Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica, and Florence Snyder.
DEBUTING TODAY: THE SPRING 2017 EDITION OF INFLUENCE MAGAZINE
INFLUENCE Magazine is mostly about the governmental affairs professionals who shape The Process. But any story about The Process is incomplete without a recognition of the public affairs pros that are as integral as any lobbying shop.
This issue is dedicated to these “flaks,” as well as to the journalists with whom they interact — and occasionally spar.
I met both Sarah Bascom and Alia Faraj-Johnson seven years ago. Since that time, I’ve joined the rest of Tallahassee in watching them build two of the most respected brands in Florida politics. In this issue, you’ll read how these two remarkable women and their colleagues accomplished what they have. They truly are ‘Great Communicators’
I also invited veteran reporter Audrey Post to revisit her seminal look the Florida Capitol Press Corps. Much had changed from when she last took stock in 2013. If any single reporter embodies these changes, it’s POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon, who works for an outlet that did not even exist in 2013, but today sets the pace for capital coverage. We also profile Tia Mitchell, the jack-of-all-trades reporter for the Florida Times-Union, who, when she’s not writing her must-read column or interviewing a political player on Facebook live, is breaking yet another story about the tenure of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
If you are talking about the ‘great communicators’ in the legislative process, two other names come to my find, albeit it for very different reasons. One is Katie Betta, the soft-spoken voice of the Florida Senate, who is universally admired for her poise and effectiveness. The other is political consultant Brian Hughes, consigliere to legislative leaders and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, and a bare-knuckled practitioner of the dark arts of public relations. It’s never a good thing to end up on the opposite side of Brian.
The truth is there is so much great talent in the public affairs sector that we literally ran out of space attempting to catalog all of it. From veterans like spokesman Craig Waters and reporter Rick Flagg to the tech whizzes at Sachs Media Group and spox-turned-blogger Brian Burgess, there is an entire section of this edition profiling the greatest of the great communicators.
We hope you notice this is our biggest issue yet, with almost thirty more pages in it than the last edition. There are just so many interesting aspects to this edition, including a very frank discussion with the state’s most outspoken lawmaker, Republican Jack Latvala. But there’s also great food writing, great travel writing — even a story about the intersection of influence and sports (written by reporter/bicycling enthusiast Alan Snel right before he was involved in a hit-and-run accident)!
A reminder that our once-every-two-years list of the most influential people in Florida politics — the INFLUENCE 100 — is being decided now and will be unveiled at the end of the year. We invite your nominations about who belongs on the list. Also, our choices for the “Golden Rotundas” — our annual awards for the governmental affairs industry — will be in the next edition.
Email your suggestions away!
A HIGHER AUTHORITY
Hours after state Rep. Cary Pigman bonded out of the St. Lucie County jail on a drunk driving charge, his Department of Damage Control weighed in with this half-baked, half-hearted, lame excuse for an apology:
“Last night I was pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol on the Turnpike in St. Lucie County after a long drive back from Tallahassee. I was charged with driving under the influence. I want to apologize to my family, my constituents, and my colleagues in the Legislature, for the embarrassment this has caused me and them.”
Like everyone who ever cruised the Turnpike with a bottle of wine and a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit, Pigman’s first concern is the embarrassment “this” has caused “him,” and feels that the “long drive back from Tallahassee” is some kind of mitigating factor. Pigman didn’t think to thank the motorists who called 911 to report his erratic driving, possibly saving his life and the lives of others in his path.
As an emergency room physician, Pigman certainly has the credentials to be a respected part of the solution to Florida’s problems. As an Army reservist with three recent overseas tours of duty, he may well have seen things that would cause anyone to want a bar in the car.
In public life, Pigman gained notoriety as the Torquemada of Marijuana, and for an ethics charge wrapped in a stupid soap-opera beef wrapped in an extramarital affair.
Alcohol abuse resulting in arrest is God’s way of telling a doctor, “Physician, heal thyself.”
For his sake, and his family’s let’s hope he does.
