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Sunburn for 6.19.17 — Speaker’s race insights; Richard Corcoran takes on the world; Fla. Dems being Fla. Dems; Ryan Duffy to U.S. Sugar; Loving Old Florida

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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.

Joe Biden and 1300 Democratic activists gathered in Hollywood this past weekend to plot how to end a 20-year string of Republican governors in 2018. Marco Rubio has been omnipresent on television screens since Friday when Donald Trump announced that he’s “cancelling” Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba. And Richard Corcoran continues to make the case for this past legislative session being “the most transformative and transparent in the Legislature’s history.” But even with all of this happening, the most-trafficked story on is the one we published Friday afternoon.


The first-term state Representative currently commands a majority of his 26 colleague’s votes, after Melbourne’s Randy Fine put aside his own bid to be Speaker on Friday and decided to take on the role of kingmaker.

To reach the conclusion about the state of the race, interviewed no less than 18 members of the freshman class, as well as reviewed a cache of member-to-member emails and text messages provided to the media organization by several different members.

In addition to picking up Fine, Jason Fischer now says he is firmly in Renner camp.

Supporters of Jamie Grant, Renner’s chief rival for the Speaker’s post, dispute this count and contend that neither candidate has the support of a majority of the class. They add that Grant actually has more definitive votes in his pocket than Renner.

Representative Randy Fine talks during the Health Quality subcommittee meetings in the House Office building at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

— Both sides concede Bob Rommel is in Renner’s column. That’s 13 very likely votes for Renner.

— In addition to his solid 9, Grant is counting on the support of Erin Grall once she is eliminated on the first or second ballot.

— POLITICO’s Matt Dixon, who is also closely following the Speaker’s race, says he has the same whip count.

— This leaves Thad Altman, Byron Donalds (after he is eliminated on the first or second ballot), Mel Ponder, and Cyndi Stevenson as the deciding votes. Fine thinks he can bring Altman over to Renner and Renner’s team is confident Stevenson is now with them.

— Since our story Friday, we’ve heard some rumblings that Rick Roth is not happy being put into any candidate’s column.

— Grant is far from ready to give up. In fact, he probably think he still has the votes to win. He’s also planning to work the next two weeks to win over undecided voters.

— Two smart questions: 1) Will members listed in the FP article as supporting Renner get cold feet? 2) Will current House leadership, said to favor Grant, intercede on his behalf and with who?

— More interesting reads about the Speaker’s race:

>>>”Tempers flaring as Speaker’s race barrels to conclusion” via Florida Politics

>>>”Randy Fine explains to colleagues why he dropped out of Speaker’s race” via Florida Politics

>>>“Why Does James Grant believe he’s above the Law?” via Nick Tomboulides for Sunshine State News

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With the Special Session in the rearview mirror and House Speaker Corcoran’s top priority now signed into law, Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau takes a look a closer look at the Land O’Lakes Republican, and his actions during the 2017  Session.

In her story, Klas writes that Corcoran would likely win the part as “the most interesting man in Tallahassee.” … Corcoran said he was motivated by “principle, always principle,” and thought the 2017 Session “was the most transformative and transparent in the Legislature’s history.”

But as Klas notes many of the policy measures pushed by Corcoran appeared to be contradictory. He pushed new budget rules prohibiting last-minute insertion of projects into the budget, but left a “loophole that allowed Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to force the approval of 15 so-called ‘conforming bills’ that had not been reviewed, screed or approved by any committee in its entitery or by both chambers.”

— He also suggested rules prohibiting members of House leadership from campaigning for higher office while in the House, then created his own new political committee, which he might use for a statewide run for governor. And after he pushed the House to strip funding from Enterprise Florida, then helped orchestrate a way to rescue the program that Klas describes as “a way the legislatively inexperienced governor had rarely seen.”

— Money quote from someone who knows the pressures of being Speaker: “Richard is capable of fighting on multiple fronts simultaneously,” said Tom Feeney, who Corcoran worked for as a legal counsel. “But he’s enough of a strategist that when some of those battles played out, he was constantly adjusting his priorities based on his best opportunity.”

