Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica, although today we’re giving Gary Fineout of the Associated Press the lead…
DIVIDED OVER DOLLARS: LEGISLATORS SPLIT ON SPENDING
With about a month left in the regular session, the Republican-controlled Legislature is on a major collision course over spending.
This past week the House and Senate released rival budgets for the coming year that reveal a wide divide between the two chambers on everything from taxes to schools to state worker pay raises.
The two sides don’t even have the same bottom line: The Senate’s overall budget is more than $85 billion, or roughly $4 billion more than the House proposed. The current state budget is nearly $82.3 billion.
Part of the reason for the disparity is that House Republicans sought aggressive budget cuts, aimed largely at hospitals and state universities. But the House budget also sets aside money for roughly $300 million in tax cuts, including a reduction in the tax charged on rent paid by businesses.
House leaders say they pushed ahead with deep spending cuts to help the state avoid possible shortfalls that are projected over the next two to three years by state economists. In describing the need for cuts, House Republicans have referred to a budget “deficit” even though state tax collections are actually growing.
“We have to make informed decisions, and we have to make tough decisions,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the House budget chairman. “We can’t be all things to all people.”
A big sticking point between the House and Senate will be over money for public schools.
The Senate is recommending a nearly $800 million increase for day-to-day operations that would boost the amount spent on each student by close to 3 percent. That contrasts with the House’s proposal that would increase the per student amount by 1.25 percent.
“The budget meets the needs of our growing state in a manner that reflects the priorities of the constituents who elected us,” said Senate President Joe Negron.
But a large portion of the Senate plan relies on an increase in local property taxes triggered by rising property values. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has vowed to block any proposal that relies on higher taxes.
Corcoran and other House Republicans have proposed steering large amounts of money into contentious programs, including an ambitious $200 million “Schools of Hope” plan that would offer money to charter school operators that set up schools near failing public schools.
Another wide area of disagreement: Money for economic development programs and tourism promotion that has already pitted House leaders against Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate has kept intact the state’s economic development agency known as Enterprise Florida and agreed to keep spending on tourism marketing close to current levels. The House is proposing to shutter Enterprise Florida, while slashing the state’s tourism ad budget by roughly $50 million.
“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe,” Scott said this week about the House proposal.
The House and Senate also differ on the need for across-the-board raises for state workers. The Senate is offering a raise of $1,400 to all employees making $40,000 or less, and $1,000 to those who earn more than $40,000. The House is recommending targeted pay raises to corrections officers and state law-enforcement agents.
The Senate is also proposing to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms. House leaders have said they are opposed to borrowing money this year but have not rejected the Senate plan.
ANITERE FLORES BETS ON WASHINGTON INTERVENTION IN HEALTH CARE BUDGET via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Flores has built a health care budget around $600 in federal money for indigent care that she concedes might never arrive. “If it doesn’t happen, look, we’ll have to reassess the situation,” Flores said this week during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “This is just the Senate’s version. There’s a whole other version that’s going on in the House,” she said. Pending negotiations with the House and Gov. Scott, “I think it’s important for us as a Senate to take a stand and day, ‘We’re going to do whatever we can to help our hospitals help make their case to the federal government,’” Flores said. “If we simply do nothing — if simply say, ‘Well, let’s just not even include it,’ that may not send the right message to Washington as far as the state’s commitment to hospitals and to Medicaid re-imbursement.”
HIGHER EDUCATION PROJECTS FAIL HOUSE’S STRICT NEW BUDGET TEST via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The budget — agreed upon in principle, and due in bill form this week — will call for something like $2.2 billion in spending cuts, according to House leaders, for a total expenditure of $81.2 billion. Among the biggest targets — because they rank among the single most significant expenses outside entitlements like Medicaid — is member projects, Rep. Trujillo said … These are programs that members hope to bring home to their constituents, and a lot of them wind up at universities and colleges. “Some of them might be parochial in nature. Some of them might not really have a state impact,” Trujillo said … “We were very aggressive in identifying those and removing them from the budget,” he said. The House is intent on ending the time-honored tradition of sneaking projects into the budget during conference committee negotiations. Rules change forced members to apply early for inclusion in the budget.