BACKGROUND via Will Greenlee of TCPalm.com – Pigman was arrested early Friday morning on a DUI charge after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper spotted his Jeep drifting on Florida’s Turnpike late Thursday night, records show. The Republican lawmaker represents western St. Lucie County, as well as Glades, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Breath tests measured Pigman’s blood alcohol content at 0.14 and 0.15 percent, which are above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. His arraignment is scheduled for March 31.
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DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 6; NFL Draft – 31; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 37; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 37; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 159; Election Day 2017 – 224; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 262; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 286.
HEALTH CARE BILL DEFEAT A LOSS FOR RICK SCOTT via Ledyard King of USA TODAY – Florida’s maverick Republican governor has spent years decrying the Affordable Care Act. And ever since his pal Donald Trump was elected president … Scott has paid several visits to Washington hoping to convince Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. But House Speaker Paul Ryan’s words — “the bottom line is Obamacare right now remains the law of the land” – must have stung Scott … the governor’s office declined to say much after the defeat.
ICYMI: FLORIDA JOBLESS RATE FLAT EVEN THOUGH STATE LOST JOBS via The Associated Press – Florida lost 5,000 jobs in February while the state’s overall unemployment rate remains unchanged … the jobless rate remained 5 percent last month. That’s higher than the overall national unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. After leading the nation in job growth in January, however, Florida lost jobs. Still, Florida’s overall job growth rate in the past year has been among the highest in the nation. Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.1 percent.
NAACP URGES SCOTT TO RETURN CASE TO PROSECUTOR via The Associated Press – NAACP Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze said that the group’s members don’t support Gov. Scott‘s decision to take the Markeith Loyd case away from State Attorney Aramis Ayala. Television station WKMG reports Nweze spoke at a news conference at the group’s quarterly meeting in Orlando. “The death penalty, killing people, is not the way that we end crime in this state,” said Leon Russell, the chairman of the NAACP national board of directors. “Criminal justice spending is outstripping education spending throughout the nation, so why don’t we focus on those things that are actually building our community?” said Ngozi Ndulue, the NAACP national senior director of criminal justice.
ZIKA ISN’T OVER. MIAMI-DADE HAS ANOTHER LOCALLY ACQUIRED INFECTION, STATE SAYS via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald – Florida health officials reported one more locally acquired Zika infection in a person who felt no symptoms but who was tested for the virus in February. The person likely acquired Zika in Miami-Dade in 2016 after “multiple exposures” to areas where mosquitoes were spreading the virus, the Florida Department of Health reported, adding that the state had just received confirmation from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, Florida reported four new travel-related Zika infections, raising the total number of cases for 2017 to 29 people, including one locally acquired case from Miami-Dade. Among the 29 cases reported in Florida this year are 13 pregnant women and two people whose source of infection is undetermined after a health department investigation.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a roundtable with community leaders to discuss Zika preparedness ahead of the rainy season at 9:30 a.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, 1350 NW 14th Street in Miami. At 2 p.m., Scott will honor veterans with a ceremony at 2 p.m. at Louie C. Wadsworth Armory, 1416 11th Street Southwest in Live Oak.
ADAM PUTNAM AND THE POLITICAL COMMITTEE DISCLOSURE THAT FAILS TO DISCLOSE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Putnam has raised more than $9.4 million for a 2018 governor’s race he has yet to announce and, in the last two years, spent $1.8 million of it on a Lakeland-based political consulting firm that has failed to disclose how the expenses were paid … 70 percent of the $2.6 million spent by Putnam’s political committee, Florida Grown, went to Silloh Consulting, operated by Justin Hollis, the 36-year-old political consultant and real estate investor who manages Putnam’s political fund. Nearly $1.3 million in lump sum payments went for the purpose of political consulting, according to the reports. How much of that was used to compensate vendors, pollsters, fundraisers, advertisers, opposition researchers, media interests and others? His report doesn’t say, raising legal issues about whether the report is in compliance with state campaign finance law that requires all major expenditures to be reported, and federal tax law, which requires that political committees disclose the campaigns for which they are operating.
