A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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FIRST THINGS FIRST
Happy birthday to one of the “brightest minds” and best people in all of Florida politics, Brecht Heuchan.
Brecht has been featured in our 4th Floor Files here and Brightest Minds series here. Both are worth a read because Brecht is such an intelligent, humble — dare I say special — individual. As Travis Blanton writes on his firm’s blog, “Brecht is a loyal friend, exemplified in the name of his company: The Labrador Company. Brecht values his family: he is a devoted husband who cherishes his wife and a loving father proud of all his children’s accomplishments regardless of how large or small.”
HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY
A compilation of Memorial Day messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians can be read here.
THE WEEK AHEAD
After taking time off for Memorial Day, state government will be relatively quiet during the coming week. But across the street from the Capitol, a judge will continue hearing testimony in a legal battle about whether the Legislature violated constitutional requirements during the 2012 redistricting process. At the end of the week, Republican leaders and activists will gather in Tampa as they prepare for the long, hot summer of campaigning.
Sunburn will be off on Tuesday and Wednesday of this holiday shortened week as House Schorsch moves into the new Winterrock.
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2016 WATCH – JEB HEADED TO OHIO via The Associated Press
Bush will headline a June 16 Republican National Committee fundraising event in Cincinnati with GOP chairman Reince Priebus.
That will follow a sold-out appearance May 16 by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at the Hamilton County Republican Party’s Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner. Paul, who’s considering a run for the nomination, said he will return to Cincinnati in July for the National Urban League conference.
The Bush invitations … say tickets start at $1,000 each to attend a reception. They range up to $64,800 for couples to serve as event chairs along with dinner, photo opportunities and a round-table discussion.
(In 1994), George W. Bush was “supposed” to lose to the popular incumbent Ann Richards; Jeb was “supposed” to win against Lawton Chiles. And maybe it was supposed to be Jeb Bush being groomed for the presidency.
The second son, seven years younger than George W., is literally behind both his father and his brother. The younger brother didn’t just lose Florida — he had lost the chance to bypass George W. on the road to the White House. That day, as Jeb watched his brother being sworn in, Karl Rove, Bush’s political architect, had already begun mapping out the prospects for a Texas-coordinated White House bid in 2000. “It really hurt my parents and it kind of created an uncomfortable situation when I’ve seen George W.,” Jeb admitted in a newspaper interview shortly after his loss.
Life in the House of Bush was bound to be provocative with two brothers vying for power at the same time—and made even more so as they wrestled with their connection to their father’s political legacy. In a conversation I had with Jeb in 1999, while I was researching my book First Son: George W. Bush & The Bush Family Dynasty, I asked him what role his father had played in the lives of his children. “He was just a beacon that simplified life tremendously,” Jeb said.
His brother George W., by marked contrast, has often done little but complicate Jeb’s career. And things may soon grow even more complicated: For the first time in more than 20 years, Jeb is emerging from George W.’s shadow and being seriously talked about as a contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Most of the chatter about his prospects focuses on whether, as a fairly moderate Republican who’s taken heretical stands on immigration and education, he can win over the party base. And if he does run, a thornier issue for Jeb could well be the tense relationship he now has with his older brother’s presidential legacy. As the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart recently put it, “You can’t easily Sister Souljah your own brother.”
ANOTHER GOOD READ … THE CONFIDENT AND INTERESTING JEB BUSH via Jenniifer Rubin of the Washington Post
Bush is a wonk almost in a class by himself — citing Friedrich Hayek, the “broken windows” theory and the state pension crisis foretold by Steve Malanga — an indication that he reads, thinks about the big issues and then (as governor and now an education reformer) tries to apply them. Although Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is similar in that regard, Bush is a more relaxed and jovial figure. Indeed, his demeanor throughout the speech is exceptionally cheery, both in his optimism about the potential for reform and in his obvious delight in talking “shop” with other conservative intellectuals.
… Bush is best when he is off-script, for example, in his decrying social promotion, “this insidious idea that we are worried about the self-esteem of little Johnny rather than whether he can read.” (“We are so politically correct in our country that we can’t change that, even that?”) He comes across therefore as less canned than many other politicians. This can be a great benefit, but also a danger. As every nervous campaign director will tell you, off-script means the potential for gaffes and controversy. If he runs in 2016, however, it would be a mistake to rein Jeb Bush in and tie him to talking points. His appeal, risks and all, is that he is comfortable and confident in his own skin. And he has interesting things to say.