HOSPITAL FUNDING CUTS WOULD HIT ORLANDO AND MIAMI FACILITIES HARDEST via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Both the House panel and Scott recommended cutting supplemental payments to Florida Hospital by $49.9 million. The House health budget committee recommended cutting payments to Jackson Memorial by $28.3 million. The Senate recommended cutting supplemental payments to Jackson Memorial by $34.3 million and to University of Florida Shands in Gainesville by $16.8 million. Hospitals in Collier and Lee counties face cuts that, although smaller, still would have a “profound impact,” one spokeswoman said. These proposed cuts would move the House and Senate closer together, but there are still gulfs between the two chambers in terms of amount and method. The House panel, which is more ideologically aligned with the governor on health care, has proposed cutting $622 million from hospitals, whereas the Senate would cut nearly $260 million.
WHERE DID $1.3 BILLION FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING GO? THE LEGISLATURE TOOK IT. via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – For the 10th year in a row, the Governor and Legislature are proposing to sweep money from the affordable housing trust funds into the general revenue fund to spend on other purposes. Since the start of the Great Recession, that has added up to $1.3 billion. This year, the trust funds will collect about $292 million for affordable housing from the documentary stamp taxes on real estate transactions. The draft Senate budget released last week allocates $162.4 million of the funds into affordable housing while the House and Gov. Scott propose spending even less of the proceeds on housing — $44 million. “Housing is definitely a problem, but the issue is we aren’t going to just throw more affordable housing into South Florida,” said Rep. Trujillo, adding that he believes the program couldn’t absorb more than the House will give it. Besides, he adds, “the reality is there’s only a 60-day legislative session. There’s only so many issues you can tackle in 60 days.”
EDITORIAL: DON’T RAID AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUND YET AGAIN via the Bradenton Herald –The Sadowski Act, passed into law in 1992, pumps money into affordable housing programs statewide through the documentary stamp tax paid on real estate transactions. But those dollars are basically stolen by Tallahassee politicians more interested in funding their goals — by explaining the money was needed to balance the state budget. This year is like many others. The Legislature has yet to rob the Trust Fund bank, but Gov. Scott has set his sights on the easy money. His budget proposal, which he titled “Fighting for Florida’s Future” to “create opportunities for generations of Floridians,” sweeps about two-thirds — 77 percent — of the lawfully dedicated money supposedly going into the Sadowski fund back into his $83.5 billion state budget plan. Scott’s attempted heist amounts to $224 million earmarked for low-income housing from state and local housing funds this coming fiscal year — for his priorities. The political message is crystal clear. Housing for the poor is not a priority, not even a low one, not by any measure.
LEGISLATURE TO CONSIDER CUTS TO ARAMIS AYALA’S OFFICE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – State Rep. Scott Plakon, the Altamonte Springs Republican who has been extremely critical of Ayala since she announced her no-death-penalty stance. And when he engineered the line-item, $1.3 million budget cut that wound up included in the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee he made it clear the cut was a result of that stance. “She’s not prosecuting death penalty cases, so this is essentially the money to be used for death penalty cases,” Plakon said. Democrats and Ayala’s office have blasted that cut and charged that the Orange County Republican members of that subcommittee — Eric Eisnaugle, Mike Miller and Jennifer Sullivan — are putting their own constituents at public safety risk by slashing money for prosecuting criminals. “The impact of cutting $1.3 million and eliminating 21 positions would severely impact this agency’s ability to effectively prosecute crimes,” Ayala declared in a public statement.
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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 24; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 31; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 31; MLB All-Star Game – 99; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 152; Election Day 2017 – 217; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 255; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 279.
