Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 5.5.17 – It’s sorta Sine Die

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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

— WINNERS & LOSERS — 

Readers: We’re asking for your suggestions for who are the “Winners and Losers of the 2017 Legislative Session.” Your recommendations are needed by Sine Die. All submissions will remain anonymous. Whose and which bills came out on top? Whose disappeared in committee, or worse, never got heard? Let us know soon!

NEW POLLING SHOWS ALARMING TREND: MANY FLORIDIANS UNAWARE HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS

Many Floridians are unable to answer simple questions about how government works, says a new survey of residents by Florida Southern College.

— Even those with college degree missed some of the answers from questions included on exams administered to those becoming new citizens of the nation. For example, only 65 percent could name Rick Scott as Governor of Florida.

— While only 65 percent were able to name Scott as Governor, even fewer (45 percent) knew Paul Ryan was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

— Asked why some states have more members of the U.S. House than others: Only 68 percent correctly said it was based on population; 20 percent did not know; seven percent said other reasons. Five percent gave no answer.

— For the name of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, only 53 percent knew it was “Bill of Rights.” Thirty-nine percent didn’t Know; 8 percent gave no answer.

— Many commentaries address the falling use of the printed newspapers, but results of the Florida Southern poll would suggest it is greater than previously reported. Asked what they would say is their main source of news, 41 percent of those agreeing to participate in the random sample telephone survey said television. Forty percent said the internet while 7 percent said newspapers, the same percentage who said their main source of news is radio. Another 2 percent listed other sources and 3 percent gave no answer.

Read the full polling memo here.

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LEGISLATURE NOT MAKING SENSE TO RICK SCOTT 

Gov. Scott chastised state lawmakers for being unable to complete the 2017-18 budget on time, but once again stopped short of saying whether he would veto the entire spending plan once it reaches his desk.

“You would expect that when people have a job to do they’d get it done. I’ve been in business all my life, and that’s what you expect if you have a deadline,” said Scott following a stop in Naples on Thursday morning. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.’”

Gov. Scott visited PropLogix during his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour. PropLogix is a Florida-based company that does business with home buyers across the nation. Over the past two years, the company has grown from eight to more than 90 employees.

“They’re supposed to vote on this budget on Monday, and I have no earthly idea what’s in this budget,” said Scott. “Remember what Nancy Pelosi said about … Obamacare a few years ago: ‘You won’t know until you vote for it.’ It’s similar to this. I don’t know anyone is going to know (what’s in it).”

“On an annual basis, there’s 4,000 lines in the budget. It takes us a long time to review them,” he continued. “How is someone going to vote on Monday on a budget, 4,000 lines in a budget, that they haven’t seen?”

“Scott: Legislature’s inaction on gambling ‘doesn’t make any sense’” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Scott doesn’t understand lawmakers’ inability to pass comprehensive gambling legislation this year—especially when he gave them a head start. “I don’t understand why they didn’t take that and try to work with it,” Scott said. “I know you have to work with both the Seminoles and the pari-mutuels. But there was a great framework there to get something done.” Part of the continual tug-of-war that ultimately kills gambling bills is the tension between pari-mutuels who want more games to offer—meaning slots and cards—and the Seminoles, who want to limit the competition against them. “I don’t get it. It’s more money for the state,” the governor said. “It stops this constant thinking about what we’re going to do, and it would solve a lot of problems … It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

– “Scott calls out Sarasota, Manatee representatives” via Zach Murdock of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will wrap up his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour with a stop at 8 a.m. (CDT) at the Holley Academic Center at Florida State University Panama City, 4750 Collegiate Drive in Panama City.

— DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO — 

Gov. Scott has been fighting to keep Visit Florida funded through the state budget, going as far as filming an ad to push jobs in the state. That ad, though, wasn’t shot in Florida, reports WFTV Channel 9’s Chris Heath.

— When first asked, Scott did not recall where the ad had been shot. Scott told Heath that he shot the ad in Washington D.C. because he was on the road and it was easier.

— Rollins College political science professor Dr. Rick Foglesong said the ad sends mixed messages. ‘It’s certainly contradictory,’ he said. ‘I would say, in this case, the governor doesn’t practice what he preaches. ‘He could have selected someone in our state to create that ad, but instead he took the work out of state.