REP. DENNIS ROSS SAYS JEB “BY FAR” STRONGER THAN MARCO RUBIO FOR PREZ via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross appeared on Political Connections on Bay News 9 to talk about everything from the VA controversies to Benghazi to Obamacare to the 2016 Republican presidential field.
“I’ve always been a fan of Jeb Bush,” Ross says. “I think he will do a very good job in leadership and bringing sides together … Marco (Rubio) is an appealing candidate.”
When asked which one would be a better candidate, Ross said Bush is “by far,” citing the former governor’s “maturity level and experience level.”
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30,000 FT. VIEW OF THE GOVERNOR’S RACE via Steve Bousquet and Marc Caputo of the Times/Herald
Scott enjoys the benefits of incumbency, including a bully pulpit that should enable him to dominate the earned media news cycle most of the time. But Crist is savvier at attracting media attention, as he did recently when the Florida Council of 100 abruptly uninvited him as a guest speaker at a meeting in Orlando.
Even before hopping in the race, Crist looked like the best candidate to upend the political wisdom that a party-switcher has no chance. Poll after poll generally shows that people like Crist more than they like Scott.
And the polls show Crist slightly ahead. A Times/Herald analysis of the last eight publicly released polls weighted to reflect a likely midterm electorate show Crist with a lead of between 0.6 to 2 percentage points.
The lead was larger until Scott started spending. But Scott’s ability to continue closing the gap on Crist could become more difficult in great part because most of gains have come among voters who should have been the incumbent governor’s base: Republicans.
In effect, Scott has been running against Crist as if Crist were his primary opponent. That imaginary primary is now ending and Scott needs to find a way to strip away enough independents from the centrist Crist and help depress Democratic turnout.
Crist can’t afford to answer Scott’s ads with his own. Not yet. And right now, the fact that Crist holds a nominal lead bears witness to his popularity and the lack of it by Scott.
“I called him a long time ago and said, ‘You’re the only one who’s capable of not being defeated by $100 million,’ ” said Dan Gelber, a former Miami Beach legislator and one of Crist’s closest advisers. “He has such a strong identity with voters that he can resist a paid media campaign.”
Crist won’t go up on air until he has to, and that could mean he’ll hold out until July. Crist also must first dispatch little known former state Sen. Nan Rich in the Democratic primary.
Crist’s advertising buy will reveal which areas of the state he feels most vulnerable to his Republican opponent.
Tampa Bay, Crist’s home base, is crucial. Scott has spent more ad money there — 29 percent — than anywhere else in the state. Scott’s second-biggest area for media buys: Orlando, a swing media market that experts say could tip the election.
Scott’s spending hasn’t just helped win back the GOP rank and file. It has quieted the concerns of the Republican elite.
CHARLIE CRIST POINTS TO RICK SCOTT’S PAST via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Crist is gambling that he can make the past new in his bid to become governor again.
Four years after his opponents made Gov. Scott’s business background a central part of their campaign against him, Crist is trying to revive the same topics, hoping he can gain better traction with the issues than Democrat Alex Sink did in 2010.
Political experts warn there are hazards in that strategy for Crist. Not only does he risk looking like he’s rehashing old issues, but Crist could dent the sunny, nice-guy persona he has cultivated over 30 years in politics.
Still, at a pair of fundraisers in Sarasota recently and at press conferences across the state, Crist has been unrelenting. He hammered away at Scott’s tenure as chief executive of Columbia/HCA, calling him a “fraud” and saying his companies “stole billions” from taxpayers.
The issue involves Scott’s resignation as the company’s CEO in July 1997, while federal officials investigated reports that the company had fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid for services that were never performed.
Ultimately, from 2000 to 2002, HCA was fined $1.7 billion for, among other things, falsely billing Medicare and Medicaid.
But Crist is convinced that what’s old news for political insiders is still unfamiliar to millions of Floridians — in terms of both Scott’s executive past and the federal fines.
“There’s a lot of people who have no idea his company was fined $1.7 billion,” Crist said.
“Ethics and integrity matter,” Crist told a small gathering of campaign donors during a private dinner in Sarasota.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Crist will attend a Memorial Day Ceremony at Kings Point in Tamarac at around 1:30 p.m.