Corcoran: Legislators represent people better than local governments” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “If you are a special interest or you are somebody that wants to curry favor, it is generally much more difficult in a comparative scale to get something through in the state government that would affect the state than it is the local government,” the Pasco County Republican told about 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa. “To get something through on a local level you have to win over seven or five people. To get something through in Tallahassee, you’ve got to get something through one chamber with 120 people, something through another chamber that has 40 people, and then you have an executive with veto power. The greater input from more and more people, as our founders thought, that scrutiny allows there to end up being a better and better product.”

Open-government group seeks lawmakers’ text messages” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – The First Amendment Foundation sent a letter to House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron asking them to produce text messages sent by lawmakers. The texts were first requested by Matt Dixon. “It is incumbent on each government official — in this case, each legislator subject to the request — to make a search for responsive records on his or her personal device,” FAF president Barbara Petersen wrote. State law requires text messages discussing government business to be available to the public whether they are sent on a government-issued cellphone or personal device.

Pasco County Republican Richard Corcoran spoke to more than 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa.


“Rick Scott asked to respond to judicial appointments lawsuit” via Florida PoliticsThe Florida Supreme Court has asked Gov. Scott to respond to a lawsuit claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term. The court on Friday gave Scott till July 5 to file a response, with the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause having a July 17 deadline to reply to Scott’s filing … Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince. They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor … The (lawsuit) says Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference to discuss his economic development mission to Connecticut at 11 a.m. at the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center, 99 East Ave. in Norwalk, Conn.

Gradebook podcast: Sen. Jack Latvala explains what happened with HB 7069” via Jeffrey S. Solochek with the Tampa Bay TimesLatvala usually gets a warm reception at Florida School Boards Association events. On Friday, the Pinellas County Republican faced some chilliness over HB 7069, the major education bill that some said he didn’t do enough to stop as Appropriations chairman. … These days in the Legislature, Latvala said, there are “a dwindling number of people who care about public schools,

Tampa Bay lawmakers express regrets over legislative session” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – State Sen. Darryl Rouson told the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum he was “bringing home apologies that we cost you $70,000 a day in a special session to do what we should have done in the first regular session.’ … “As a citizen, I’m embarrassed about the performance of our Legislature over the last three or four years,” said Rep. Dan Raulerson. “I think everybody’s upset.” … State Sen. Tom Lee said the Legislature’s failure to handle the marijuana bill properly was because of influential special interests who “locked the process up.”… “This didn’t turn out to be about the patients. It turned out to be about the licensees who were going to win,” he said. “That’s just the process that we’re in right now, and I apologize for that.”

– “After shifting alliances, dark clouds await in the next legislative session” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Carlos Trujillo got last-minute budget language OK’d to punish Miami developer” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Florida Housing Finance Corporation board, appointed by Gov. Scott, voted in March to ban Pinnacle Housing Group from seeking state funds for two years. That was after federal prosecutors said a company affiliate inflated costs related to projects funded through the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The company signed a deferred prosecution agreement, was fined $1 million and returned $4.2 million in funds … The FHFC board voted 4-2 for the two-year ban, while the staff had recommended a five-year ban and a halt in funding for “pipeline projects” — meaning those projects already given early approval. Trujillo agreed the punishment was not strong enough, so he asked for language to be placed in the state budget to overrule the board vote.

Dan Raulerson: All legislators should be armed” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – A pro-gun rights Tampa Bay area state legislator, commenting on the Virginia shooting at a congressional baseball practice, said in a forum the shooting shows people should carry guns in public – even at swimming pools or playing softball. “Each one of those congressmen should be carrying a weapon,” responded state Rep. Dan Raulerson. “We all should be carrying a weapon.” He didn’t respond to comments from the crowd that it would be difficult to carry a gun while playing softball. Reactions of the legislators at the forum displayed partisan reactions to the shooting – Democrats saying it showed the need for tighter gun laws and Republicans saying it shows more people need to carry guns.