— The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is pouncing; spox Dave Bergstein: “Each day brings a fresh revelation confirming why Floridians despise self-serving Tallahassee politicians like Rick Scott — instead of creating good paying jobs in Florida, Scott takes his own business out-of-state. It’s just more proof that Scott will say and do anything to help himself, while Floridians who work for a living pay the price.”

— Meanwhile, Scott’s political committee, “Let’s Get to Work,” raised at least $485,100 in April. Among the big checks: 100K from UnitedHealth Group, $50K from a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC and Florida Blue. The committee has approximately $2.53 million cash-on-hand.

CORCORAN’S CALENDAR

Yesterday’s edition of Sunburn had barely begun to hit inboxes — and with it, an urging of Speaker Corcoran to consider also running for the U.S. Senate — when the Tampa Bay Times revealed the Pasco County Republican’s timetable for 2018.

— As the Speaker has told us privately, he won’t make a final; decision about a gubernatorial bid until after the 2018 Legislative Session, which ends in March of that year.

— What an interesting timetable that sets up. Adam Putnam is already in the race. Jack Latvala has told us and others he will make a decision and announce his plans in July. That leaves a big gap between those two and Corcoran’s decision.

— Corcoran says he won’t consider a bid for the U.S. Senate; it’s Tallahassee or bust: “Those are the only two choices — Governor or not run for office.”

Speaker  Richard Corcoran drops in the press room overlooking the House of Representatives chamber at the Florida Capitol.

— He’ll create a new political committee this summer (no word on what he will do with his current vehicle) but not just to raise cash for a gubernatorial run. (I)f I raise the money and I don’t want to run for Governor, I don’t run for Governor. I’ll use it for constitutional amendments, I’ll use it for helping real conservatives, or I’ll turn it over to the (Republican) party.”

— Although this story is bylined by Adam Smith, we’re told that the quotes were provided to Steve Bousquet.

Worth a read: “In begrudging praise of Speaker Richard Corcoran …” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Florida Squeeze

And speaking of 2018 – “Andrew Gillum’s campaign money boxes top $1 million” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The Gillum for Governor campaign and its aligned political committee, Forward Florida, have raised a combined $1,051,473 through the end of April, from more than 5,600 individual donors, and have $743,827 cash on hand … That means he had a combined income of just over $200,00 in April … “Floridians are excited about the Gillum for Governor campaign, and our monthly fundraising report underscores their enthusiasm,” chief strategist Scott Arceneaux stated in a news release. “We’re on track to have the resources necessary to compete in all 67 counties and continue sharing Andrew Gillum’s fresh vision of a clean break from the old ways of governing Florida.” The early money certainly assures an early campaign infrastructure, including Arceneaux, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. Yet the statewide campaign is likely to cost several tens of millions of dollars.

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— BUDGET NOTEBOOK —

The House and Senate budget conferees resolved their final differences Thursday and added nearly $2.5 million in last minute projects, including a rodeo facility in Arcadia, canal improvements in Florida City, and the Urban League.

“The budget is closed,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said. “It should be on the desk tomorrow morning. No more. No more. The budget is closed.” Later, he announced on the floor that the budget was being printed.

Sprinkle by the numbers: Total Senate supplemental funding initiatives: $47,243,461; Total House supplemental funding initiatives: $11,498,825. Overall total: $58,742,286

— The health and human services budget was the last big roadblock to a compromise $83 billion budget. Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida estimated that hospitals took a cut of $250 million in recurring general revenue in their Medicaid payments … with legislators agreeing — for the upcoming year only —to reduce those cuts by $50 million. Because state dollars are matched by federal Medicaid dollars, the cuts amount to a $520 million reduction in hospital spending this fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Jack Latvala: House bill on conservation funding looks ‘very political’” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – A House bill that would restructure funding for conservation land programs may not get a hearing in the Senate if appropriations chair Latvala has a say. HB 7119 would revise the Florida Forever formula to provide funding only for three conservation programs: Agricultural conservation easements, a local parks grant program and the Florida Forever acquisition list at the Department of Environmental Protection. Latvala … said the bill “came out of nowhere the last week of session” and has no Senate companion. “The optics on it would look very political to me,” Latvala told reporters.