SCOTT WON’T ANSWER QUESTIONS ON CUBA TRIPS BY CHAMBER, GOP CAMPAIGN WORKERS via William March of the Tampa Tribune
Gov. Scott, who has vociferously criticized Crist for planning a trip to Cuba, wouldn’t respond to questions from a reporter in Tampa about Cuba trips by his own supporters, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a political marketing firm.
Creative Loafing reporter Mitch Perry tried to ask Scott twice whether the Chamber and the political operatives deserved the same criticism Scott has levelled at Crist.
The Chamber is a major Republican donor and booster of GOP candidates. It announced recently that Chamber officials will lead a trade delegation to Cuba, and favors lifting the trade embargo.
As he typically does, Scott didn’t respond to the question, and instead simply repeated his campaign talking points on the subject.
Asked whether the Chamber and the consulting firm, Taproot Creative, deserve the same criticism as Crist, Scott said, “Charlie Crist, if he wants to go, look at what he’s going to do. He’s going to go down there and help the Castro regime.”
When Perry then asked, “Is the Chamber of Commerce helping the Castro regime by going down there?” Scott replied, “I’m going to tell you, what Charlie Crist is doing by going to Cuba, he’s helping the Castro regime.” Scott talked about the Cuban regime fomenting unrest in Venezuela, and added, “We need to stand with Cuban-Americans, we need to stand with the Venezuelans, Charlie Crist is doing the opposite.”
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AT TRIAL, GOP STAFFER ADMITS HE DREW MAPS TURNED INTO LAWMAKERS via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press
A Republican Party of Florida official testified Friday that congressional maps he drew and turned over to a GOP consultant were identical to those submitted to the Legislature by a member of the public months later as lawmakers held hearings on how they should redraw the state’s political lines.
Frank Terraferma was shown his maps alongside those submitted under someone else’s name at a public hearing three months later and agreed that seven congressional districts were the same. But Terraferma, who runs state House campaigns for the state party, said he didn’t know his maps were turned in at the public hearings until seeing them in the courtroom Friday.
The testimony came in the fifth day of a trial to determine whether GOP leaders ignored a 2010 constitutional amendment requiring them to draw congressional districts that do not protect incumbents or members of a certain party. A coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters is suing the Legislature claiming GOP leaders used a “shadow” process to disguise their intention to draw maps to politically benefit Republicans. The new political boundaries were approved in 2012.
Terraferma testified he worked with consultant Rich Heffley and Republican National Committee officials as he prepared maps. Heffley was paid $10,000 a month by the Republican Party of Florida to help with redistricting. But Terraferma said he wasn’t drawing the maps for legislators to consider.
Instead Terraferma, who was often sarcastic during his testimony, said he was drawing maps for a variety of reasons. When asked by lawyer David King for examples, he said, “It’s fun, to be honest with you.”
King questioned whether Terraferma and Heffley intended all along to have a third party turn in the maps so their names wouldn’t be attached to them. Terraferma simply said he didn’t turn in a map himself, but he acknowledged that he could have.
“Every human being in the entire world had the opportunity to submit a map,” Terraferma said.
King then asked, “Is this the first time you’ve ever realized that your work product was contained in public maps?”
Terraferma replied, “Yes.”
REDISTRICTING CASE RESUMES TUESDAY
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is expected to begin a second week of hearing testimony in the long-running lawsuit about whether the Legislature complied with constitutional requirements when drawing new congressional districts in 2012.
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LEGISLATIVE MERRY-GO-ROUND via The Florida Current
In: Lisett Caraza-Borges as district secretary for Rep. Eddy Gonzalez.
Out: Andrew Liebert is out as the legislative assistant to Rep. Debbie Mayfield.
TWEET, TWEET: @Rob_Bradley: TaxWatch describes as a “turkey” the funding of substance abuse services for residents of my district suffering with addiction. #AreUSerious
BEST PRESS RELEASE FROM LAST WEEK: “Giant African Land Snail Detector Dogs, Handler Teams Graduate in Miami” via Ag. Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office.
