Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
ADAM PUTNAM, JACK LATVALA POST MONSTER MONTHLY FUNDRAISING TOTALS
The shadow campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is well underway.
With 544 days until the August 2018 primary, it’s still might be a little too early endless handshaking, baby kissing and everything that goes into retail politicking. (Well unless you are Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the only person officially in the Governor’s race so far.)
But it is never too early for the oft-mentioned likely contenders — including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala — to begin testing the waters, raising a little campaign cash along the way.
And that push to see who can raise the most has already begun, something clearly evident this week when both Putnam and Latvala released February fundraising figures ahead of the March 10 deadline.
In an email Wednesday, Florida Grown chairman Justin Hollis told supporters the political committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s gubernatorial bid, raised more than $2.25 million in February. If accurate, that would be one of the largest monthly fundraising totals posted by the committee since it was created in 2015.
Florida Grown does post contribution data on its website; and according to the site, the committee raised at least $538,170 between Feb. 1 and Feb. 16. However, as of Wednesday afternoon, the committee hadn’t listed contributions covering the final 12 days of the month.
Latvala’s committee is also touting a strong February. According to contribution data posted to its website this week, Florida Leadership Committee raised at least $870,083 during the one-month period. Campaign insiders expect the sum to be more than $1 million when final numbers are calculated and reported to the state later this month.
A prolific fundraiser, the February numbers would also mark one of the largest month fundraising totals the committee has reported since 2013. By comparison, the committee raised $487,625 in February 2015.
If Putnam and Latvala can raise this much money in just 28 days, how much can they pull in as the months get longer and the anticipation greater?
HOW ANDREW GILLUM’S ROLLOUT PLAYED – Palm Beach Post, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum: ‘I’m running for governor’ – “Gillum posted on Facebook … with a link to his video, which stresses his upbringing as the son of a municipal bus driver.” Washington Post, The 2018 Florida governor’s race just got its first serious candidate– “Gillum plans to pitch himself as the progressive in the primary race.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Andrew Gillum declares candidacy, Donald Trump gives coherent speech – “’Bring it home’ … one part biography, one part inspiration and a complete attempt to hit sentimental voters right in the feels.” Sunshine State News, Andrew Gillum Officially Declares Run for Governor – “Gillum’s campaign has already faced bumps in the road, since the video was professionally produced before he officially filed for governor … Under Florida law, candidates cannot accept potential contributions until they’ve opened a campaign account.” Orlando Sentinel, Andrew Gillum says he’ll run for governor in 2018 – “But Gillum, who was elected mayor in 2014, comes from the state’s isolated capital city, nestled in a sparsely populated news media market.” Orlando Weekly, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum is running for Florida governor – “Nothing about my background suggest[s] I should even dream, let alone think about running for Governor. And yet, here we are.” Miami Herald, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum to announce for Florida governor – “Gillum … has been viewed as a rising star in a party that is clamoring for relevance after Donald Trump’s win in November.”
GILLUM’S LAUNCH VIDEO (Click on the image below to watch the vid):
RGA DEMANDS GILLUM DISCLOSE ENTIRETY OF IMPROPER CAMPAIGN EMAILS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Republican Governors Association wasted no time in its counterstrike on Tallahassee Mayor and new Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum … after it was discovered he used city email to conduct campaign business … the RGA hit back at Gillum, filing a public records request to find out just how many times Gillum had improperly communicated using a campaign email address on taxpayers’ dime. The request comes after the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Gillum had used city tax dollars to blast out emails for his newly-minted gubernatorial campaign. One email included Gillum’s campaign logo and campaign post office box address. Another included an invitation to an event featuring former Vice President Joe Biden in Tallahassee.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will speak at the Palm Beach Democratic Party Meeting at 7 p.m. at the S. County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road in Delray Beach.
SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES OPPOSE LENNY CURRY FOR CFO JOB OVER LGBTQ PROTECTION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The Florida Family Policy Council … told its members to call Gov. Scott and demand he stop considering Jacksonville Republican Mayor Curry for the CFO’s job … Their opposition has nothing to do with financial experience. The council has advocated loudly against rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Florida, and that’s why they oppose Curry’s possible appointment. As mayor, Curry last month allowed an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ residents to go into effect in Jacksonville. But there’s more to the story than just that. “Lenny’s refusal to veto the deceptive and unconstitutional “Human Rights Ordinance” (HRO) in Jacksonville puts women and children in danger by allowing men to use women’s showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms in domestic violence shelters and in other nonprofit charities with residential facilities,” the council, headed by attorney John Stemberger, wrote in a call to action for its members.
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IT’S OFFICIAL: JOHN LEGG NOT RUNNING IN 2018 via Florida Politics – “After 12 years my family and I need a break,” he said. “Also, I am enjoying working on education issues and innovation both national and statewide. I feel like I can make a bigger difference in education right now outside of the Florida Legislature. However, that may change in time.” Many pondered whether Legg was considering in 2018 in Senate District 16, the seat currently held by Sen. Jack Latvala. Legg backed during the contentious leadership battle, and Legg indicated in the past the north Pinellas seat was one of several options he had been considering. But Legg said there is no state race in his immediate future, saying “we are not running in 2018.”
DAVID SMITH FILES TO RUN IN HD 28 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Smith, 56, of Winter Springs, is a retired Marine Corps colonel and former director of the Marines simulation and modeling center in the University of Central Florida’s Research Park. He ran against then-U.S. Rep. John Mica in the 2014 Republican primary, finishing second … Smith is the second candidate to enter the race for [Jason] Brodeur’s seat, following 19-year-old Devin Guillermo Perez, a Democrat.
2 PINELLAS REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE 2018 HD 66 RACES – Pinellas County Republican Party chairman Nick DiCeglie confirmed he will be running for the House District 66 seat in 2018, and will make a formal announcement sometime this spring … The seat is currently occupied by Larry Ahern, who is term limited out in 2018. The news comes as another Republican, former Pinellas County assistant state attorney Berny Jacques, announced that he is running for the HD 66 seat next year. Jacques works in private practice with the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer.
VANCE ALOUPIS FILES TO RUN FOR HD 115 SEAT – Aloupis, CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida, has filed to run for the seat held by Rep. Michael Bileca, who will be term-limited. Aloupis, 33, practiced law for several years after graduating from the University of Miami and the University Miami School of Law … In 2010, he joined The Children’s Movement, where he now serves as the CEO. Through his leadership, Aloupis has built support for smart investments in early education and common sense policies that will ensure a competitive workforce in Florida.
FORMER LAWMAKERS REGGIE FULLWOOD, DWIGHT BULLARD FINED FOR CAMPAIGN VIOLATIONS via Florida Politics –The Florida Elections Commission found Tuesday that former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood had committed 17 violations of Florida’s campaign financial disclosure rules and fined him $1,000 on each count. … The case involved failure to disclose more than $17,000 in contributions to Fullwood’s 2014 campaign, and contributions worth more than $13,000. Additionally, his bank records showed $2,600 in expenditures not reflected in his campaign documents, according to the commission’s legal staff. … Fullwood did not appear during the hearing. On Feb. 7, he was sentenced to time served and house arrest on federal wire fraud and tax charges. Also on Tuesday, the commission imposed a $1,000 fine on former state Sen. Dwight Bullard for failure to file a campaign disclosure form on time. Bullard also skipped the hearing.
***The State of the Taxpayer Dinner — March 8 (6-9 p.m.) — The one event in 2017 you can’t afford to miss. While the annual State of the State address and opening statements of each legislative chamber cover the accomplishments and future of our elected leadership, none specifically highlight the issues affecting taxpayers. This unique event puts the spotlight back on the taxpayers. Florida TaxWatch
FIRST ON FLORIDAPOLITICS.COM – RICK SCOTT PICKS CARLOS BERUFF AS CRC CHAIRMAN; JEFF WOODBURN NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott announced Wednesday that Beruff, the Manatee Republican homebuilder who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, will serve as chairman of the Constitution Revision Commission. “My goal for the CRC is to fight for policies that will ensure a strong future for Florida and I know Carlos also shares this vision,” he said in a statement. “As we undertake this historic review, I am hopeful that this Commission will propose policies that build a legacy upon which the families and businesses in our great state will thrive for generations to come.” … Scott tapped Woodburn, currently the Policy Director in the Executive Office of the Governor, as the executive director.