FIVE BUDGET FIGHTS TO WATCH AS SCOTT, LAWMAKERS COLLIDE ON SPENDING $83.5 BILLION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – 1. HIGHER EDUCATION … Senate President Joe Negron wants this to be the year that the state’s 12 universities get $1 billion in new money to help the flagship state schools move “from good to great.” Not likely. 2. TAX CUTS … This is a difficult year to be pushing tax cuts because the state has little extra money. 3. PUBLIC SCHOOLS … A major clash is looming over how to pay for a boost in spending in public schools. 4. EVERGLADES … Calling the pollution of Florida waters a catastrophe, Negron wants the Legislature to acquire 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir to hold a massive amount of water. 5. STATE WORKERS … Employees have had just one across-the-board raise in the past decade, in 2013. With rampant turnover and dangerous staff shortages, a consensus has emerged to give correctional officers previously unheard-of raises of between 8.5 and 10 percent. Scott favors incentive bonuses for most state workers, not across-the-board raises.
HOUSE BUDGET VOTE TENTATIVELY SCHEDULED — The House announced last week it was tentatively scheduled to vote on its budget April 13. According to a report released Thursday, the Appropriations Committee will make budget documents available to members no later than 8 a.m. Friday. Members will then face a series of deadlines to submit amendments to the budget: Main amendments must be filed no later than 4 p.m. Monday, April 3. All amendments to amendments and substitute amendments must be filed no later than noon on April 4. The committee is expected to file and publish the General Appropriations bill, the implementing bill and conforming legislation, as amended, no late than 4 p.m. April 6. Members will then have until 4 p.m. April 10 to file main amendments on the floor; amendments to the main amendments or substitute amendments for main floor amendments must be requested by noon on April 11. Second reading is tentatively scheduled for April 12, with third reading scheduled for April 13.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: @UncleLukereal1: I’m finally in agreement with Rick Scott Florida as a tourist destination and this psychopathic majority leader is ruining our state
LEGISLATURE COULD OK ‘GROVELAND FOUR’ APOLOGY, RICHARD CORCORAN SAYS via the Orlando Sentinel – A legislative apology to the “Groveland Four,” a quartet of African-American men accused of raping a white woman in 1949, could pass the Legislature this year, House Speaker Corcoran says. But he also said the matter might have to wait for similar action for the victims of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a shuttered Jackson County site where dozens of boys were abused decades ago. Corcoran said his priority would be taking action on something dealing with Dozier. “To the extent that we can move forward on both would be great,” he said.
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HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Health Innovation Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 1077) that would ease limits on the number of trauma centers in the state during its meeting at 12:30 p.m. in Mashburn Hall. The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will discuss a bill (HB 1063) that would repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance law at 12:30 p.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill (HB 83) that would increase penalties for undocumented immigrants who commit types of violent crimes during a meeting at 12:30 p.m. in Morris Hall. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will discuss a bill (SB 650) that would require many retailers and shopping centers to set aside parking spots for expectant mothers and provide breastfeeding areas at 1:30 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will take up a bill that would direct the Department Health’s Children’s Medical Services program to develop one or more sexual-abuse treatment programs at 1:30 p.m. 401 Senate Office Building. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will discuss a bill to exempt credit unions from the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act at 4 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will discuss a bill (SB 596) that would set statewide rules for wireless carriers on the installation of “small wireless facilities” used for new technology at 4 p.m. in 401 Senate Office Building.
FEDS SAY ‘STAY THE COURSE’ WITH EVERGLADES, REJECTING JOE NEGRON’S LAND BUY via Florida Politics – Many of those involved in Everglades restoration called for Florida to stay the course on federal restoration projects; many were critical of the Senate President’s plan to build a reservoir south of Lake O. At least two of them suggested using taxpayer money to buy land is not a priority. Marco Rubio said Negron’s plan would probably not get federal support “anytime soon.” Buying up land could devastate farming communities, the Florida senator added, possibly turning them into “ghost towns.” Congressman Tom Rooney, himself a longtime representative Treasure Coast representative … resists Negron’s plan … “Costly land buys from unwilling sellers have been unsuccessful.” Another call to stick with the current federal plan is the Army Corps of Engineers … Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the Corps’ Jacksonville district said: “I want to be clear that the South Florida Everglades restoration Integrated Delivery Schedule is the optimal sequence of projects moving forward.”
