Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 6.22.17 — Postcard from the City Beautiful; Rick Scott vs. Conn; Corcoran PAC brings in the bucks; More endorsements for Ashley Moody; New Game of Thrones trailer drops

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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.

Good morning from the City Beautiful. I’ve spent the last three days in Orlando presenting to two groups of hedge fund managers and analysts (all of whom were very interested in Sunshine State politics) as well as meeting with several elected officials and candidates.

I also spent time interviewing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King who may just be the most telegenic statewide candidate we’ve seen since Charlie Crist was a state Senator challenging Bob Graham. The up-and-comer did not win that race against one of the most storied names in modern Florida history, just as King is up against a formidable opponent who also has Graham as her last name. But like Crist circa 1998, the young man bears watching.

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The state’s leading LGBTQ-rights organization says Gov. Rick Scott went back on his word that he’d sign an executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other state employees from discrimination.

Leaders of Equality Florida said they met with the governor’s staff days after last year’s Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, and were told staff “needed a few weeks” to draft the language. Nothing happened.

Now, the organization and the Florida Democratic Party are tired of waiting.

“In the wake of an unprecedented tragedy, Rick Scott made commitments to protect LGBTQ Floridians in the workplace so they can earn a living without fear of discrimination or losing their job,” FDP spokesperson Johanna Cervone said in a statement.

Connecticut tells Rick Scott to take his job (poaching tour) and “shove it.”

“Now Scott is breaking those promises. Rick Scott talks a big game about jobs, but doesn’t seem to care about LGBTQ Floridians trying to make a living.”

Added Hannah Willard, public policy director of Equality Florida: “It seems if there was ever a moment for him to issue an executive order, it was then, and by failing to do so, we now want to publicly hold him accountable for not taking meaningful action to protect LGBTQ people in Florida.”

An executive order wouldn’t go as far as The Florida Competitive Workforce Act, however.

That’s the bill that has come before the Legislature every year since 2010. It would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations.

“Florida is a state that does not tolerate discrimination of any form,” Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone told

“In accordance with federal guidelines, Florida state agencies do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and state employees should not be discriminated against in any way,” she added. “Our office will continue to review ways we can work to eliminate discrimination of any kind.”

Meantime, proposals filed with the Constitution Revision Commission, the body reviewing the state’s governing document, have several versions of general anti-discrimination language intended as amendments.

One proposal would prohibit discrimination “in housing, employment, or services based upon race, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability …”

But given the overarching conservative makeup of that panel, and the fact that CRC Chair Carlos Beruff was appointed by and is closely aligned with Scott, a constitutional fix seems even less likely than a statutory one.

Connecticut newspaper to Scott: ‘go back to Florida and stay there’” via Katie Sanders of the Miami Herald — Scott told a small crowd in Norfolk, Connecticut, to “go ahead and give up … capitulate, and come to Florida and make it easier on yourselves,” and not stay in Connecticut with its higher income taxes and lack of palm trees. The Hartford Courant editorial board fired back in a feisty Wednesday editorial detailing Florida’s flaws and telling Scott to shove it: “Here’s some advice for Florida Gov. Rick Scott: Go back to Florida and stay there … With all due respect, Mr. Scott, no thanks. Promises of a better climate and pictures of palm trees are nice, but there’s more to a state than its shrubbery. Peel the lemon, and the truth is obvious: Florida can’t compare to Connecticut.”

“Texts show Scott’s influence over panel’s recommendations for FDOT chief” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – During the May 11 meeting, the Florida Transportation Commission — whose members are appointed by Scott — was ready to recommend three names. But the initial list of candidates did not include the Florida Department of Transportation chief of staff Mike Dew, the applicant Scott ultimately appointed secretary. “The gov office is texting me to wait till [next] week,” Trumbull texted toward the end of the meeting to Commissioner Beth Kigel. … It was clear that the governor’s influence was felt by members as they were discussing in the May 11 meeting when they should vote on their recommendations. In a text message to Trumbull, Commissioner John Browning said he was concerned that if the wrong decision was made, Scott would toss the recommendations and make the commission start over.