CONTEXT FLORIDA: VOTER INTEREST, MEMORIAL DAY, ROWDY STUDENTS, LESSONS OF FAILURE
On Context Florida: It appears that the interest in politics is waning to an all-time low, says former state Sen. John Grant. He warns that if citizens don’t bother to vote and leave public matters to others, then democracy won’t survive and ultimately their rights will be weakened or lost. Memorial Day, for Catherine Durkin Robinson, is an excellent time to teach your kids about their culture, community and the responsibility we have to continue certain traditions. In the debate over homeschooling, charter and private schools, Marc Yacht sees a number of problems fueling the flight from public education, such as too many undisciplined and destructive children in some public schools. An incident with UCF’s director of Community Relations Maritza Martinez, her daughter and a forgotten school project highlights the need to have children learn lessons by failing, teaching them to become well-rounded, responsible and more accountable individuals.
CORPS OF ENGINEERS APPROVES EVERGLADES PLAN via The Associated Press
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a $1.9 billion plan for central Everglades restoration projects, after weeks of criticism over its review process.
Environmentalists had hoped the Central Everglades Planning Project would be included in a federal water projects bill that now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature. It’s been seven years since the last water projects bill, and Everglades advocates worry that the slow pace of restoration will stall in congressional gridlock.
The Miami Herald reports that after the Senate approved the water bill Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio wrote Assistant Army Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy and blamed the corps for missing the opportunity to include the plan.
Corps officials in Washington approved the plan Friday. It now goes to the South Florida Water Management District for review.
ELECTION-YEAR UNCERTAINTY MAY STALL NEW STATE TECHNOLOGY AGENCY via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune
Florida soon will have a new agency to handle state government’s information technology, but a chief information officer may not come along till next year.
The reason? Floridians will vote for governor in November, and the head of the new Agency for State Technology is an executive-branch appointee.
Doug Robinson, executive director of the nonpartisan National Association of State Chief Information Officers, said Florida should expect to see a placeholder agency head at first.
Florida “would not be able to attract a highly qualified state CIO … until after the election,” Robinson said, explaining that top candidates don’t want to worry about being out of a job mere months after taking it.
Florida’s is the only state government without a CIO.
Should Gov. Scott lose the election, “new governors have the full right to select their own leadership team, and the CIO is part of that leadership,” Robinson said.
Another issue is the flighty manner with which the state has addressed its information technology oversight.
Spurred in part by last year’s disastrous rollout of a revamped unemployment website, state lawmakers this year passed a measure to consolidate the state’s IT functions.
GROUP PLOTTED TAKEOVER OF ORLANDO EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY, SWORN STATEMENTS SAY via Dan Tracy and Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel
A handful of politicians, lobbyists and government officials plotted to take over Orlando’s Expressway Authority and use the agency’s $300 million budget to their advantage, according to records and testimony released by the State Attorney’s Office.
The aim was to put their friends in charge of the agency, further their own careers and direct lucrative contracts to associates, say documents and the sworn statements by eight people associated with the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.
Among those allegedly involved were agency board member Scott Batterson, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott indicted on three bribery-related charges last month; former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, Batterson’s friend since middle school and now a lobbyist; and state Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, also a Scott appointee.
The documents released last week reveal a torrent of behind-the-scenes maneuvering — including talk of seizing power and handing out multimillion-dollar contracts over $47 of beer at a Baldwin Park bar.
But the public knew none of it until the turmoil burst into view during an Aug. 28 meeting of the expressway authority’s five-member board. That’s when Batterson joined fellow board members Marco Peña and Noranne Downs in a 3-2 vote to seek a successor to agency Director Max Crumit.
Just two days before that board meeting, Batterson had come to Crumit and told him he should quit because Batterson had lined up three votes to fire him, Crumit claimed. Batterson denied that claim, but it sparked the investigation because board members by law can only discuss agency business in public, not privately.
In a sworn statement to investigators, Crumit said Batterson threatened: “We’re going to vote you off the board, which would be ugly and you don’t want that and we don’t want that.”
YOUNG REPUBLICANS SPLIT WITH THE GOP ON GAY MARRIAGE, MARIJUANA via the Associated Press
At a recent meeting, the Tampa Bay Young Republicans recited the Pledge of Allegiance, prayed and then tackled the night’s topic: marijuana.
Their guest? Personal injury lawyer John Morgan, a huge Democratic Party donor campaigning to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Months earlier, the same group supported a Supreme Court opinion that was a victory for gay marriage advocates even as Republican leaders insisted marriage should be between only a man and a woman.