FIRST ON #FLAPOL – POLL SHOWS 80% OF FLORIDIANS OK WITH VACATION HOME RENTALS via Florida Politics – A new poll commissioned by the vacation home rental giant Airbnb shows that Floridians are overwhelmingly supportive of the idea of people renting out their homes to tourists. The poll found 80 percent support allowing Florida residents to rent out their homes through Airbnb and more than half think the rapidly-rising trend is good for the state. And the poll also found that surveyed voters would support taking away cities’ and counties’ abilities to regulate vacation rentals, leaving it up to the state, a question addressing two bills moving through the Florida Legislature. ….
… The key question about home rentals found 80 percent support and 20 percent opposition. And the support was within the margin of error of 80 percent for Republicans, Democrats, independents, and for voters in north, central and south Florida. Republicans and south Floridians offered the least support – 78 percent each. The question of whether the practice is good for Florida showed similar unanimity. Overall, 52 percent of those surveyed said it was good for Florida, 35 percent said it was neutral, and 13 percent bad. Republicans were slightly below those levels, at 49 percent good, 35 percent neutral and 16 percent bad. All other breakouts showed majorities thinking it is good. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they favored having the state, not local governments, registering rental properties; and 64 percent said they would support changing state law to prevent cities and counties from imposing restrictions on vacation homes.
— “Florida residents like vacation rentals” via Denis Hanks of the Sunshine State News
AIRBNBWATCH PUSHES BACK: “As the Senate Community Affairs Committee addresses vacation rentals activity this afternoon, AirbnbWATCH Florida encourages members of the committee to consider the property rights of those who want quiet neighborhoods before rolling back our laws to a time when short-term rentals were j
BLACK CLOUDS LOOM OVER THIS YEAR’S GAMBLING BILLS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – It’s long been a Capitol cliché, but there are few pronouncements on a piece of legislation as inauspicious as calling something “a heavy lift.” Yet that’s how Corcoran referred to the omnibus gambling bills now on their way to conference. They include a new agreement for continued exclusive rights for the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer blackjack in return for $3 billion over seven years. “It’s got a long way to go,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said … Generally, the House holds the line on gambling expansion; the Senate is open to some expansion, including allowing slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties that approved a slots referendum. Having blackjack money for the upcoming $80 billion-plus state budget could mean an extra $340 million-$350 million. “It’s a heavy lift. There’s a reason it hasn’t been passed in decades,” Corcoran said. “But this is the first time, probably that anyone can recall, where you have two bills moving … That puts them in a posture to see where a negotiation goes … But I would still say it’s a heavy, heavy lift … We’ll see how it unfolds.”
DANA YOUNG, ENVIRONMENTALISTS STILL HOLD HOPE FOR FRACKING BAN IN 2017 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – House members now say the possibility of a fracking ban is dead for the 2017 Legislative Session. Young thinks it’s premature to administer last rites, at least just yet. “You never say never, but now we’re saying it looks like that will be next year,” Rep. Mike Miller [said] about his bill (HB 451) as the first month of Session ended … The reason for the impasse is the desire by some House Republicans for a scientific study to determine the potential impacts of fracking. “What I would say is, move a bill in your chamber that has a study and a ban in it,” Young says, “and then let’s let other members in on that and see where we end up.”
SENATE COMMITTEE GEARS UP TO HEAR BILL TO REGULATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Florida Senate Health Policy Committee will take up a proposal to regulate Florida’s medical marijuana industry … The bill, SB 406, would outlaw smoking medical marijuana and would limit medical marijuana for Florida residents only … bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley … filed eight different amendments to alter his original proposal. One of the new amendments would create a coalition for medical marijuana research through Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Center and Research Institute, one of the top medical research centers in the state. The goal of the coalition, according to the amendment, is to conduct “rigorous scientific research,” and to “guide policy” for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for medical marijuana.