Also raising Latvala’s ire, per @Fineout who asked legislators about putting language into a conforming bill taken from a bill not in conference … Because what the House/Senate did was take provisions from state worker insurance bill & place it in bill in budget conference … And there are rumblings that the Legislature may do the same and add education policy into 2 education conforming bills … So why is this important? Because conforming bills with budget can’t be amended – can only be voted up or down … And if anyone cares – they can consult Senate Rules 2.19 – paragraphs 2 and 3 – and decide if a point can be raised

— “House agrees to budget language hammering Miami housing developer” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Superintendents ‘gravely concerned’ by proposed K-12 funding” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The organization representing Florida’s 67 county school district superintendents says the Legislature’s small funding increase for K-12 public schools next year is “not sufficient to meet the basic funding needs of Florida’s 2.8 million public school students.” The Florida Association of District School Superintendents says that “many school districts in Florida will receive less student funding next year” under the levels that House and Senate leaders set … after private negotiations. Under lawmakers’ compromise proposal, per-student spending would rise slightly to $7,221 — an increase of only 0.34 percent, or about $24.49 per student. The impact on each district’s state funding varies greatly in some cases. “Considering the overall economic strength of our state, it is alarming that the basic funding needs of Florida public school students could go unaddressed,” said Malcolm Thomas, president of the superintendents’ association and Escambia County schools’ superintendent.

— IT’S SORTA SINE DIE —

“Insurance bills fail to attract AOB, PIP amendments; workers’ comp still pending” via Florida Politics – The Senate retired Thursday night without taking up its workers’ compensation reform package. But Sen. Jeff Brandes’ insurance housekeeping bill survived without attracting unwanted amendments such as assignment of benefits reform. There was speculation it might after Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benaquisto pulled it from her committee Wednesday. Brandes wanted to keep the bill clean. “My deal to pull that from committee was to take only things that were in the House bill or were in the Senate bill, plus one or two other issues that leadership of the Senate agreed would go on that bill,” Brandes said. “AOB, PIP, workers’ comp are not any issues that are authorized to go on that bill, nor has the president asked me to put that on there,” he said. The House version — which would prevent third parties from collecting attorney fees — is favored by Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, the industry, and business lobbies.

Trial attorneys and chamber both pushing to kill workers’ compensation compromise bill” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – In an unusual display of unity, lobbyists for the Chamber and the Florida Justice Association (literally sitting side by side even) sent the same message to Florida senators: kill a compromise bill related to workers’ compensation. While the two groups have very different reasons why, the message was the same, an attempt to strike a compromise on workers’ compensation issues has made it unacceptable to both.

“Renewable-energy tax break bill heads to Rick Scott” via Florida Politics — The bill (SB 90) cleared the Senate unanimously. If signed into law, businesses that install solar panels wouldn’t have to pay additional property taxes from the increased value of adding such devices. “The voters of Florida spoke loud and clear in support of an expanded solar market in the sunshine state,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes in a statement. “Reducing property taxes on solar and renewable energy devices will bring more solar energy to Florida. The unanimous support of the legislature shows that we are dedicated to expanding the share of renewables in our energy portfolio, and I am excited to continue to advocate for energy reform.”

Senate approves amended House medical marijuana bill” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Senators approved the House proposal by a vote of 31-7. The measure now goes back to the House. The Senate bill sponsor, Sen. Bradley, late-filed a 70-page amendment to the House bill … just hours before that chamber took up the measure. Among the proposed changes in Bradley’s amendment: limiting growers to opening up five retail facilities, an alteration from the House version, which previously allowed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) to open unlimited facilities. The delete-all amendment would allow the Department of Health to grant 10 new licenses before Oct. 1 and would add five new licenses for every 75,000 patients.

Ben Pollara with Florida for Care reacts: “The implementing bill approved this evening by the Senate is not perfect but its passage is necessary. Hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians are counting on legislative action to provide access and relief — the amended HB 1397 would do so. The House should act quickly tomorrow to send this critical legislation to Gov. Scott.”

But – SIREN – Ray Rodrigues is saying he won’t accept the Senate’s latest proposal. “There were things included in the [amendment] that appeared to be different from what was agreed to in our previous negotiations,” Rodriguez told Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida.

— Bradley said he’s “surprised” by Rodriguez’ posture.