HEARING that among Scott’s 15 picks for the CRC will be Tim Cerio, Brecht Heuchan, and former Rep. Jimmy Patronis.
ARTHENIA JOYNER VOWS TO FIGHT JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS via Jim Ash of WFSU – On the Constitution Revision Commission … [Richard] Corcoran’s lieutenants are expected to push judicial term limits, but newly appointed Commissioner Joyner will fight it every step of the way. “I have always believed in the three, independent separate branches of government and the court’s job is to interpret the laws and that’s what they do. And I will stand up for that because that’s why we have this great system of checks and balances.”
OFF EMBARGO – POLL: SCOTT MORE POPULAR THAN THE LEGISLATURE – As Gov. Scott steels himself for a Session showdown with the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature, he got some good news from a new poll. A University of North Florida survey shows that, among registered voters in Florida, Scott is more popular than the legislative branch. 46 percent of those surveyed approve of Scott, with 40 percent disapproving. Scott’s strength is with Republicans, according to the UNF poll; 74 percent approve of the Governor, compared to 24 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of NPAs. Meanwhile, the Legislature sees that same mark of disapproval, but only 39 percent approval. The approval numbers for the Legislature, asserted UNF polling director Michael Binder, were a “surprise … a very positive number for them compared to most polling on Congress.”
FLORIDA INSIDER POLL PREDICTS RICHARD CORCORAN TO DOMINATE STATE POLITICS FOR NEXT TWO MONTHS via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – As we head into another legislative session … Corcoran looms over virtually other public official in the state. In a Florida Insider Poll of nearly 180 of the state’s most experienced and plugged-in political players, a whopping 71 percent predicted the 51-year-old Land O’Lakes Republican would dominate the session, while only 12 percent touted Gov. Scott and 9 percent Senate President Negron … Given the overt animosity between Scott and Corcoran and with both men interested in running for statewide office in 2018, the Florida Insiders are highly pessimistic about what’s in store.
SMELLS LIKE AN OPPO DUMP FROM GOV’S SHOP – HOUSE MEMBER OPPOSES STATE BUSINESS INCENTIVES — BUT GOT PUBLIC DOLLARS FOR JOB CREATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – State Rep. Alex Miller has joined House leaders in opposing Gov. Scott’s push for giving taxpayer-funded incentives for businesses statewide, even though the Sarasota lawmaker’s own company has taken advantage of a county grant for creating a few dozen new local jobs. In 2013, Mercedes Medical, a Sarasota-based medical device company run by Miller, who is CEO, was awarded an economic development grant of up to $111,000 by neighboring Manatee County. Her company is eligible to get the full funding if it achieves certain performance metrics, including the creation of 47 jobs. The company is currently in the middle of that deal, which was finalized in February 2014. “Let me just say, I have no problem with incentives,” she [said]. “I put my business owner hat on and I do what is right for my employees and shareholders, and I will take incentives because it helps my company … When I put my state representative hat on, I have to do what is in the best interest of the state.”
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SENATE: HIGHER WORKERS’ COMP RATES HERE TO STAY via Jim Ash of WUSF – Republican Rob Bradley of Fleming Island says his goal is rate stabilization. Employer groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce are demanding action after rates soared 14.5 percent in December in the wake of recent Florida Supreme Court decisions. But Bradley says the Senate is unwilling to cut health benefits, and rate reductions are too much to expect. “Our workers’ comp system is kind of middle of the pack when it comes to the rate levels and they’ve been reduced significantly over the years.”
JEFF BRANDES PUSHES FOR SWEEPING BUSINESS DEREGULATION via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Jeff Brandes is trying for the second year in a row to remove or reduce a series of regulations on industries like architecture, interior design and landscape architecture. Under a bill Brandes plans to file this week, interior design and architecture firms would no longer have to re-certify businesses on a biennial basis. Instead, the businesses would be required to report any changes as they occur and remain in compliance with other applicable state laws following staffing changes. Branch offices for yacht and shipbrokers would no longer require separate licensing under Brandes’ bill. Instead, those offices would operate under the company’s license. Another provision deregulates athlete agents and removes penalties for acting as a business agent without a license or permit. The bill would also remove licensing requirements for certain cosmetic services including polishing fingernails and hair or body wrapping.