BEER GLASS BILLS COMING TO A HEAD via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bills are moving in the Legislature to allow beer distributors to give away glasses from brewers imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants. Now, they have to be sold. The House bill (HB 853) was first OK’d by the Careers & Competition Subcommittee last week on a 10-4 vote. Three Democrats and Republican Julio Gonzalez voted against it. The Senate version (SB 1040) was previously approved in the Regulated Industries Committee 10-zip. It’s up next in the Senate … in the Commerce and Tourism Committee. So what’s the problem? Proponents, including small businesses, say it’ll be a boon to them to cut down on glasses lost from theft and breakage. Take the often-cited example of the chalice-style glass for Stella Artois, “designed to release the beer’s flavor and aroma.” Global beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev owns that brand. And thus the opposition. Rep. Randy Fine, who supports the measure, nonetheless said the glasses could be “used as an inducement to create anti-competitive behavior, that there will be strings attached.”
JANET CRUZ’S ‘TOUGH HAUL,’ FRUSTRATIONS OF THE DEMOCRATIC HOUSE CAUCUS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Tampa Rep. Cruz … admits it’s been a tough haul. “I feel like we’re spending so much time on bills that in caucus meetings, we’ve grown to call them ‘dead bills walking,'” she says of how Session is going so far. “These are bills that are simply shots across the bow,” she says, specifically referring to Speaker Corcoran and his campaign to kill Enterprise Florida. The Speaker’s effort comes much to the consternation of Gov. Scott, who continues to travel the state to call out individual Republicans who have voted in support of the proposal to date. “They’re one executive branch taking shots at the other executive branch,” Cruz says. “And in my opinion, it’s all posturing to run for higher office.”
AFTER READING ABOUT ‘GROVELAND FOUR,’ JASON FISCHER FINDS A CAUSE via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Fischer not only has decided he wants to help pass a resolution that could help exonerate and formally apologize to the Groveland Four, he is leading the charge for Republicans to back a bill that is stalled in the House. After reading a book about the Lake County case last weekend, Fischer asked Rep. Bobby Dubose if could join him in sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 631. Fischer also convinced nine other Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors. “I’m from Florida, and I had never heard the story before,” Fischer said about the case involving four black men accused of raping a white woman in 1949. It resulted in two of the accused being killed by police and two others receiving harsh prison sentences. They died after being granted parole but were never pardoned. The Orlando Sentinel reported that evidence that could have exonerated the men was hidden away for decades.
ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS FIGHT FINALLY COMING TO A SENATE COMMITTEE VOTE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Legislation addressing assignment of benefits abuse comes up in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee — and it’s not the version insurance and business interests like. The panel will hear SB 1218 by Sen. Gary Farmer, a trial lawyer from Broward County. A rival bill, SB 1038, by Dorothy Hukill and Kathleen Passidomo, has yet to be favored with a committee hearing. The Hukill-Passidomo bill would bar third parties holding assignment of benefits agreements from collecting attorney fees if they sue insurers. That’s a top priority for Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and the insurance and business lobbies.
OUCH – “CATEGORY 5 FLORES” via the Wall Street Journal editorial board – Florida homeowners might want to remember the name Anitere Flores when they open their next insurance bill. The South Florida Republican … blocked an effort to stop a plaintiff’s attorney scheme that’s endangering the state’s taxpayer-backed catastrophic insurer and sending premiums skyrocketing. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. spent years building a fiscal surplus after the active 2004-05 hurricane season. Now the momentum is blowing in the other direction … Citizens attributes the red ink to “assignment of benefit” abuse … a practice whereby lawyers and contractors convince homeowners to sign over their right to sue insurers for certain kinds of home damage. Insurers typically settle these claims to avoid protracted and expensive court battles, and thanks to Florida law they’re on the hook for attorney’s fees too. Republican state Senators Hukill and Passidomo introduced a bill in February that would stop AOB abuse by ending attorney fee paydays, among other reforms. But Flores refused to allow the Hukill-Passidomo reform onto the committee’s agenda, effectively killing it for this legislative session. That’s a remarkable political choice given that Sen. Flores’s South Florida constituents are paying increasingly high premiums thanks to AOB abuse.
