser hosted by Latvala, the next two Senate Presidents — Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson — as well as almost all of Republicans who comprise Tampa Bay’s legislative delegation.

In other words, with Legg out and the establishment behind him, Hooper should cruise in 2018, or at least through the Republican primary.

But something, admittedly trivial, has me just a tad bit worried. It’s this dang invitation (pictured below) for a fundraiser on March 29.

You know what this invite reminds me of?

Jim Frishe.

It’s a big serving of Jim Frishe Velveeta cheese.

Frishe, of course, is the former state Representative who wanted a seat in the Florida Senate but was defeated by Jeff Brandes in a 2012 primary. The tech-savvy Brandes campaign exposed the well-meaning Frishe as a career politician and out-of-date. The final result was not even close.

Ed Hooper’s situation is not the same as Jim Frishe’s. There isn’t a Senate leadership fight shaping the primary in Senate District 16 (at least not yet). Hooper’s not on the opposite side of the Brandes-Nick Hansen wing of the Pinellas GOP which, in 2016, beat Frishe for a second time in the Pinellas Property Appraiser contest.

But cheesy stuff like this coming out of the Hooper camp might give some self-financing, unknown conservative — basically a Jeff Brandes of Palm Harbor — the idea that Hooper is, like Frishe was shown to be, a career pol and out-of-date.

Hooper can and should do better than this.

FORT MYERS BUSINESS OWNER MICHELLE GRAHAM ANNOUNCES STATE HOUSE RUN via Florida Politics – Graham is announcing a bid for House District 79. Currently held by term-limited Republican Matt Caldwell, HD 79 covers Alva, Buckingham, Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers Shores, North Fort Myers and Olga. “I have been blessed to be able to raise my two sons here in North Fort Myers and own a business that services all of Southwest Florida,” said Graham, a Republican from North Fort Myers. “Now, it’s time for me to give back to the community that has been so good to my family.” Graham is president and owner of Siesta Pebble, a family-owned business launched in 1995 that offers premium finish solutions for residential and commercial swimming pools.

***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***

PERSONNEL NOTE: VALERIE BREEN TO LEAD FDDC – Breen has been named the new executive director of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC), replacing the recently retired Debra Dowds. Breen will take command March 20. She previously was CEO of the Brain Injury Association of Florida (BIAF). “Her expertise in the field of health care and disabilities spans a more than 30-year career working in the health-related industry,” a news release said. “She is a recognized health care consultant, an innovative leader in the field of health care and disabilities, and is a nationally recognized speaker.” Breen also is the overseer/care coordinator for her mother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010.

SAS INSTITUTE EXPANDING TALLAHASSEE OFFICE – SAS Institute, the world’s largest privately held software and data analysis company, is doing so well in the Sunshine State that they are expanding in the capital “to serve Florida’s growing demand for data.” Ben Stuart, State and Local Government lead for the Southeast region, said that expanding “our investment and presence in Tallahassee demonstrates SAS’ commitment to providing the world’s most advanced technology, mathematicians and experts to serve our rapidly growing customer base throughout the state. Florida policymakers are showing leadership in integrating data and analytics to better serve their constituents, and we are excited to help them tackle pressing public policy challenges.” The expanded Tallahassee office will “leverage over 15,000 global SAS professionals and a deeply experienced local team in customizing SAS’ offerings to Florida state government,” the release said.


Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: National Strategies; Title Technologies; Verizon; Xerox Corporation; Grant Thornton

Brett Bacot, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: City of Palm Coast

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Association of Jewish Federations; Playa Del Mar Association

Joshua Burkett, Mark W. Anderson: Florida Council on Economic Education

Sarah Busk, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: LaunchCode

Mark Grant, Greensppon Marder: Florida Home Builders Association

Jeffrey Greene, Jeff Greene & Associates: Opis Energy

Melissa Gross-Arnold, The Arnold Law Firm: United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida

Kari Hicks, Sunshine State Consultants: GA Zero

Gregory Munson, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: American Water Works Association; Broward College Foundation; NorthStar Contracting Group

Jon Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Title Technologies

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Tuesday’s Governors club menu takes in all-American theme with roasted butternut squash soup salads, cole slaw, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, red potato salad, fried chicken with biscuit, peppered salmon, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and broccolini.