GEORGE GAINER WARY OF HOUSE TRIUMPH BILL via Tom McLaughlin of the Panama City News-Herald – An amendment to a proposed Florida House bill would eliminate one aspect of oversight for the Triumph Gulf Coast board selected to allocate Northwest Florida’s share of BP funds. But the same amendment, put forth by Rep. Jay Trumbull … would allow the board “to provide grants to Visit Florida to promote tourism.” State Sen. Gainer said he’s been left in the dark by Northwest Florida House members about why a provision added to the proposed bill included any mention of Visit Florida. “Why would Visit Florida not be good enough to receive funding from the state of Florida, but putting BP money into it would be more acceptable?” Gainer asked last week after Trumbull introduced the concept of Visit Florida grants at a Select Committee meeting.
DOROTY HUKILL WANTS STUDY OF SCHOOL FUNDING via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who heads the Senate Education Committee, filed legislation that would instruct the Office of Program Analysis and Government Accountability to conduct a study of a component of the state’s K-12 education funding formula. The proposal (SB 1394) would require a study of what is known as the “district cost differential” — long an issue in the state’s formula for distributing money to school districts … The district cost differential is designed to consider variances in costs of living across the state, but critics have questioned its fairness.
GREG STEUBE FILES ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CRIMINALIZATION MEASURE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The bill … would create a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. The proposal would apply to anyone who “is denied admission to, is excluded, deported or removed from, or who departs the United States while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal is outstanding and thereafter enters or is at any time found in the state.” It creates an exception for those who can show that the federal government “consents to his or her admission or the person can establish that federal law does not require advance consent,” the bill says.
NURSING EDUCATION BILL STARTS MOVING IN HOUSE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Republican Rep. Cary Pigman and Sen. Denise Grimsley are again carrying legislation (HB 543 and SB 328) to address “problem” nursing programs. When Grimsley was still in the House in 2009, she successfully started a process to increase the number of nursing schools and slots in nursing schools in response to a growing looming nursing shortage with HB 1209. The committee agreed to pass Pigman’s new bill which, among several provisions, prevents nursing programs terminated by the Board of Nursing from reapplying for approval for three years and requires programs put on probation to notify its students and applicants of its status in writing. Grimsley’s similar bill has yet to get a committee hearing.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS:Rep. Bob Cortes; Sen. Victor Torres; Anthony Suarez, President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida and others will convene at Acacia-Centro Borinqueño to announce a joint resolution acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the Jones Act, which granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship in 1917. Event begins 1 p.m. at 1865 N. Econlockhatchee Trail in Orlando.
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FEDS MAY NOT HAVE APPROVED NEW SEMINOLE COMPACT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The nation’s top Indian gambling regulator last year told the Seminole Tribe of Florida that the federal government would be “hard-pressed” to approve its new blackjack agreement with the state. The Tribe disclosed the June 2016 letter from Paula L. Hart, director of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Indian Gaming, as an attachment to its own letter this week to Gov. Scott and legislative leaders. The Hart letter also confirmed a warning that Barry Richard, the tribe’s outside counsel, gave three years ago. The Interior Department later interpreted the law to mean that a tribe may give a cut to a state in return for exclusive rights to a game, but the amount a tribe pays has to be a “fair value” for the exclusivity it’s getting, he said.
SEMINOLE TRIBE LETTER: BOTH GAMING BILLS STINK via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist – In a letter addressed to Gov. Scott, Senate President Negron, and House Speaker Corcoran, the Seminole Tribe of Florida says that neither the House nor Senate gaming bills are acceptable. “While the Tribe appreciates the efforts that have been devoted to developing these proposals, neither would satisfy the requirements of federal law, nor satisfy fundamental tribal concerns,” wrote Marcellus Osceola, Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe … both the House and Senate bills would require “dramatic increases in the Tribes payments” to the state “without providing increases in the Tribe’s exclusivity” that would justify the higher revenue payments. Under the current Compact, negotiated by Governor Rick Scott in 2015, the Tribe agreed to pay the State of Florida up to $3 billion over seven years. But the Florida Legislature declined to ratify that agreement. The letter also asserts that the House bill is “less objectionable” than the Senate bill in that it does not propose any new exceptions to the Tribe’s exclusivity agreements, and the Tribe claims that the Senate bill represents an expansion of gaming.