The group illustrates a growing generational divide in the GOP as younger Republicans increasingly break rank from the establishment on social issues. In Alabama, a college Republican group leader was nearly kicked out of the party for supporting gay marriage. The successful push to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota was backed by several prominent younger Republicans. And in Colorado, the spokesman for a group that pushed to legalize marijuana was a Republican activist. Perhaps only in opposing abortion are most young Republicans nationally as conservative socially as older members.
“We’ve grown up in a time where everything’s much more open. We want to talk about more things,” Tampa Bay Young Republicans president Anibal Cabrera said. “We’re willing to listen to the other point of view. We’re willing to have an opposite opinion.”
Whether the split on social issues forces the GOP to change its platform or risk alienating younger voters probably won’t be answered until after the 2016 presidential election, said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor. He said one thing to watch is support for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the son of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is mixing a libertarian message with a more moderate outreach to Republicans.
“It’s unsettled,” Corrigan said. “If the nominee of the Republican Party signals less of an emphasis on social issues than in years past, that leaves an opening for these young Republicans who may have more libertarian leanings, but there’s a lot of seniors within the party that I don’t think are ready to give up on those positions.”
While Republicans nationally have struggled to recruit younger voters, women and minorities, the Tampa group says welcoming socially liberal as well as conservative members has helped swell its ranks from seven to 200 members in less than a year. Executive director Lacey Wickline said the party establishment could learn from the approach, but instead has largely ignored the group.
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Dr. Goar Alvarez to the Board of Pharmacy
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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Ron Book: Miami Dade Limousine Association
Paul Plofchan: ADT LLC dba ADT Security Services
Louis Rotundo: Florida Medical Cannabis Association
Ron Watson: ALTMed LLC
THIS MEMORIAL DAY IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE LOBBYISTS, PUBLIX AND A SLEW OF POLITICAL ASSOCIATIONS
Let’s start off by acknowledging what Memorial Day commemorates: the brave sacrifices by countless Americans made to secure our freedoms, safety, and values. The observation of Memorial Day is wholly reflective, somber, and meaningful. So much so, that our elective representatives have set a day aside where public institutions are closed and where people are encouraged to do the same in their own ways.
That said, for many Americans, the long weekend of Memorial Day is equally a time to get outside with family — to grill, game, and boat their way into this unofficial beginning to summer.
Therefore, Memorial Day Weekend is at least in part brought to us by those entities that provide for our sundry celebrations: firework companies, Publix, spirits distributors, boating outfits, and so on.
If “holidays where you set off fireworks” were a category on Family Feud, Memorial Day wouldn’t be in the top two — but would certainly be on the list.
So far in 2014, the American Pyrotechnics Association contributed $6,000 to four Republican candidates — Jeff Denham of California, Sam Graves of Missouri, and Charlie dent and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania. In 2012, the organization contributed $14,165 in total, to Sam Graves of Missouri, Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, and $1,000 to Jason Altmire – then, a Pennsylvania Democrat and now the chief of Florida Blue.
TNT Fireworks gave just $4,900 to candidates in 2012 — $2,500 to Mitt Romney, $2,000 to Richard Lugar, $1,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and $400 to Ed Royce.
Florida’s much-loved Publix is known for its stellar lobbying efforts in the state, and is also a formidable player in Washington. So far in 2014, Publix has contributed $361,940 to federal candidates, $33,800 to leadership PACs, $36,330 to parties, and $325,000 to 527 committees. In sum, these total a respectable $718,570 in federal contributions, landing Publix at No. 151 out of 14,108 lobbying entities.
High on Publix’s federal contribution list: the Republican Agriculture Commissioners 527 ($200,000); the Republican Governors Association 527 ($100,000); the National Republican Congressional Committee ($25,000); Mitch McConnell ($16,200); and Lindsey graham ($15,200). Florida’s Steve Southerland and Vern Buchanan are also on that list. According to OpenSecrets.org, Publix’s top issues lobbied in 2013 were health issues, taxes, agriculture, food industry, and copyright and trademark. Expect more contributions from Publix before the 2014 cycle is over. In 2012, the grocery giant contributed $1.7 million in full, and spent another $470,000 on lobbying efforts.