Driving the day –Florida Democrats erupt as Stephen Bittel apologizes for racially-tinged comments” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The comments were directed at Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, who is black, and members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. They came during a heated exchange before a keynote speech by Joe Biden at the Leadership Blue Gala … It started because the Secret Service needed to tweak the event to accommodate Biden’s schedule. Because of the change, Bittel allowed event planners to skip a feature to recognize state House and Senate Democrats. That change of plans, however, was not relayed to the elected officials … stuck waiting to go onstage. “I was calm until I was shit-talked,” Braynon said. “I just said that I did not think that Joe Biden was going to leave if we allowed for 10 minutes to give recognition to our members onstage … I was dismissed.” The exchange between the two was calm until, Braynon said, Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book relayed to him that Bittel was blaming the escalating situation on him and the black caucus. “He said I’m acting like a 3-year-old. He said the black caucus members were acting like 3-year-olds and childish,” Braynon said. “I was visibly upset. Others were visibly upset.”

’We are better than this,’ impassioned Biden tells Florida Democrats” via Patricia Mazzei and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump, Biden rejected the new president’s rhetoric and assured Democrats there is a way for them to recover their political standing. “The state the nation is today will not be sustained by the American people,” Biden said. “We are better than this.” At times funny, at times so serious he was whispering, Biden spoke to Democratic activists in Hollywood for more than 50 minutes, sounding like a potential candidate for president in 2020 — or at least like one the party’s most impassioned messengers for 2018. Biden began by making a case for the re-election of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face his biggest challenger yet next year in Republican Gov. Scott. “No one, no one, no one has ever questioned his word when he’s given it, and no one, no one that I’ve met in my entire time in the Senate and eight years as vice president doesn’t respect Bill for his moral courage and his physical courage,” Biden said. “Bill, I’ll come back to Florida as many times as you want — to campaign for you or against you, whichever helps more.”

Leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor agree on big issues” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – It was literally a love fest when the three leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King — got together for a forum. Gillum, Graham and King agreed on expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage, restoring voting rights to ex-felons, banning fracking, spending more money on public education and placing less emphasis on high-stakes testing. Beyond all the agreement and good feelings, each candidate contended that he or she is best positioned to win the governorship in 2018 after five straight victories by Republicans.

SHOT: “Andrew Gillum looks like Democrats’ best hope for governor, but will email scandal hurt him?” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

CHASER:It’s unclear how Adam Smith decided Andrew Gillum is Florida Democrats’ ‘best hope’” via Florida Politics

Phil Levine laying low in gubernatorial race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Miami Beach Mayor isn’t officially running for anything (right now), so he’s on a different wavelength than his would-be Democratic competitors. “I’m still thinking, I’m still exploring,” he said right before the official festivities at the FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala. Of course, the question might be how well Levine might be received in a Democratic forum, considering he talked openly in Tampa last month of running as an independent. On Saturday, he was trotting out what has become his adopted title — Radical Centrist. “We’ll see where my product sells best,” is all he would say when asked if he was serious about going the indie route.

Florida Democrats announce new vehicle to try to get more of them elected to state Senate” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens announced the creation of a new campaign to help get more Democrats elected to the Florida Senate in 2018 and beyond. “Flip Florida Blue” will set out initially to invest resources to win the special election in Miami-Dade’s Senate District 40 seat formerly held by Hialeah Republican Frank Artiles … The next goal is ambitious: Clemens says there are 6-7 targeted Senate Districts in the 2018 cycle they hope to flip, adding to the current roster of 15 Democrats … One of them will undoubtedly be SD 18, which could see a rematch between GOP incumbent Dana Young and Democrat Bob Buesing. Last fall, Young won the race by seven points, with independent Joe Redner getting 9 percent. Redner said that if Buesing mounts a campaign in 2018, he will not run for the seat.