TRIBE BUYS FORMER TRUMP TAJ MAHAL CASINO IN NJ via Florida Politics – The Seminole Tribe of Florida is expanding its gambling holdings to the Garden State. Hard Rock International, which the Tribe controls, Wednesday announced it had bought the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino on Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk from billionaire Carl Icahn. The deal includes two New Jersey investors. The sale comes four months after Icahn closed it amid a crippling strike. A sale price was not disclosed. President Donald Trump opened the casino in 1990 but lost control of it in a bankruptcy filing.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Sadowski Housing Coalition will hold a press conference to call on the Florida Legislature to appropriate all housing trust fund dollars for housing in fiscal 2017-18 at 10:30 a.m. at the Florida Realtors Office, 200 S. Monroe Street in Tallahassee.
FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT BUILDING EIGHT NEW SOLAR PLANTS via Florida Politics – FPL expects plants in Alachua, Putnam, Indian River and DeSoto counties to be completed by the end of 2017, with plants in Brevard, Hendry, St. Lucie counties and a second plant in Indian River County scheduled to come online by March 1, 2018. The company said the new plants will cost $900 million to build and will use 2.5 million solar panels. Once completed, FPL said the plants will generate enough energy to power about 120,000 homes, saving customers an estimated $39 million over their lifetime. The plan was lauded by environmental groups The Nature Conservatory and Audubon Florida as well as from economic development agencies and local politicians from the areas where the plants are being built.
STATE AGENTS ARREST INSURANCE COMPANY MANAGER FOR ALLEGED $1M FRAUD via Florida Politics – An investigation by the state Division of Investigative and Forensic Services has resulted in the arrest of an insurance company manager for allegedly defrauding her employer of more than $1 million. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater identified the accused as Jennifer Summerlott, an accounts-payable and commercial lines manager for Fairway Insurance Group LLC of Fort Lauderdale. … Summerlott used fake invoices to generate checks tied to Fairway’s company account, which she diverted to her private account, Atwater said.
EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Thur., 3/2/17 Gainesville Infant Circumcision Protesters”
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FIRST IN SUNBURN – UBER TO OFFER FREE RIDES TO, FROM AIF PRE-SESSION PARTY — Uber is once again partnering with Associated Industries of Florida to offer free rides (up to $10) to and from the AIF pre-session reception on Monday, March 6. The promotion isn’t open to public officials and employees Uber riders just have to enter the promo code AIF2017 to redeem the offer. The promotion expires on March 7.
APPOINTED: Jose “Ernie” Martinez, Thomas DeLilla, Andree Aubrey, Frank Cherry, Robert Cox, Sara Gaver, Tasha Turner, Nicole Attong and Whitney Harris to the Florida Independent Living Council.
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Michael Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Southeast QSR, LLC
Taylor Patrick Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Codio Ltd.; Medishine Resources LLC, Made in Space Inc.
Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Florida International University Foundation
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Galt View Apartments, Inc; Regency Tower Association, Inc.; Shore Drive Apartments Inc.
Dean Cannon, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: The Florida Bar, Tax Section
James Card, Larry J. Overton & Associates: DentaQuest
David Childs, Hopping Green & Sams: Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida
Jon Costello, Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: The Humane Society of the United States
Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Company: Association for Accessible Medicines
Angela Drzewiecki, Peebles & Smith, Inc: City of Mount Dora; The Trust for Public Land
David Ericks, Ericks Consultants: Quidel Corporation
Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Arcadia Healthcare Company; Florida Harbor Pilots Association, Inc.; Veyo
John Forehand, Kurkin Brandes: Pompano Imports, Inc; South Motor Company of Dade County
Thomas Griffin, Smith BryAn & Myers: Health Network One/HN1
James Hamilton, HBEC Group: Florida Association of School Administrators; Santa Rosa County School District; School Board of Escambia County
BILL Helmich, Helmich Consulting: OUR MicroLending
Doug Holder, The Legis Group: Duke Energy Florida, Inc.