ANDREW’S CELEBRATES WHO’S WHO OF FLORIDA WITH FAMOUS SHOUT-OUT MENU – Andy Reiss and his team at Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar have unveiled the latest iteration of their time-honored tradition, customized lunch selections named for the movers and shakers of Florida politics. This cornerstone of Tallahassee dining recognizes significant players with tongue-in-cheek menu offerings: the “Great Scott” salad bar, Galvano’s Gorgonzola Burger, “Diamond” Jim Boyd’s Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, Pepe’s “Barbe-Cuban” Pork Sandwich, the “Oliva” My Cheesesteak Alone. So, if you’re hungry in the Capital City, stop by and feast on your favorite VIP.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, POLITICO’s Matt Dixon discusses how Democrats could make gains during the widening rift between Gov. Scott and House Speaker Corcoran. Sen. Frank Artiles faces scrutiny for accelerating bills favorable to Florida Power & Light. “This is corporate welfare for FPL,” said Nathan Skop, a former FPL manager and a former commissioner on the Florida Public Service Commission. Gomes also talks to Congressman Al Lawson about his work in Washington and with Volunteer Florida’s CEO Chester Spellman about the second annual #SuitsForSession. At a time when there is a lot of uncertainty around health care, Gomes shares stories from seniors rallying support for Medicare Advantage Plans.

VOLUNTEER FLORIDA PARTNERING WITH NIC’S TOGGERY, NARCISSUS, AND ARRON’S FINE CUSTOM CLOTHING FOR #SUITSFORSESSION – Volunteer Florida has announced that those who visit the Capitol March 15 and drop off an item for #SuitsForSession will be entered into a contest to win a suit from Nic’s Toggery, a women’s business outfit from Narcissus, and a custom sports coat from Arron’s Fine Custom Clothing. Nic’s Toggery (downtown location) will also have a #SuitsForSession collection box for donations from Monday, March 13-Wednesday, March 15 and will offer a $100 credit toward a new suit for each individual who brings in a donation of men’s clothing. Volunteer Florida and Uber are hosting the second annual #SuitsForSession event on the third-floor Rotunda March 15 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to collect attire for job seekers statewide. For those who cannot make it to the Capitol to drop off their donations, Uber will pick up clothing from homes across Leon County for free all day March 15. Volunteer Florida will donate the professional attire to the Chapman Partnership (Miami); Dress for Success Tampa Bay; ECHO Outreach Ministries (Leon County); Bridges of America (statewide); and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program (Tallahassee). More here.

HAPPENING WEDNESDAY: RED DOG BLUE DOG CELEBRITY BARTENDER EVENT – Politicians will mix it up to raise money and awareness for animal rescue organizations at the Third Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young will sling drinks for the Red Team and Hollywood Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne will pour for Team Blue at Madison Social, 705 S Woodward Ave. #101 in Tallahassee to raise money for animal rescue organizations. This bipartisan event combines dogs, politics and friendly competition to raise money for an amazing cause. Senator Young and Representative Jenne will compete for tips and donations, and all proceeds will be divided evenly between 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.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are 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 and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at***

DAYTONA BEACH IS NAMED #1 ATTRACTION IN FLORIDA IN 2017 via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The World’s Famous Beach was ranked at the top of the chart because of its family-friendly beaches and proximity to other top attractions including historic St. Augustine, Kennedy Space Center and Orlando’s theme parks. “Spring Family Beach Break starts March 20 and goes through April,” said Lori Campbell Baker, executive director of the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “With 23 miles of beaches and so much more, there’s something here for every family to enjoy.” The beach appeals to families for a number of reasons, the top being safety. Daytona Beach is recognized worldwide for its annual events including Bike Week, Biketoberfest, the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Daytona 500.

FLORIDA DEPUTY PULLS TWO JET SKIERS FROM WATER AS CRUISE SHIP RUSHES TOWARD THEM via The Associated Press – A Port Canaveral harbor pilot and a sheriff’s deputy teamed up to rescue two spring breakers on a Jet Ski as a Carnival Cruise ship moved toward them. A cruise ship passenger captured the rescue on video as Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Taner Primmer pulled the women to safety. A Canaveral Pilots Association statement says Capt. Doug Brown spotted them while navigating the Carnival Magic out of the port and alerted Primmer. As he approached in a marine patrol boat, one woman fell off the Jet Ski. It flipped as she tried to get back on, sending both women into the water. With the ship approaching, Primmer pulled them out and steered his boat away. Area news outlets identified them as 19-year-old Skylar Penpasuglia and 20-year-old Allison Garrett of Princeton, West Virginia. (Click on the image below to watch the video.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. Celebrating today is my fellow Dave Matthews Band fan, Drew Heffley, as well as Andy Graham and Seth Platt.

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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