– “Alex Sink: Anger over HB 7069 could be Dems winning issue in 2018” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics


Don Gaetz: And now, the next governor of Florida…” via the Pensacola News-Journal – It is expected that Adam Putnam will be the winner of the 2018 Republican primary for governor. Many of those taking this same bet think Gwen Graham has the inside lane for the Democratic nomination. But if conventional politics takes a holiday next year in Florida … gubernatorial politics could be a knockdown drag out between extremes, not a contest among the presumed. The upside of Adam Putnam is his downside. It’s his turn, which may not be to his advantage. Remember, it was Bill Gunter’s turn, Buddy MacKay’s turn, Bill McCollum’s turn, Alex Sink’s turn et al. Putnam’s been in the gubernatorial waiting room for 15 years. Putnam’s two very likely GOP rivals, State House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senator Jack Latvala, will hit refresh on Putnam’s voting record every morning. Can hits below the waterline, even from lesser-financed opponents you don’t take seriously, make a difference? Ask Jeb Bush. Is Putnam fated to stumble? Hardly. Is he a cinch? Hardly.

First on #FlaPol – Julia Gill Woodward to manage Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign – Woodward is taking over the reins of Graham’s gubernatorial campaign. Woodward has a long history with the former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, serving both on her 2014 congressional campaign and working as her chief of staff. “As a ninth-generation Floridian, Julia Woodward knows this state as well as anyone,” said Graham in a statement. “In 2014, she guided our team to victory in one of the most competitive races in the entire country. I’m confident, under her leadership, we will be ready to defeat any Republican and turn Florida blue.”

Graham picks up Nan Rich’s endorsement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Gwen Graham has the integrity and ideas, the leadership qualities and real-life experiences to end the Republicans’ nearly two-decade hold on the governor’s office and put Florida on a progressive path forward,” Rich stated in a news release … “Gwen is the only Democrat for governor who has run against a Republican and won. Gwen is the only candidate for governor who has worked on the front lines of our public school system. She has been an advocate for women and children — and while in Congress she returned more than $2.5 million to seniors, veterans and families. Gwen is the only candidate for governor with a vision and actual plans to protect our environment and build an economy that works for everyone,” Rich added.

Gillum campaign takes heat for use of Charlie Crist’s email list of donors” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida Gillum is being accused by some Democrats of using the email fundraising list compiled by Crist without permission, a claim that brings more unwanted attention to the rookie statewide candidate’s campaign. “My understanding is that that may have occurred,” Crist said. “I’m not sure how, but I’ve heard that.” He added that people have reached out to him to inform him that Gillum has been using his donor list. “They seemed more angry about it than I am,” said Crist, who was elected last fall to Congress. Of the campaign’s roughly 5,300 total contributions, more than 800 are donors who also gave to the Crist campaign … A vast majority of those were very small-dollar donors, a very good indication they gave to the campaign as the result of a fundraising email. It’s not uncommon for campaigns to trade or swap fundraising email lists with other campaigns, but Crist said he has not heard from the Gillum team about using his list.

Tweet, tweet:

Baxter Troutman opens iGrow PC to fund Agriculture Commissioner bid — State records show Troutman launched iGrow PC, a state political committee. He filed a statement of solicitation with the Division of Elections on June 14, two days after he filed to run for the statewide seat. POLITICO Florida first reported the creation of Troutman’s political committee. Troutman filed the necessary paperwork to run for Agriculture Commissioner on June 12, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million.

Tom Rooney backs Ben Albritton for Florida Senate — The Okeechobee Republican announced he was throwing his support behind Albritton in his race to replace Sen. Denise Grimsley in Senate District 26. “Ben Albritton is a tireless and dedicated servant leader committed to strengthening our communities,” said Rooney. “I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Ben on issues important to our region, and I am confident he will continue the tradition of excellent representation Denise Grimsley has provided.” 

Jim Boyd stockpiling cash for likely 2020 Senate bid” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Campaign finance reports reveal that Boyd’s political action committee has raised $109,511 since the beginning of the year, and now has $177,932 in cash on hand. Boyd is interested in the state Senate seat currently held by Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who will become Senate president next year. Galvano won’t leave office until 2020, but getting started early and building up a big war chest could help Boyd scare off potential challengers.