— Ducassi reports that Speaker Corcoran is now involved in negotiations after they hit a snag. And Corcoran seems to be really opposed to the idea of caps on dispensaries.

Sen. Rob Bradley listens to colleague during a Senate recess at the Florida Capitol. Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser.

House rejects compromise in fentanyl trafficking bill” via The Associated Press – A bill that toughens penalties for certain synthetic drug traffickers hit a roadblock after the Florida House rejected a Senate-added provision that would have allowed judges to break from mandatory minimum sentences in certain fentanyl cases. State Rep. Jim Boyd, a Republican sponsoring the measure (HB 477), said that not having minimum mandatory sentences for “scumbag” drug dealers would defeat the purpose of the bill. The bill now heads back to the Senate for reconsideration. But time could put the effort to combat opioid abuse in jeopardy.

Sober homes bill heads to governor” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel –The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Hager in the House and state Sen. Jeff Clemens in the Senate, represents a bipartisan attempt by lawmakers to target bad actors in the sober-home industry. Sober homes — halfway houses for people fresh out of rehab — have inundated South Florida. Officials estimate there are more than a thousand, with hundreds in Delray Beach, which has seen the most significant problem with them. The bill adds patient brokering to the list of crimes to be investigated by Florida’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. It also bans sober homes from lying in advertising, and tightens background screenings for workers at licensed rehab centers that refer patients to sober homes. Scott has not said whether he will sign the bill, but he is almost certain to do so. At a news conference last month, he cited the bill as a top priority in fighting the state’s opioid epidemic.

“Tom Lee quietly files amendment affecting Uber, Lyft” via Florida PoliticsState Sen. Lee on Wednesday filed an amendment for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles bill that would regulate the operations of ridebooking services like Uber and Lyft. The language would prohibit local governments and governmental bodies, including airport authorities, from cutting deal with “transportation network companies” (TNCs) to operate exclusively in their jurisdictions. The amendment for the bill (HB 545) also prohibits agreements “that provides disparate treatment” to any TNC. The bill was discussed on the floor later Thursday, but was postponed.“

More Tom Lee magic: “Controversial fee for private auto tag vendors springs back to life” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – An optional new fee on licenses and tags renewed through private vendors sprang back to life in the Senate … at the urging of Hillsborough County’s elected tax collector. The new fee is being sought by several county tax collectors and a lobbyist for for-profit vendors that want to issue licenses and tags to a growing universe of motorists. “We have a lot of people who don’t have time during the day to get this done,” said Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden, whose offices often have two-hour wait times. “I can reduce wait times during the week. Our core concept is customer service.” Other tax collectors oppose the idea. The change would give private vendors power to charge motorists an undetermined “convenience fee,” subject to approval of tax collectors or by county commissions in Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia, which do not have tax collectors but which allow private vendors to sell tags and issue car titles and registrations.

– “It’s the end of the road for the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Steve Andrews getting involved in Kevin Rader’s crusade against lobbyist” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Could someone in the Senate please ask Rader to knock it off? That’s the gist of a letter Tallahassee attorney Andrews wrote to Senate general counsel Dawn Roberts last week. “Would you kindly ask Sen. Rader to stop disseminating my client’s picture around the Capitol on stationery that bears the Senate’s seal?” Andrews wrote. “The last week has been bad enough without this nonsense,” Andrews continued … This was after the Democrat from Boca Raton had plastered in Capitol elevators posters bearing a pixelated image strongly resembling insurance lobbyist Lisa Miller. Rader has been on Miller’s case ever since another insurance lobbyist wrote on his blog that Miller had impersonated that “concerned citizen” during a conference call with the Demotech Inc. ratings agency.

Gary Farmer’s sneakers get him in trouble (sorta) on Senate floor” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – State Sen. Gary Farmer was sent to the back of the Florida Senate chamber for a brief timeout — because of his shoes. The Broward Democrat’s apparent faux pas: He was wearing sneakers. In the middle of legislative debate, Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores … interrupted the proceedings to point out Farmer’s choice of footwear. She called on Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers to take up the attire matter and instructed the sergeant to keep Farmer near the chamber’s back wall. “I’m not kidding,” a straight-faced Flores said, amid grins and chuckles around her. Farmer, too, was laughing — clad in his black sneakers with white soles. Flores later clarified that she was, in fact, joking. “Senator Farmer has been exonerated,” she said.