Jessica Janasiewicz, Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects
Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Columbia Care, LLC
Seth McKeel, Southern Strategy Group: City of Lakeland; Dex Imaging Inc.
Georgia McKeown, GA McKeown & Associates: Global Automakers
Chris Moya, Jones Walker: Florida House Experience
Jack Eugene Nicholson, Catastrophe Risk Consultings: Florida Chamber of Commerce
Peter Murray, Colodny Fass: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America
Ron Pierce, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: Mobilitie Services, LLC
Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Renovate America, Inc.
Sydney Ridley, Southern Strategy Group: Dex Imaging Inc.
William Rubin, The Rubin Group: Acadia Healthcare Company, Inc.; Argus Dental & Vision, Inc.;
Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of Hollywood
Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: DeLucca Enterprises
Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Made in Space; Medishine Resources LLC
Chris Snow, Snow Strategies: All American Kids PPEC, LLC
James Randolph Spratt: CAS Governmental Services: Florida Federation of Fairs
Craig Deron Varn, Manson Bolves Donaldson: Plants of Ruskin
Cameron Yarbrough, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Collective medical technologies
SPOTTED: #SuitsForSession collection boxes starting to pop up at agencies and associations downtown to collect clothing in preparation for the big day on March 15. Learn more here and don’t forget to donate on March 15.
***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more at cqrcengage.com/ahcafl.***
SPEAKING IN TALLAHASSEE, TIMOTHY GEITHNER SEES POLITICAL GRIDLOCK AS A THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES via Florida Politics – The biggest danger to the United States and its economy is the breakdown of the political system in Washington, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in Tallahassee Wednesday. “Nothing is more important than improving the quality of the decisions you get in Washington,” Geithner told members of the Economic Club of Florida during a luncheon. … “We have no capacity to think about those other threats from outside without taking care first of that fundamental part of the American system,” he said.
BLINK AND YOU’LL MISS THE OLD ATTRACTIONS OF FLORIDA, DISAPPEARING FAST via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s version of Stonehenge, the Airstream Ranch, was being torn down. The Airstream Ranch, a line of shiny silver travel trailers buried nose down in the dirt like the famed Cadillac Ranch out west, was one of those classically kitschy Florida attractions. Now, Matt Strollo of RV Superstores, which owns the property, says it’s time to replace the Airstream Ranch with a 17,000-square-foot Airstream dealership. The dealership’s footprint, says Strollo, made saving the display impossible. A few of the old classics are still around, like the Monkey Jungle in Miami and Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs. Some became state parks, such as Weeki Wachee Springs, which makes Florida the only state where the list of government jobs includes “mermaid.” With the price of Disney tickets skyrocketing, maybe we’ll get some of the old ones back soon.
SEAWORLD POSTS $12 MILLION LOSS AMID ATTENDANCE DROP via the Tampa Bay Times – The Orlando-based company lost $11.9 million in the last quarter of 2016, up from $11 million lost in the fourth quarter of 2015. Overall, fourth quarter attendance was down by about 30,000 visitors, or just under 1 percent, with the company attributing the decline to the impact of Hurricane Matthew in October and a drop in international attendance.
STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL KICKS OFF via Jon Wilson of the Tampa Bay Reporter – Running through March 12, the festival will once again be held on the event’s property at 2209 Oak Ave. in Plant City and feature 24 headline entertainment artists, a midway, youth livestock shows and plenty of strawberry shortcake. Gates will open daily at 10 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. with admission costing $10 for ages 13 and over and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under five get in for free with a paid adult admission. Festival-goers can purchase discounted admission tickets in advance at select Publix grocery stores. The theme for this year’s festival is “We’re Playing Your Song” and Drew Knottswill serve as the 2017 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Florida Hospital’s David Christian, smart guy Ralph Lair, Adrianna Sekula, Sally West, and our contributors Roseanne Dunkelberger and Steve Kurlander. Celebrating today are Rep. Manny Diaz and our courageous friend and fraternity brother James Miller.