Qualifying starts in HD 44 — A two-day qualifying period in the special election to replace former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle in House District 44 starts on Monday and runs through noon on Tuesday. Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, resigned to become a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal. A special primary has been scheduled for Aug. 15, with a special election on Oct. 10. Republicans Usha Jain, John David Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrats Paul Jason Chandler and Nuren Durre Haider have filed to run.

Happening today – SD 40 candidates’ debate — The Women’s Republican Club of Miami Federated is scheduled to host a debate for the Republicans running in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. Republicans Jose Felix Diaz, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Lorenzo Palomares are running for the seat. The debate kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus, Building R, 11011 S.W. 104th St. in Miami.


On CNN’s “State of The Union,” Jake Tapper asked Rubio how he would react if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller and/or U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein:

“Well, first of all, that’s not going to happen. I don’t believe it’s going to happen. And here’s what I would say. The best thing that could happen for the president, and the country, is a full and credible investigation. I really, truly believe that.

“If we want to put all this behind us, let’s find out what happened, let’s put it out there, and let’s not undermine the credibility of the investigation.

“And so, my view on it is that’s the best thing that could happen for the president and for the country, and I believe ultimately that’s what will happen, irrespective of all the other stuff that’s going on out there.”

Rubio said about the same thing to John Dickerson of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” when asked about Trump calling the investigations a “witch hunt.”

“Well, I know he feels very strongly about it. My advice to the president is what I communicated publicly. The way I’ve tried to communicate to everyone on this issue. And that is this. It is in the best interest of the president and the country to have a full investigation.”

Later, Rubio talked with Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” about circumstantial evidence of a link between the Russia investigation and possibly softening sanctions.

“I could understand how some people would make that argument. I could also tell you though that I personally believe that at the core of the resistance is not the president. And I don’t think the president himself has a problem with additional sanctions on Russia.

“I think the concern actually comes from the State Department and for the following reason: they argue that they are trying to get the Russians to be more cooperative on a number of fronts and that this could set us back.”

Rubio cautions against rushing health care in Senate” via Hanna Trudo of POLITICORubio cautioned against fashioning health care legislation “behind closed doors” in the Senate and rushing it to the floor for a vote. “The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor,” the Florida Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” … “Every camera in the world’s going to have to see what’s in it,” he said. Rubio was responding to remarks from his colleague, Sen. Ron Johnson, who took issue with the clunky process of moving a health care proposal in the Senate. Rubio added that while he doesn’t take issue with the ongoing meetings about new health care legislation, the final version “cannot be rushed to the floor” … “Ultimately,” he said, “we’re all going to see what’s in it.”


If you read one thing –A mother’s death, a botched inquiry and a Sheriff at war” via Walt Bogdanich of The New York TimesRusty Rodgers did not fit everyone’s image of a law enforcement officer, particularly in deeply conservative northeast Florida … in January 2011, came the call that would upend his life. Go to St. Augustine, he was told, to reinvestigate the death of 24-year-old Michelle O’Connell, shot while packing to leave her deputy sheriff boyfriend, Jeremy Banks. The fatal bullet came from his service weapon. Agent Rodgers had been summoned here twice before to answer questions about cases involving the St. Johns County sheriff, David B. Shoar … with crucial evidence missing or unexamined, Agent Rodgers had to make sense of the mess. And that meant possibly antagonizing one of Florida’s most powerful sheriffs. A mercurial leader, unctuous one moment, bitingly critical the next, Sheriff Shoar didn’t countenance challenges to his authority. He had resisted the O’Connell family’s demands for an outside review of the case for nearly five months. When the sheriff finally agreed, his office had one requirement — that Agent Rodgers, and only Agent Rodgers, conduct the investigation. It took the agent only two weeks to find evidence that fundamentally changed the complexion of the case. “I realized I’m dealing with a whole different set of facts, quite truthfully malice and wickedness,” he told state officials … His answer was a scathingly personal yearslong attack on Agent Rodgers — a campaign that put the outsize powers of a small-town sheriff on full display and ultimately swept up nearly everyone in its path.