BATTLE OVER TRAUMA CENTERS CONTINUES WITH NEW LAWSUIT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Another high-profile court fight over new trauma centers opening in Florida has begun in Tallahassee … As a pre-emptive strike, Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach and St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach last week sued the Florida Department of Health in Leon County Circuit Civil Court. They both operate Level 1 trauma centers—the higher level of trauma care. At issue is an application from JFK Medical Center in Atlantis to open a new Level 2 trauma center. Both trauma levels require round-the-clock availability to surgeons, for instance, but a Level 2 doesn’t have to engage in research or offer a medical residency program. If JFK opens a center, that will “divert patients and revenue away” from the plaintiffs, the complaint said, leaving them “irreparably harmed.” They’re now seeking an injunction against the department, saying it doesn’t have the authority to consider the JFK application.
CANDIDATES HELPING VOTERS VOTE? LEGISLATOR PUSHES TO MAKE IT ILLEGAL via Alexandra Seltzer, Lulu Ramadan and Lawrence Mower of the Palm Beach Post – State Rep. Emily Slosberg has proposed legislation to make it illegal for candidates to go into people’s homes and help them fill out their vote-by-mail ballot … Slosberg cited The Post’s story when she proposed an amendment to make the practice a third-degree felony. But she withdrew the amendment for the time being at the recommendation of a colleague. The freshman legislator said she was alarmed by Post stories that revealed that Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard and state Rep. Al Jacquet, both Democrats, won their seats after entering people’s homes and helping them fill out vote-by-mail ballots. Although their behavior drew condemnation from experts who believe it’s an improper campaign tactic, Florida’s laws did not make it illegal. After reading the stories, Slosberg said she walked into the office of the Republican chairing the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, of which she is a member, to find a way to ban the practice. Slosberg pointed to the Florida statute that bars someone from soliciting voters inside a polling place. “Why should a person’s home be different?” she said. “In fact, it should be more secure.”
REVENUE CONFERENCE PRICES SALES TAX EXEMPTION FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – HB 1397, by Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues … would impose a number of restrictions on marijuana use — no smoking, vaping or edibles, for example, although a terminally ill patient could vape. The bill would take effect upon becoming law, and the state Revenue Estimating Conference concluded the state would have collected around $400,000 in pot taxes by that time. As more people become eligible to use marijuana to treat medical conditions, the cost to state revenues would hike up to $24.3 million by 2021. The Legislature could not use the money in the meantime to fund ongoing programs, although it would be available for one-time use each year, said Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
SCHOOL RECESS BILL STILL ALIVE IN HOUSE … BUT CHANGES COMING via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Next week would have been make-or-break for this year’s efforts by the Florida Legislature to implement mandatory daily recess in public elementary schools. While the Senate bill (SB 78) sailed through committees and awaits a floor vote, the House bill had yet to move — and next week is the last week policy subcommittees are expected to meet. But “recess moms” are in luck … Rep. Chris Latvala has scheduled the recess bill (HB 67) to be heard Tuesday morning in his House Pre-K-12 Innovation Subcommittee. However, Latvala’s committee is proposing some hefty changes, which might not leave all “recess moms” happy. The Innovation Subcommittee has filed a proposed amended bill that would … let schools count recess time toward physical education requirements for students in grades K-3 … and, would require district school boards to “provide free-play recess each week on days when physical education classes are not held” for grades K-3.