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HERSCHEL VINYARD: LISTEN TO WATER EXPERTS IN LAKE OKEECHOBEE DEBATE via Florida Politics – In my previous role as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, it wasn’t often I would find consensus on issues involving local water management districts, the state and federal government. But after years of studying the options to best reduce the occurrence of discharges used to lower Lake Okeechobee, those involved in these three levels of governance all agree that buying additional acres of land south of the lake doesn’t solve the problem. Instead, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the state, Florida’s Congressional Delegation, and the Florida leaders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remain firm on finishing the projects included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP. So, what are the water quality experts responsible for Everglades restoration and fixing Lake Okeechobee saying? Starting at the district level, SFWMD scientists and engineers earlier this month reported district modeling shows that storage north of the lake included in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project (LOWP) – which includes solutions such as a 250,000 acre-foot above-ground northern reservoir and 110 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells – will “reduce the total discharge volume to the estuaries by more than 60 percent.”
WHY CHILDREN DIE: IF EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBLE, NOBODY’S RESPONSIBLE via Florence Snyder for Florida Politics – “Foster care kids are our kids. They are our kids,” said Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader in support of legislation making it easier for youth in state custody to obtain a driver’s license. You hear that line a lot — a lot — from “leadership” at the Department of Children & Families (DCF), and from the flacks who wear the skirts behind which “leadership” hides. It means nothing. It means less than nothing. Latest case in point: Lauryn Martin-Everett. The 16-year-old spent half her life as one of “our kids” before hanging herself by the neck until dead in a “children’s shelter” which gets money from the “community-based care” which gets money from the DCF which gets money from the state Legislature to “parent” tens of thousands of infants, toddlers and teens in “out-of-home care.” DCF’s “leadership” is not talking, but thanks to what little is left of Florida’s public records law, we know that the state adopted Lauryn out to some “forever family” that later returned her in a fit of buyer’s remorse. Florida has never paid more than lip service to the idea of recruiting and retaining the kind of highly competent, highly qualified social workers who would not, on their worst day, be fooled or bullied into letting infamous child abusers like Jorge and Carmen Barahona adopt a goldfish, let alone four of “our kids.”
HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH – The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would require high school students to earn a half-credit in personal financial literacy during its meeting at 11:30 a.m. in Reed Hall. The House Higher Education Appropriations Committee will discuss a bill that would require colleges and universities to provide information to students each year about students’ loans during its meeting at 3 p.m. in 212 Knott. The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would help juveniles expunge their records after the complete diversion programs for misdemeanor offenses at its meeting at 3 p.m. in Morris Hall. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will discuss a bill that would allow beer distributors to give free branded glassware to bars and restaurants during its meeting at 1:30 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will tackle a bill to revamp the state’s workers compensation insurance program during its meeting at 4 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. Medical marijuana is on the agenda when the Senate Health Policy Committee meets at 4 p.m. in 412 Knott.
HAPPENING THIS WEEK – SAFETY NET HOSPITAL CAPITOL DAYS – The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida will hold its annual Safety Net Capitol Days from April 3 through April 4. The two-day event will include two media events to discuss proposed hospital reimbursement cuts and gains in addressing Florida’s physician shortage. The organization will hold a press conference to discuss Medicaid hospital reimbursement and the physician shortage at 1 p.m. Monday in the Senate portico. Speakers include Steve Sonenreich, chairman of the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida; Dr. Jonathan Ellen, the chairman of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance, and Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. On Tuesday, there will be a media availability to applaud trauma teams at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital and Broward Medical Center for their efforts to save lives during recent mass casualty incidents at 10:30 a.m. in 231 Senate Office Building.
FRANCHISE GROUP TWEETS TONE-DEAF OPPOSITION TO ‘FLORIDA SMALL BUSINESS ACT’ via Florida Politics – A couple of months ago, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced supporting the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750), which seeks to “promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors” … that hasn’t set well with the International Franchise Association, which took to social media to make its case … A series of tweets on the group’s page (@Franchising411) blasted several lawmakers, calling on them to reject SB 750 and its House companion (HB 1069). But something was not quite right. Behind each image of a Florida legislator was a map of California, not Florida … it would be reasonable to assume IFA could spring for a staffer with some basic geographic knowledge, or at least hire a person (anyone) who knows the difference between Florida and California. Ironically, the worst of these misguided tweets is one the few that got it right — with Florida in the background, that is. Sent March 30, the tweet in question asked supporters to contact Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill … Who is not in Tallahassee but contending with a more pressing issue — radiation treatments for cervical cancer.