Hack attacks highlight vulnerability of Florida schools to cyber crooks” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – Two months before the U.S. presidential election, international hackers slipped into the computer systems of at least four Florida school district networks in the hopes of stealing the personal data of hundreds of thousands of students. They infected the systems with malware … that turned off the logs recording who accessed the systems, according to United Data Technologies, the Doral-based cybersecurity company that investigated the incidents. For three months, the hackers probed the systems, mapping them out and testing their defenses. At one point, they even posted photos of someone dressed as an ISIS fighter on two school district websites. They weren’t just looking for the names of kids and valuable Social Security numbers … The hackers were also searching for some way to slip into other sensitive government systems, including state voting systems.

’Grayest’ state ranks 46 for long-term health care” via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – the state with a higher shareholder residents ranks among the worst at meeting their needs for long-term care, a new scorecard says. Senior advocacy group AARP said Florida has slipped to 46th among the states in a study that measures factors such as the cost of private nursing-home care as a percentage of annual household income, the number of private long-term care insurance policies in effect [among others].

“Lawyers to face off in hearing over ‘pre-reveal’ games” via Florida PoliticsLawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games—a name they apparently disdain—will appear Monday afternoon in a Tallahassee courtroom. Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed to hear argument on why he should reconsider his previous ruling that the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines … The machines—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser. The Tribe has countered that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue. (It) believes the machines are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Long-awaited accreditation for Florida Poly marks school as ‘serious and legitimate’” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – In being granted initial regional accreditation to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Poly can assure current and future students it has the proper credentials to award quality degrees. “Accreditation signals to prospective students and faculty that we are serious and legitimate contenders in the world of higher education,” President Randy K. Avent said in a news release, calling the milestone “the biggest yet” for the college. Accreditation also allows students to get federal financial aid, such as student loans and need-based Pell Grants, and opens the door to federal research funding.


Carol Bowen: Florida construction marketplace healthier thanks to new legislation” for Florida Politics – The Associated Builders and Contractors … are pleased to report that new legislation will now strengthen competition and reduce abusive litigation in Florida’s multibillion commercial and public construction markets. We also want to thank Gov. Scott for his support of these two pro-business, pro-consumer bills. With the help of Rep. Jayer Williamson and Sen. Keith Perry, ABC successfully landed House Bill 599 (Public Works Projects), which will promote a more open, honest and competitive bid process for public construction projects where state dollars represent 50 percent or more of the funding. With the support of Rep. Tom Leek and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, ABC also brought home House Bill 377 (Limitations on Actions other than for the Recovery of Real Property), which helps clarify when and how Florida’s 10-year statute of repose begins to run on a completed project.


“Florida Bar holds annual convention this week” via Florida PoliticsThe Bar‘s Annual Convention begins Wednesday at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, with “a focus on the future of the legal profession and the challenges lawyers face,” the organization said in a press release. On Friday, Miami attorney Michael J. Higer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 69th president, and West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be become the Bar’s president-elect. She’ll assume the presidency next June. The Bar is charged with regulating the state’s 104,000 licensed attorneys.

“Pam Bondi’s net worth rises to $1.7 million, report shows” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi has reported her latest net worth at nearly $1.7 million, according to her 2016 financial disclosure filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. Her net worth now has risen from the $1.4 million reported in 2015 and from the almost $781,000 she reported for 2012, the earliest disclosure still publicly available on the commission’s website. Bondi’s reported worth was a little over $472,000 in 2010 when she first ran for office. Her net worth jumped significantly in 2013 after she inherited from the estate of her father, Joseph Bondi, an author, educator and former Temple Terrace mayor. He died that January.

“Personnel note: Karl Rasmussen leaving Governor’s Office” via Florida PoliticsRasmussen, Gov. Scott’s deputy chief of staff, is departing the Governor’s Office for a lobbying job at the Meenan Law Firm, name partner Tim Meenan confirmed Friday … Rasmussen, a deputy chief of staff since late 2014, will focus his lobbying efforts in some of the same subject areas he now covers for the governor, including environment and health care, according to Meenan … “What clients look for are effective solutions to their problems,” (he) said. “I think Karl bolsters our ability to really reach into a large number of state agencies and the Legislature.” Rasmussen begins as a government consultant for the firm on June 28.