“Scott asks for extension in judicial appointments lawsuit” via Florida Politics — Scott asked the state Supreme Court for 14 extra days to respond to a lawsuit claiming he doesn’t have the authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term. “This motion is supported by good cause and is not opposed by petitioners,” says the motion by Scott general counsel Daniel Nordby. It asks to extend the filing deadline to July 19. Among the reasons cited: Legal briefings on bills still on the governor’s desk and Scott’s lawyers’ “official duties associated with Section and Committee meetings at the 2017 Annual Bar Convention,” meeting in Boca Raton this week. 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 by The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause 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.

Bill watch — Scott shot down two more bills Monday, bringing his total to six vetoes for 2017. The governor withheld his approval for SB 2512 on the Capitol Complex Advisory Council, and HB 5501 on “Economic Programs.” On the proposed Council, Scott said in a veto letter it would “add an unnecessary layer of red tape and bureaucracy.” On the economic programs bill, he said it was “made obsolete by House Bill 1A,” passed during the recent Special Session and funding development and tourism marketing. Sixty-eight bills remain on the governor’s desk.


In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, Cissy Proctor — the head of Scott’s jobs division — took issue with a recent Scott Maxwell column saying Orlando’s wages “stink.” Proctor disagreed, saying Orlando wages are “higher than 60 percent of our nation’s metro areas.” Maxwell shot back, saying a comparison of “metro areas” wasn’t apples-to-apples. Proctor didn’t stick with similar sized communities or “even close,” he writes.

Key Points from Maxwell:

— “Rick Scott wants you to think he’s created a stellar economy. And employers who pay poverty-level wages don’t want to talk about that. But I’m not trying to spin. I just want to give you the honest numbers about wages. And the numbers show that Orlando wages stink.”

— “In a letter to the editor, Cissy Proctor — the head Gov. Rick Scott’s jobs division — took issue with a column I wrote last month about Orlando’s low wages. I said our wages stink. Proctor disagreed, claiming Orlando’s wages help families ‘flourish’ and are ‘higher than 60 percent of our nation’s metro areas.’ That sounds good, doesn’t it? Yet it also sounds completely at odds with everything this paper has ever reported. (‘Central Florida job metro area market is lowest-paying in country’ and ‘Orlando: No. 1 in tourism, dead last in wages’).”

— “The facts, however, are that Orlando is still where this newspaper has long reported. Our wages are A) Way below the national average; and B) Rock bottom compared to other major metros. (50 out of 50 in median wages; 47th or 48th out of 50 in average wages, depending on the survey.)”

Orlando low-wage jobs led Cissy Proctor — Rick Scott’s jobs division head — to spar with Scott Maxwell, who wrote in the Orlando Sentinel that the city’s wages “stink.”


“Scott remains tight-lipped about U.S. Senate bid” via Florida Politics — Scott remains tight-lipped about his 2018 plans, telling CNN he won’t make any decision about the U.S. Senate race until a later date. “I’ve always said the same thing: It’s 2017. The race is in 2018. I won’t make a decision until later,” said Scott during an interview with Erin Burnett on her show Erin Burnett OutFront. “Politicians seem to worry about their next job. I’ve got 570 days to go in this job. I’m trying to make Florida No. 1 for jobs, No. 1 for people being safe … and No. 1 for education.” Scott is widely believed to be considering a U.S. Senate run in 2018. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has already said he plans to run for re-election.

Kirsten Gillibrand backs Gwen Graham for governor — The New York Democrat announced Tuesday she was endorsing Gwen Graham in her bid for governor. “I am proud to join thousands of others in supporting Gwen Graham, a strong progressive leader, for Governor of Florida. In the age of Trump, we need courageous leaders like Gwen who will always put people over politics and aren’t afraid to stand up to anybody to do what is right,” said Gillibrand in a statement. “For her strength and leadership skills, her fortitude and passion, I offer my strongest endorsement of Democrat Gwen Graham for Governor of Florida. Take it from me: with Gwen Graham as governor, Florida will have a champion for progressive values in the Governor’s office.” The endorsement comes on the heels of the annual Leadership Blue Gala. Graham said Gillibrand’s “support and the support of women from across the country who share our mission to turn Florida blue is humbling and drinking our campaign forward.”

New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand backs Gwen Graham for Governor.