T-SHIRTS CAUSE CLOTHING KERFUFFLE IN FLORIDA HOUSE via Florida Politics – On Thursday, members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus wore purple T-shirts with the slogan, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate.” Rules Chair Jose Oliva … soon put the kibosh on the sartorial messaging. Take the T-shirts off, the offending members were told, or turn them inside out. The reason: They violate House decorum. After the session, Florida Times-Union reporter Tia Mitchell tweeted a photo of Rep. Lori Berman with, yes, her T-shirt turned inside out. “‘A woman’s place is in the House & Senate.’ But the Sgt at arms says her tshirt is not (forced to turn inside out),” the tweet said.
DAVID SIMMONS 98 PERCENT SURE HE’S CHALLENGING STEPHANIE MURPHY IN 2018 via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – … after meeting with members of the National Republican Congressional Committee and exploring other options. “I’ve given it a lot of thought.” Simmons told the Observer … “I’ve met with the NRCC and I’m 98 percent headed towards a run in the 7th Congressional District.” Simmons was the featured speaker at the Florida Federation of College Republicans Annual Meeting at the University of Central Florida, which is also part of the 7th District. “The first thing this district needs is a Republican Congressperson. I think that’s critical.” said Simmons before referencing the work he was currently doing in the state Legislature to improve the region.
— “Scott Fuhrman seeks rematch against Illeana Ros-Lehtinen” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Hearld
— “Democrats and the state Senate – the 2016 failure and 2018 hopes” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze
KATIE EDWARDS WON’T RUN FOR AG COMMISSIONER; INSTEAD PUSHES NO TAX ON TAMPONS via Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com – Edwards appeared to be positioning for a statewide run when Commissioner Adam Putnam left office next year because of term limits. Instead, she will run for a fourth term in the Florida House and continue to pursue legislation like ending sales tax on menstrual products. Despite representing one of the most urban counties in Florida, Edwards’ resume is stocked with solid agriculture credentials. Before winning office in 2012, Edwards was executive director of the Miami Dade Farm Bureau. She is currently the top Democratic on the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee.
DEMOCRAT DEBRA KAPLAN FILES TO RUN FOR HD 31 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Kaplan, 64, is a former cable-TV Emmy-award-winning political reporter in Connecticut, and Apopka and former public relations agent, who said she strove to remain politically independent until recently, and then worked on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns. She calls herself a political moderate on most issues due to her life experience, yet an avowed feminist. “I’ve worked in the fields. I’ve worked in factories. I’ve worked in the dietary department of a hospital, pushing trays. I’ve waitressed. I’ve done backbreaking work. And I’ve been a journalist and public relations person and a promotions person,” she said. “I know what it’s like to sit around a kitchen table with a pile of bills when you’re not making a lot of money and trying to make things work. I understand what that feels like.”
ONE FOSTER CHILD HANGING STIRS ANGUISH; THE OTHER IS BARELY NOTICED via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – Lauryn Martin-Everett tied a blue patterned scarf around her neck and hanged herself from a doorway at a troubled Florida Keys youth shelter. In the 13 weeks since Lauryn died, her parents have asked no tough questions about what led the 16-year-old to submit to her sorrow. Her parents have asked virtually no questions at all. Legally, her “parents” were the state of Florida. As a foster child, Lauryn was a ward of the state. A “child fatality summary” by the Department of Children & Families on Lauryn’s short life and unexpected death is less than three pages long. Only four paragraphs are devoted to her eight-year odyssey through the state’s child welfare system. A website DCF developed three years ago to bring transparency to the grim business of child death makes no reference to Lauryn Martin-Everett. DCF released the report … along with a short statement: “We remain deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this child.” Jessica Sims, a DCF spokeswoman, said the agency would not discuss Lauryn’s death, or her many-year history with the department — and will not release her foster care file. Because DCF has determined that Lauryn did not die as a result of abuse or neglect, details of her case cannot be disclosed to the public, the agency said.