Personnel note: Ryan Duffy joining U.S. Sugar” via Florida Politics – Ryan Duffy, who joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies after serving as former House Speaker Will Weatherford‘s spokesman, now will be heading to U.S. Sugar as its Director of Corporate Communications, the company announced Friday.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Fred Dickinson, Erik Kirk, Will McKinley, PooleMcKinley: Gigamon, Inc.

— ALOE —

What Laura Jolly is reading –Former Delaware TV sports journalist, ex-Clearwater mayor Brian Aungst recognized by Phillies” via Meghan Montemurro of the Delaware News Journal – A John Dickinson High School grad and former Wilmington University baseball player, Aungst‘s journey took him from Delaware to Florida. It was there, as Clearwater’s mayor for six years (1999-05), Aungst was instrumental in the city’s economical development and facilitating the partnership between Clearwater, Pinellas County and the Phillies in the building of what is now known as Spectrum Field. Aungst and his wife of 41 years, Karen, were recognized before Friday’s Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park as Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater for 2017. Aungst, 63, fired a strike to the Phillie Phanatic as Karen, who is battling brain cancer, looked on. They were chosen by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce for their highest honor.

Greyhound races are a thing of the past. Here’s why Florida still hasn’t learned that.” via Duncan Strauss of The Washington Post – Florida is an outlier. The state is home to 12 of those greyhound tracks, which keep hosting races even as crowds and profits dwindle. When Atascocita Laden crossed the finish line, only about 20 spectators were trackside. The Palm Beach Kennel Club and its peers collectively lose about $30 million each year on dog racing … This confounding situation is the result of a weird wrinkle in Florida law that requires the tracks to offer dog racing to operate their highly lucrative card rooms. The Florida legislature, seeking to limit the number of card rooms statewide, passed a statute in 1997 that stipulated licenses would go only to existing “pari-mutuel” betting facilities — horse tracks, jai alai courts and, yes, dog tracks. The result is that the 7,000 or so racing greyhounds in Florida are running merely to keep the poker tables full. These days, the Palm Beach Kennel Club — a sprawling compound that also features simulcasts of horse racing held elsewhere, an enormous poker room, two restaurants and multiple concession stands — offers 15 dog races daily, with an additional 15 Friday and Saturday nights. On that Sunday, the grandstand above Atascocita Laden was a vast sea of empty seats, but the poker-room tables were packed.

Old Florida never gets old” via Vereen Bell Jr. of Garden & Gun – The high point of a day of fishing out of Shell Island Fish Camp … has always been the going out, past the convergence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers, both icy cold and spring fed, past the no-wake zone into the open spread of the river between the marshes where the guide kicks the big Yamaha into high gear and you are planing across dark silken water, the sun rising to the left behind the St. Marks lighthouse, flights of brown pelicans headed for work ahead of you, ospreys already out looping and circling and searching, a bald eagle hunched on an oyster bar, at once insouciant and wary as you pass. The smell of salt air abruptly becomes richer as you approach the open water and then peel off into the east or west flats of Apalachee Bay … Shell Island — the heart and soul of it — exists pretty much as it has since the early 1950s … Shell Island is and always has been a family business, so naturally they say that when you come there, you become family, too. It’s a place where you feel thousands and thousands of people’s memories to be floating around in the air visiting each other. But it’s also a place where memory can be suspended, and you are just there, free of anxiety and attachment for the time being. And you start thinking about those cabins under the live oaks, and of porch swings and Adirondack chairs.

The Shell Island Fish Camp. Photo credit: Alicia Osborne.

Happy birthday belatedly to Brett Doster, Toby Philpot and Donna Main. Celebrating today is the great Lyndsey Brzozowski of Bascom Communications and Consulting and our man in Jacksonville, A.G. Gancarski.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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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