AUDREY BROWN: LONG-TERM CARE KEY TO QUALITY OF LIFE FOR FLORIDA MEDICAID SENIORS via Florida Politics – The fundamental strategy to allow Florida’s health plans to coordinate long-term care for our state’s most vulnerable and frail Medicaid beneficiaries was to enhance care in institutional settings, while simultaneously reducing the reliance on nursing homes by increasing the utilization of appropriate community-based alternatives. Since its implementation, the program has been successful, as the LTC program now works both in terms of achieving cost savings and expanding meaningful benefits. First and foremost, this program delivers the right amount and type of care to address individuals’ needs. Often this appropriate type of care is delivered through more cost-efficient, home-based care services, which not only offers a less-restrictive setting for those eligible, but has also resulted in more than $400 million in cost savings. Moreover, health plans have been able to leverage their resources to offer expanded benefits, such as support to transition to the community; emergency financial assistance; dental, hearing and vision services; transportation and many more. These expanded benefits were valued at $9.5 million in 2015 and are financed by the health plans — not taxpayers. Further demonstrating its success, 77.4 percent of Medicaid LTC recipients recently indicated in a survey that their quality of life has improved as a result of the SMMC LTC program.
DARRYL PAULSON: DO UNIVERSITIES DISCRIMINATE? THE ASSAULT ON FREE SPEECH via Florida Politics – Most universities recruit students by offering specialized curricula, top quality faculty and promising to expose students to diverse views which will stimulate creative thinking and prepare the student for life after their university experience. Universities may be partially successful on the first two items, but dramatically fail in exposing students to diverse viewpoints. It is hard to think of a more close-minded institution than the American university. Groupthink and ideological orthodoxy are the standard practices on campuses. There are many professors, both liberals and conservatives, who excel at awakening students to new ideas and who maintain neutrality in expressing those views. Too many professors, dominated by the political left, push their political agenda as the correct approach to the exclusion of alternative viewpoints.
LEGAL NOTICES SYSTEM STILL NEEDS TO BE REFORMED via Peter Schorsch for Florida Politics – Frankly, the newspaper business has yet to recover from what Craigslist did to it, although one has to wonder if newspaper executives could have prevented what happened by building a better mousetrap on their own websites … One thing is for certain here in Florida. A sin of omission like what occurred with Craigslist would not be repeated with other newspaper revenue streams. Case in point is the legal/public notices system. Under state law, legal and public notices must run in a newspaper … published at least once a week and is considered the publication of record in the county. Local governments need to run public notices to give the community heads up to all public meetings, including adopting the budget. They’re also used to give notice of judicial sales and zoning changes… But Legal notices should no longer be required to be published in print, especially since many of the outlets printing legal notices exists (and profit handsomely from) solely from publishing legal notices. The GOP-led Florida Legislature recognizes this. This year, a bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Stark (HB 897) and Sen. Linda Stewart (SB 1444) would have allowed cities and counties to end newspaper print and newspaper website notice of various actions (e.g., budget amendments, construction contracts, etc.) and in place of the newspaper notice post the notices on city or county websites.
MUST-READ – ONE DAY, 10 OVERDOSE DEATHS: DRUG EPIDEMIC STRAINS MORGUES via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Broward saw 10 deaths in one day over the summer. “At first, we thought five a day was a lot,” said Dr. Craig Mallak, chief medical examiner for Broward. “Then it went to six, seven. Then we had 10.” Ultra-potent synthetic heroin is driving much of the death, according to research by Jim Hall, a drug abuse epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University. “These deaths really occur in clusters when a bad batch of drugs hits the street,” Hall said. “We are seeing poison being sold.” Medical examiners say they are struggling to keep up with all of the bodies, and although it appears the rate could be slowing so far this year as overdose reversal drugs become more widely available, health officials are still seeing alarming numbers of death.
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PERSONNEL NOTE: TREY PRICE TO HEAD FHFC via Florida Politics – Veteran lobbyist Harold “Trey” Price has been named executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. Price announced his hiring on social media Friday. He will take over from interim Executive Director Ken Reecy, who’s been in charge since the resignation of Steve Auger, the previous executive director. Price has his work cut out for him. Auger stepped down after a scathing audit of the organization, the steward of state and federal affordable housing money, disclosed lavish spending on events for lenders and board members.
JIM BOXOLD HIRED TO LOBBY FOR TRI-RAIL AUTHORITY HE BLASTED AS TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Boxold has been hired as a lobbyist by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the same agency he bashed just before leaving the state. Boxold joined … Capital City Consulting and will provide “strategic counsel” as the authority fights with the Scott administration and some in the Legislature over a more than $500 million contract to operate Tri-Rail, a commuter rail service it operates. “Part of what I’m trying to do is find resolution for them,” he [said]. The board voted 5-2 to transfer $90,000 to beef up its lobbying and communications teams as it continues its fight over the controversial contract. … The decision was opposed by board chairman Tim Ryan and Gerry O’Reilly, the region’s FDOT district secretary.