Chris King brings home his ‘progressive entrepreneur’ campaign message” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsKing … sought to distance himself from both his Democratic challengers, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Graham, as well as the Republicans. It’s a continuation of the “progressive entrepreneur” theme King initiated when he kicked off his campaign in Orlando two months ago. King criticizes Florida Republicans for overseeing a drop in inflation-adjusted wages and benefits, or doing nothing about it, and for, he said, leading Florida to place at the bottom of the nation’s 10 most populous states in per capita income, productivity, gross domestic product, and mental health care services. … “You can be a progressive, and believe in equality, and opportunity, and fairness, and justice, and care for the neediest among us. You can also marry that to entrepreneurship, to integrity, and hard work, and discipline, and stewardship. When those things are brought together, I’ve found in business it was a magical formula,” King said. “In government, it can be a game-changer for the Democratic Party.”

Richard Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC pulls in $608,000 in first month — including $100k from Norm Braman” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The Braman gift, however, is telling as Corcoran is rumored to be using the PAC to position himself for higher office. Miami’s business leaders were in a serious tizzy in late April, when it appeared that Miami Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, the House’s lead negotiator on a gambling bill, presented an offer to the Senate that indicated House leadership was prepared to overcome years of resistance and agree to authorize a new gaming facility in Miami-Dade. Braman joined health care executive Mike Fernandez, and Miami developer Armando Codina calling legislators enraged that they would move forward with the idea without understanding the impact it could have on the city, local businesses and the city’s successful economic boom. In less than a week, talks collapsed and the bill was declared dead. Corcoran’s report, posted on his Watchdog PAC site, indicates he raised another $183,000 in donations of between $100 and $1,000 before his much-publicized fundraisers hosted by Orlando trial attorney John Morgan at the home of another Orlando trial attorney, Zander Clem.

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” breakfast with supporters at The Copper Monkey, 14209 West Newberry Road in Newberry.

Simone Marstiller takes herself out of Attorney General contention” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Former appellate judge and Republican Marstiller said on Facebook she will not run for Attorney General in 2018. “NOT running for AG,” she posted Monday night. “Holding that office has been a dream of mine for a long time. But I’ve reluctantly concluded that running for the office just isn’t financially feasible for me. Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you for encouraging me and pledging your support. I am blessed beyond measure to have people like you in my life. The adventure continues …” … Her name was first floated in a January post on The Capitolist by Brian Burgess, who included her among his picks to replace current Attorney General Pam Bondi amid rumors she was leaving to take a post in Trump‘s administration. Bondi is term-limited in 2018.

Former appellate judge and Republican Simone Marstiller bows out of Attorney General race.

Ashley Moody endorsed by three Tampa Bay-area state Senators — Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Sen. Tom Lee, and Sen. Dana Young have endorsed Moody in her race to replace Bondi in 2018, the Moody campaign announced Tuesday. “We are proud to have the support of three of our state’s most trusted Republican leaders. They are not just leaders in Tallahassee, but in their respective communities,” said Moody in a statement.” They are champions for the common sense, conservative principles that have helped make our state a great place to live, work, vacation, and retire. I’m extremely thankful for their support and I hope to work with them in the years to come to continue to make Florida safer and stronger.” Moody, a Hillsborough County Republican, faces Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant in the Republican primary to replace Bondi.

Hillsborough County leaders back Moody for AG — Rep. Jackie Toledo, Hillsborough County Doug Belden, and Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively announced they were endorsing Moody in the race to replace Bondi in 2018. Moody, a former Hillsborough circuit judge, said she was pleased to have their endorsements. “Doug works each and every day to save taxpayers money and make government more efficient and effective. He is recognized statewide as an outstanding Tax Collector and public servant. I’m so humbled to call him a friend and I thank him for his support,” she said in a statement. “The well-being of our children and the quality of their education are top priorities of Melissa Snively. As a mother, I can’t thank her enough for her dedication to our children and improving our public-school system. Representative Toledo’s passion for public service is apparent to each and every person she meets. Her commitment to her constituents and making our community and state a better place sets a shining example for all public servants. I’m thankful for her leadership in Tallahassee and for the support of all of these outstanding elected officials.”