A Senate Sergeant of Arms taps Sen. Gary Farmer on the shoulder as he is called out during Senate debate for wearing tennis shoes on the Senate floor as Sen. Randolph Bracy, left, looks on at the Florida Capitol. Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser.

“Craft distillery bill set up for final Senate vote” via Florida PoliticsA bill to allow craft distillers to sell more product directly to customers was set for a final vote late Thursday. Sen. Greg Steube substituted the House version (HB 141) of his bill, which was set for third reading. The measure would let distillers sell up to six bottles of spirits per customer in a given year. Now, they may sell two bottles. If passed in the Senate, the bill would next head to Gov. Rick Scott.

Senate refuses House change on ‘Stand Your Ground’ burden of proof” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby ToolsThe Senate refused to accept the House’s amendment to the “stand your ground” burden of proof standard the lower chamber OK’d in early April. The House amendment on SB 128 said prosecutors must overcome “clear and convincing evidence” claimed in “stand your ground” immunity cases, a more lenient standard that the Senate’s wording: “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The bill has been returned to the House with a request to remove the amendment.

House argues prosecutors have no discretion on death penalties” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In a friend of the court brief bound to raise state attorneys’ eyebrows throughout Florida, the Florida House is arguing that prosecutors have no discretion with regard to capital punishment, that the state Legislature’s intent was to rest all discretion with juries. The House filed the brief in the Florida Supreme Court case of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala versus Gov. Scott. The issues, in that case, are whether prosecutorial discretion gives Ayala the power to refuse all capital punishment prosecutions, as she’s done; and whether the governor has the right to strip capital cases away from her, as he’s consequently done. The brief … argues that a state attorney is not the one to decide on death penalties. It contends the state attorney’s role is more clerical, to review facts of a case to determine if aggravating circumstances exist that could merit a death penalty, and then leave the decision of death or life in prison entirely up to the jury.

School testing reform faces pass/fail exam in House” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – After several days of private collaboration among lawmakers, one major late-night rewrite and some last-minute tweaks, senators unanimously passed a sweeping education bill — the main feature of which is to address excessive testing in Florida’s public schools. HB 549 eliminates only a single test — the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam — and it requires the state Department of Education to study by Jan. 1 whether national exams, like the SAT or ACT, can be used as alternatives to the Florida Standards Assessments and other statewide tests. The results of that study could spur further action by lawmakers in the 2018 session to curb duplicative testing, which several senators had hoped to accomplish this year. “Is this bill what I wanted? No. I wanted more, but … I know that, at least, this is a good beginning,” said Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford, a former Leon County schools superintendent whose opinion on education policy is well-respected by the chamber.

— HOW PINK BECAME A SINE DIE TRADITION — 

Pink is what distinguishes the last day of Florida’s Legislative Sessions.

Lobbyists, consultants, former lawmakers and observers, clad in pink outfits, roam the Capitol hallways during the session’s final hours.

Pink is the tradition for Capitol veterans to pay tribute to the late lobbyist Marvin Arrington.

“Marvin was here for a long time, and he had a tradition of wearing a pink sports coat on the last day of Session,” said Wayne Malaney, who lobbies for newspaper publishers.

In 2002, Arrington succumbed to a heart attack in a parking lot a block north of the Capitol. It was the Monday of the last week of session for that year. By the time people realized he was in crisis, smoke from the spinning of his car tires filled the downtown area.

“Marvin wore pink carnations and no one serving today was here when Marvin was, but those who remembered him by wearing pink,” said Keith Arnold, who served in the House in the 1980s and 1990s and now lobbies.

The last day of the 2002 session, Arrington’s son, Reynolds, and nephew, Patrick, showed up at the Capitol wearing Arrington’s trademark pink jackets. Joining them were more than 100 lobbyists sporting pink: carnations, jackets, shirts, all responding to Reynolds’ request to remember his dad with a display of pink.

“We respected him greatly for his intellect and honesty,” said Steve Schale, who knew Arrington while working for Rep. Doug Wiles. “And my way of paying homage to the way I think we are supposed to treat this business as advocates is to wear pink for Marvin Arrington.”