POWERFUL READ – ORLANDO FAMILY LEARNS TO FIND LOVE, LIFE, RICHNESS IN DEATH via Scott Maxwell the Orlando Sentinel – Roger and Susan Chapin are waiting … for their daughter to die. With hospice nurses present, they have begun the final chapter inevitably associated with Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare degenerative condition denying Blair’s 80-pound body the digestive functions she needs to live. You might expect the house to be filled with mourning. In many ways, it is. But the Chapins also spend their days giving thanks for all the love and light Blair brought into their lives — for how much “richer” they are because of her. That was how Roger described it when telling his younger daughter, Grey — a sophisticated 13-year-old who’s fiercely protective of her big sister — that the end was near. “We cried together,” Roger said. “We talked about her body giving up, how it’s tired and she’s ready to go to heaven. But we also talked about how much richer our lives have been because of Blair.”
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Brian Bautista, Impact GR: Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Inc
Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: Tetra Health Management Florida LLC
Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Boveda, Inc.; Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
Nicole Graganella, Trevor Mask, Colodny Fass: Relating to Relief of C.M.H. by the Dept. of Children and Families
Mike Haridopolos: Union Supply Company, Inc
Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers; Tetra Health Management Florida LLC
Mike Rogers, Southern Advocacy Group: Florida Weatherization Network; St. Johns Housing Partnership, Inc.
Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Inc
Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Blue Head Land & Cattle Co., LLC
APPOINTED: Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard to the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court; Judge Tanya Davis Wilson to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court; Andrea Watt McHugh to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court; Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court; Ana Maria Garcia to the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Court; Jared E. Smithto the Hillsborough County Court.
APPOINTED: Luke Buzard to the Early Learning Coalition Hillsborough County, Inc.; Kristin Incrocci to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority; Susan Dolan and Douglas Burnett to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District; J.C. Stoutamire to the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, Region Two; Martha Lanahan to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation; Amy Gowder to the Florida Defense Support Task Force.
AT&T, MOTOROLA CHOSEN FOR FIRSTNET, NATIONWIDE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMS NETWORK via Florida Politics – The U.S. Department of Commerce and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has announced AT&T was chosen to build and manage the first nationwide wireless broadband network for America’s police, firefighters and emergency medical services. FirstNet is a federal initiative to create a single platform as the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated exclusively to public safety. Estimated costs for this public-private partnership is as much as $46.5 billion. Through the initiative, AT&T and Motorola — selected over a group of rival providers, including Melbourne-based Harris Corp. — will be called on to deliver an interoperable network for first responders, using upgraded technology for improved communication with each other and across agencies at the local, state and national levels.
MIAMI HERALD CONTINUES TO MAKE STAFF CUTS WITH NO END IN SIGHT via Random Pixels – There are daily indications of the deep trouble now facing the Herald. The paper once employed a staff of more than 30 photographers statewide. But now the Herald and El Nuevo Herald share a combined staff of 7 photographers. A quick check of this morning’s “A” section of the paper shows zero staff-produced photographs. The irony here of course is, that on the same day the Herald publishes a full-page ad asking its readers to #SupportRealNews, the managing editor sends out an email announcing the layoffs of two more staffers. But the Herald’s problems are not just on the news gathering side. After writing this post, I heard from no fewer than three friends who still subscribe to the paper. One is a retired Herald staffer. All three tell me that getting the paper delivered is a hit and miss proposition. Says one: “Of course I haven’t had my paper delivered since March 7 … I’ve had a range of ‘managers’ email me and take calls … I’m about to give up and cancel it … shouldn’t be this difficult to drop a paper on a doorstep.”