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATION
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Orthodox Union
Brad Burleson, Ballard Partners: City Year
Jennings Lawton DePriest, Strategos Public Affairs: Crisis Prevention Institute
Michael Huey, Ty Jackson, Jessica Love, Todd Steibly, GrayRobinson: OneBlood
Ron LaFace, Capital Consulting: Whitaker Contracting Corporation
Sarah Niewold, Meenan PA: MetLife
Eli Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: Florida Justice Association
Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: International Code Council
APPOINTED: Alvaro “Al’ Hernandez and Col. Jeffrey Harrington to the Pasco-Hernando State College District board of trustees.
APPOINTED: Katie Cole to the St. Petersburg College District board of trustees.
APPOINTED: Frank Gernert, Donald Cuozzo, Carl Blow and Lynn Williams to the Florida Inland Navigation District.
MORE LEGISLATIVE HOPEFULS FILE TO RUN IN 2018 via Florida Politics — State election records show dozens of members of the House, Senate, and other legislative hopefuls have filed to run in 2018. Rep. Shevrin Jones filed to run for re-election in House District 101 in 2018. The 33-year-old West Park Democrat filed to run for re-election March 6. … Rep. Roy Hardemon also filed to run for re-election in 2018. The Miami Democrat was first elected to his District 108 seat in 2016, and filed to run for re-election on March 7. Ray Guillory is looking for a rematch in House District 2. Guillory filed to run against Rep. Frank White, a Pensacola Republican. Republican George Agovino is eyeing the seat currently held by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. …State records show Democrat Christopher Smutko, a teacher from the Tampa Bay area, filed to run against Rep. Jamie Grant. … A Democrat has jumped in the House District 71 race to replace Rep. Jim Boyd. Bradenton Democrat Randy Cooper filed to run for the seat on March 10. … Rubin Anderson is looking to give it another try, challenging Sen. Bobby Powell in Senate District 30 in 2018.
POLITICOS CELEBRATE AT TAMPA PRIDE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “When Carrie (West) said we want to bring the Pride Parade to Tampa, I said let’s roll!” yelled an exuberant Bob Buckhorn in kicking off the festivities. West and longtime partner Mark Bias are founding members of Tampa Pride and helped create the GaYBOR District Coalition in the aughts. He was inspired to bring the event back to Tampa after the Hillsborough County Commission repealed their infamous ban on gay pride events back in June 2013. While Senator Bill Nelson was not there, Digna Alvarez, his Tampa aide, read a statement from her boss … Luis Viera, the newest member of the Tampa City Council, said he looks at the issue of LGBT rights as a father. Councilman Guido Maniscalco was also there; he had recently introduced an ordinance banning conversion therapy in Tampa. That’s the controversial practice used to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
DISNEY CEO: ‘LAST JEDI’ NOT CHANGED DUE TO CARRIE FISHER’S DEATH via The Associated Press – Bob Iger says the upcoming “Star Wars” sequel has not been changed due to the death of Carrie Fisher. Fisher completed filming her role as Princess Leia in “The Last Jedi” before her death following a heart attack in December. Iger said in an interview at a University of Southern California tech conference Thursday that Fisher “appears throughout” the film and her performance “remains as it was.” Iger says Disney is discussing “what could be another decade and a half of Star Wars stories.”
JUSTICE LEAGUE TRAILER UNITES ZACK SNYDER’S SUPERGROUP via The Verge – In the first full trailer for Justice League, the world faces a new threat, and it’s up to Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince to bring together the various heroes to save the day. In the trailer, Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne tells Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman that there’s a threat coming, and that they have to be ready. They bring together Aquaman (Jason Momoa) The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) for what looks a movie loaded with plenty of action. There’s also some glimpses of Amy Adam’s Lois Lane and J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Joni James, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.