Seeing pink at the Capitol on Session’s final day, to paraphrase Artis Whitman, is a visual reminder of how each generation takes nourishment from earlier ones, giving knowledge to those who comes after.

Meanwhile, look for Pepi Diaz to give his farewell speech today, reports Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald. The Miami Republican has asked to say good-bye because he expects to be gone from the House one way or another before the 2018 session.Diaz, a lawyer, is a finalist for the Miami U.S. attorney job under President Donald Trump. But even if he doesn’t get appointed to the high-profile e gig, he intends to run for the state Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles.

AP INVESTIGATION: FLORIDA’S BUILDING BOOM THREATENS THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

The Indian River Lagoon is repeatedly being choked with oxygen-robbing algae, its surface increasingly dotted with thousands of dead fish, manatees, birds and other creatures.

The culprits: farm runoff and a huge influx of people that has sent lawn fertilizer and other pollutants into the lagoon, which runs 156 miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, almost to Palm Beach, and includes the Cape Canaveral area, reports Jason Dearen and Mike Schneider of the Associated Press.

— Although the federal and state governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to heal the lagoon in recent years, an examination found that pollution spiked, algae blooms spread and fish kills worsened over the past decade and a half as central Florida’s population swelled faster than that of anywhere else in the state.

— Since 2000, more than 1.5 million people moved into the six counties along the lagoon and three Orlando-area counties that drain into Lake Okeechobee or directly into the lagoon. More than 500,000 new homes were built in those counties over the same time period. Paved-over expanses such as roads, driveways and parking lots have allowed runoff to make its way into the lagoon more easily. It has also been fouled by wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the lagoon, sewage spills from the plants during heavy rains, and leaky septic tanks.

— The reported number of marine creatures that have died spiked to 1.2 million in 2011, compared with 7,000 in 2000, and experts blame the algae.

— In the past 20 years, the annual value of the clams, oysters, crabs and shrimp caught along the lagoon has dropped from more than $20 million to $4.3 million, according to regional planners. The lagoon’s problems, along with a voter-approved ban on large nets, played a big role in the disappearance of commercial fishermen.

— In Brevard County, which stretches along nearly half of the lagoon, the fish kill in March 2016 prompted voters to approve a sales tax to raise more than $300 million over 10 years for cleanup efforts, including upgrading wastewater treatment plants and removing thousands of old septic tanks. Florida environmental officials say they are pitching in $24 million in grants.

Dead fish clog the Banana River in Cocoa Beach. Photo credit: AP.

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PAGING PAM BONDI 

Congressman Tom Marino is no longer in the running to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. That means the possibility of Attorney General Pam Bondi as the nation’s next drug czar is still alive.

Roll Call reports Thursday that the Pennsylvania Republican had been in the final steps of completing paperwork necessary ahead of official nomination. The job requires Senate confirmation.

A brief statement from Marino’s office only said he had withdrawn, citing a family illness. Chief of Staff Sarah Rogers would not comment on whether Marino failed a background check. Marino will remain in Congress.

Marino’s departure is reviving speculation that Bondi may still take a role in the Donald Trump administration. Last month, a state prosecutor cleared Bondi and Trump of wrongdoing in connection with a $25,000 contribution to a political action committee supporting her 2014 re-election campaign.

— ACROSS THE STATE —

CFO Jeff Atwater gives big raises on way out” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando SentinelAtwater … has given six top-level staffers in his office substantial raises backdated to January, according to state records. Smaller raises also were given to 10 division directors at the Department of Financial Services. In total the pay hikes will cost taxpayers $96,977 over the course of a year. The raises for the top-level staffers were approved in April and made retroactive to January. Most state workers haven’t received an increase in pay since 2013, but the current state budget allows agency chiefs to issue bonuses and raises “to address retention, pay inequities or other staffing issues.”

“Carlos Lopez-Cantera to head federal judicial nominating panel” via Florida PoliticsLt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera will be the next statewide chair of the panel that vets candidates for federal judges, according to a Thursday statement from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office. The purpose of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission is “to identify highly qualified individuals as finalists to become U.S. district judges in each of the three judicial districts in Florida,” the release said. “Carlos is well-suited for this position and I am confident he is dedicated to this important process and will successfully lead the commission in identifying exceptional candidates to serve on the federal bench in Florida,” Rubio said.