VOLUNTEER FLORIDA KICKS OFF FLORIDA VOLUNTEER MONTH WITH #30UNDER30 – As part of Florida Volunteer Month, Volunteer Florida has announced #30Under30, an initiative to recognize Florida volunteers under the age of 30. Through this initiative, Volunteer Florida will highlight one volunteer a day under the age of 30 throughout the month of April. Check out the #30Under30 service leaders here. In partnership with Volunteer Florida, Comcast will air a statewide PSA encouraging Floridians to volunteer in April and throughout the year. Click on the image below to watch the PSA.
***Smart employers know an inclusive workforce makes good business sense and helps secure Florida’s future. Only 30% of Floridians with disabilities are working. Explore the talent in the untapped 70%. Find out how at AbleTrust.org***
CRAYOLA BOOTS DANDELION FOR BLUISH CRAYON YET TO BE NAMED via The Associated Press –Crayola announced Friday, National Crayon Day, that it’s replacing the color dandelion in its 24-pack with a crayon in “the blue family.” The company says it will leave it to fans to come up with a name for the replacement color. It’s only the third time in Crayola’s long history that it has retired one or more colors, and the first time it’s swapped out a color in its box of 24. Other colors that previously got the boot include maize, raw umber and orange yellow.
HALL OF FAME COACH VS FUTURE HALL OF FAMER FOR NCAA TITLE via Ralph Russo of The Associated Press – Roy Williams has been here before. Just last year, in fact. And five times altogether, playing for the NCAA championship. Twice he got to celebrate winning the final game of the season with the Tar Heels, pushing their total to five tournament titles. For Mark Few and Gonzaga, this is all new. Just getting to the Final Four was a first, and now they are one victory from lifting the trophy. If it came down to history, tradition and experience, North Carolina would run away with Monday’s NCAA championship game. If only it were that easy for the Tar Heels. The 66-year-old Williams called Few one of his best friends in coaching and said he was stressed out hoping that his poker buddy would finally break through and reach the Final Four this year. The last time they played each other in the NCAA Tournament was 2009, when the Tar Heels eliminated the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16. Since the Zags graduated from upstart to national power, there have been lots of early exits in the tournament.
INSIDE TWITTER’S OBSESSIVE QUEST TO DITCH THE EGG via Harry McCracken of Fast Company – A lot has changed since the Twitter egg debuted almost seven years ago. For one thing, the company’s design philosophy has evolved. Quirky is out; straightforward is in … the egg has taken on cultural associations that nobody could have anticipated in 2010 … it’s become universal shorthand for Twitter’s least desirable accounts: trolls (and bots) engaged in various forms of harassment and spam, created by people so eager to wreak anonymous havoc that they can’t be bothered to upload a portrait image. The egg’s unsavory reputation has been hard on Twitter’s image. It also hasn’t done any favors for users who stuck with the default avatar out of innocence rather than malevolence. Some members have grown emotionally attached to their eggs or want to maintain a low profile; others simply haven’t gotten around to changing them, or have had trouble figuring out how to do so … Starting today, however, the egg is history. Twitter is dumping the tarnished icon for a new default profile picture–a blobby silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, intentionally designed to represent a human without being concrete about gender, race or any other characteristic. Everyone who’s been an egg until now, whatever their rationale, will automatically switch over.
‘KING ARTHUR’: FINAL TRAILER UNSHEATHES CHILDHOOD, DRAGONS AND LED ZEPPELIN via Greg Evans of Deadline Hollywood – We get a once and final look at the once and future king in the latest trailer for Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. With Charlie Hunnam in the title role and Jude Law as his treacherous uncle Vortigern, the film hits theaters May 12. This trailer – the final in a series that kicked off at Comic-Con last summer – delves a bit more into young Arthur’s hard-knock boyhood, full of brawls, cobblestone alleys and one pretty bad haircut. After his father is murdered and his Uncle Vort steals the crown, the rightful heir bruises his way to that fateful moment with a sword stuck in a stone.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two great Floridans, Brian Burgess and Billy Schmidt.