Publix’s state lobbying efforts are currently driven by Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, and Teye Reeves of Floridian Partners. In the 1st quarter of 2014, the firm brought in between $10,000 and $19,999 in fees from Publix for legislative lobbying, and up to $9,999 for executive branch lobbying.
Then, there’s spirits. And boy, Florida’s lobbyists for beverage issues had a drink-deserving session this year.
SKD Consulting Firm’s Dick Scott brought in between $30,000 and $39,999 from ABC Fine Wine & Spirits in the 1st quarter of 2014 for legislative lobbying, and another $30,000 to $39,999 for executive branch lobbying. During the same time period, Premier Beverage Company paid Southern Strategy Group between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative representation and another $10,000 to $19,999 for executive branch representation.
Then, Southern Wine & Spirits of America worked with Ballard Partners and the Labrador Group for their lobbying efforts. The organization paid Ballard Partners between $30,000 and $39,999 for legislative lobbying; and paid Labrador Group’s Brecht Heuchan between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative and up to $9,999 for executive branch representation.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States hired Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace Jr, and Chris Schoonover of Capital City Consulting at fees of between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative branch lobbying, and up to $9,999 for executive branch representation.
Then, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association worked with GrayRobinson, Heffley & Associates, and Jefferson Monroe Consulting; while the Beer Industry of Florida hired Advantage Consulting Team and Gentry & Associates to do its bidding.
Add up all those numbers and its clear what kind of stakes are at play for beverage interests. Nationally, the figures associated with beer and wine are even more staggering. The National Beer Wholesalers Association alone ranks No. 46 in all federal donations, contributing $1.6 million to candidates so far in 2014, and spending over $1 million on lobbying. During the 2012 campaign cycle, this association contributed over $3.7 million to candidates and spent another $1 million on lobbying.
Boating interests also have a big stake in Florida recreation. The Boat Owner’s Association of the United States (BoatU.S., Inc.) worked with Capital Ideas and Bonnie Basham to lobby Florida lawmakers in the first quarter of 2014, compensating between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative representation and another $10,000 to $19,999 for executive branch lobbying.
Then, Rybovich Boat Company LLC compensated Akerman’s Richard Pinsky between $20,000 and $29,999 for legislative lobbying during the first quarter of this year.
The National Marine Manufacturer’s hired Hopping Green & Sams; Marine Industries Association of Florida contracts with Rayborn Consultants and Timmins Consulting, and the Marine Industries Association of South Florida is represented by David Custin.
The lists go on. But so must the fun. So on that note, I leave you to your Memorial Day observations, reflections, commemorations and barbeques.
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FUNERAL SERVICES FOR AL AUSTIN
A memorial service for Al Austin, the developer and civic leader who died last week, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, 3501 W San Jose St., in Tampa.
A visitation is scheduled for Friday, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Vaughn Center at the University of Tampa.
REST IN PEACE JOHN STROSS
Prominent restaurateur and leading political activist John Stross died on Saturday. He was 71 years old.
Stross was primarily known as the co-owner of the popular Leverock’s restaurants.
In 1980, Stross and business partner Dick Tappan acquired Johnny Leverock’s Oyster Bar in Pinellas Park. In subsequent years, Lewis and Stross’ JSGL Management either owned or franchised 15 Leverock’s before selling the chain in 2000. Afterwards, the company focused on real estate management a few years before returning to the restaurant business in 2008 by opening Leverock’s in South Pasadena.
Last year, the company continued in the casual seafood restaurant business by taking over the day-to-day operations of the iconic Friendly Fisherman restaurant on the boardwalk at John’s Pass Village.
Over his long civic career, Stross served on the board of trustees of Community Action Stops Abuse, as chair of the board of the Louise Graham Regeneration Center and the Deaf and Hearing Connection and on the board of directors of R’Club and the Children’s Dream Fund.
Stross was also active as the Chair/CEO — along with Vice Chair/COO Jo Brower — of successful CASA Peace Breakfast. In 2012, they founded the nonprofit Remember Honor Support as an ongoing memorial event on the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The group hosts an annual Patriots Day breakfast, which honors U.S. military servicemen and women, law enforcement personnel and first responders.
“Greg and I are heartbroken by the loss of our dear friend John Stross,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “His volunteerism within the Tampa Bay Area, and his selflessness toward personal causes and crusades, has touched so many lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”