PSC OKs rate hike under Gulf Power settlement via Florida Politics –– The Florida Public Service Commission signed off a rate increase of $6.20 cents per 1,000 kilowatt hours for Gulf Power Co. Bills would increase from $131.43 to $137.63. The increase comes under the $62 million settlement agreement the utility reached April 4 with the Office of Public Counsel and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Gulf Power originally sought to charge its customers in Northwest Florida an additional $106.8 million. The deal guarantees the utility a return on investment to Gulf Power’s stockholders averaging 10.25 percent — more than the public counsel’s office, which represents consumers before the PSC, had argued was justified.

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Publix taps former Delta staffer to manage political spending” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business JournalJohn Provenzano will oversee the Lakeland-based company’s local, state and federal government affairs as well as manage the company’s political action committee. The company has given more than $6 million to various campaigns over the past two decades … Most of those contributions favor Republicans, with the company’s largest gift going to the Republican Party of Florida. Provenzano is currently the executive director of the National Association of State Treasurers. He starts with Publix June 12.

New and renewed lobby registration

Brian Bautista, Impact GR: ofo US Limited

Paul Bradshaw, Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: ofo US Limited

Matt Brockelman, Jonathan Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: Modern Health Concepts

Christopher Dudley, Paul Mitchell, , Southern Strategy Group: Auto Club Group (AAA)

Mike Haridopolos: Astronauts Memorial Foundation

Joy Ryan, Meenan PA: Pringle Lane Farm, LLC

Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: Auto Club Group (AAA); Modern Health Concepts

Miami-Dade mayor’s son leaves Trump-linked lobbying firm that represented Venezuelan-owned company” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami HeraldC.J. Gimenez, a son of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, is leaving the lobbying firm Avenue Strategies, in part because the company took on as a client Citgo, the Venezuelan-government owned oil company. Avenue Strategies’ founder, former Donald Trump presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, also announced his exit from the firm after a spate of negative publicity. The younger Gimenez, who had joined Avenue just last month, characterized the Citgo representation as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and said he and Lewandowski will now focus solely on domestic lobbying clients. “I will personally never represent the interests of the Maduro regime, which reflects the worst there is of all humanity,” Gimenez, who was traveling, told the Miami Herald in a text message.

“Orlando-area judge ordered suspended for campaign ad” via Orlando RisingThe Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a 90-day unpaid suspension and public reprimand for an Orlando-area judge who “circulated a deceptive, misleading advertisement.” The court’s hearing panel also suggested paranoia on the part of Circuit Judge Kimberly Shepard, who believed “sinister forces (were) at work” trying to defeat her, they said … During the campaign, she handed out fliers that “implied that the Orlando Sentinel had endorsed Ms. Shepard, when it had, in fact, endorsed her opponent,” Norberto Katz, according to a report by a hearing panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Barbara Poma, foundation to develop national memorial, museum at Pulse site” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The owner of the Pulse nightclub announced her newly formed foundation will seek to develop a national-caliber memorial and museum campus on the site of America’s worst recorded mass shooting. Poma pushed through the pain of last year’s tragedy to declare her new foundation’s motto, “We will not let hate win,” and announced the creation of the OnePulse Foundation, which will raise money and work with the community to plan, develop, build, operate, and maintain the memorial in Orlando. “We have come so far in these 11 months. I can say finally that I am finding hope and inspiration by being back here at Pulse,” Poma said. “Pulse has become part of you, and you a part of Pulse. What was once our little corner at Kaley [Street] and Orange [Avenue] is now shared with the world. Together, we are all part of Pulse’s future, right here on this property.”

“Busted: Cocaine found in 5 greyhounds at Derby Lane” via Associated PressState officials revoked a racing greyhound trainer’s license after five dogs tested positive for cocaine after a race in January. According to records from the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Malcolm McAllister’s racing license was permanently revoked April 24. Urine samples for the dogs were taken by state employees following races at the St. Petersburg Kennel Club — known as Derby Lane — in January. McAllister didn’t dispute the findings and waived his right to a hearing. He wrote in a note to the agency that someone he’d hired either dropped or administered the drug, and that it wasn’t him.

Happy birthday to our wonderful friends, Laura Jolly and Jim Magill as well as Paul Flemming and Susannah Randolph.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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