Bernie Sanders isn’t backing Tim Canova in his second bid against Debbie Wasserman Schultz” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Canova announced he will challenge Wasserman Schultz again in 2018 despite a 14-point loss in the Democratic primary to the longtime congresswoman from Weston. But this time around, Sanders isn’t on board. “I have no idea about Tim Canova, I honestly don’t,” Sanders said when asked if he plans to support Canova’s second bid against Wasserman Schultz. “I know nothing about Tim Canova.” Sanders declined to answer whether he thinks Wasserman Schultz should face a primary challenge from a more liberal-leaning Democrat. The Canova campaign said the lack of support from Sanders doesn’t matter even though it could mean millions in contributions from supporters of the Vermont senator.

Tim Canova is not feeling the love from Bernie Sanders this time.

Florida Chamber endorses Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 — The Florida Chamber of Commerce announced it was backing Diaz in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “Representative Jose Felix Diaz continues to put Florida families and businesses first, and has remained an advocate for free enterprise and job creation,” said Marian Johnson, the senior vice president of political strategy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The Florida Chamber is proud to endorse Representative Jose Felix Diaz for the Florida Senate.” Diaz faces former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares in the July special primary to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal. “If you ask the residents of District 40 what their biggest issues are — the answer is clear — jobs and the economy. The Florida Chamber of Commerce represents the biggest job creators in Florida, and I am honored to have their support for my State Senate race,” said Diaz in a statement. “I am proud of my record in support of low taxes and a responsible regulatory environment that both promotes sustained economic growth and protects consumers.”

Republican rivals disagree on key issues in Miami Senate forum” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — State Rep. Diaz and attorney Lorenzo Palomares told about 100 people gathered at Miami Dade College Kendall Campus where they stand on key issues. Primary candidates tend to have few differences — but not in this case. On recently passed education legislation known as House Bill 7069: Diaz supports it, Palomares doesn’t. On a legislative deal to implement medical marijuana rules: Diaz supports it, Palomares doesn’t. On the future of transit in Miami-Dade County: Diaz envisions autonomous vehicles, Palomares wants to expand the Dolphin Expressway past the western edge of the Urban Development Boundary. … Notably absent from the nevertheless largely amicable discussion was former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who is locked in a bitter campaign chiefly against Diaz.

Republican rivals in Miami House race are still trying to out-Cuban each other” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Foreign policy is not the purview of state lawmakers. Nevertheless, on Friday, after Trump’s East Little Havana event, candidate Jose Mallea‘s campaign put out a robocall to House District 116 Republican voters touting Mallea’s support for Trump’s policy shift. “Mallea is a real Republican, Cuban-American, who wants to fight for a free Cuba,” the call said. “In contrast, his opponent, Daniel Perez, was a beneficiary of the Obama-Castro policy, going to Cuba on a luxury vacation to take his engagement photos.” … Meantime, Perez’s campaign was sending voters a letter, in English and Spanish, from Perez’s parents, vouching for their son’s Cuban roots. The family left Cuba in 1969, Guelcys and Eugenio Perez wrote in their “personal message,” which also said Perez’s uncle Antonio Perez “died fighting against the Castro regime.” “The truth is that Danny traveled to Cuba with his fiancee, Stephanie, to visit her sick uncle and her family,” they wrote. “Danny was NOT in Cuba as a tourist, as his opponent and The Miami Herald are attempting to falsely portray!!”

Four Republicans, one Democrat qualify to run in HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — The Republicans who qualified are former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski, who ran in a similar region last year in an unsuccessful, but close, bid for Orange County commissioner; John Newstreet, president and chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce; businessman Bruno Portigliatti, and urgent care physician Dr. Usha Jain. Businessman Paul Chandler is the Democrats’ candidate. Republicans may be looking ahead from this election. If a Republican wins, it’ll give that person a year’s head-start on campaigning, fundraising, and collecting IOUs for the prospect of becoming Speaker of the House for the freshmen class of representatives who’ll new voted into office in 2018.

— “Democrat Nuren Haider withdrawing from HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

— “Republican HD 44 candidate John Newstreet fundraiser claims $20K” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

Mark Lipton files to run in HD 79 — State records show Lipton has filed to run in House District 79 in 2018. Lipton filed the necessary paperwork to replace Rep. Matt Caldwell Monday. The North Fort Myers Democrat joins Republican Michelle Graham in the race to replace Caldwell, who can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

The Miami Beach mystery PAC is under state investigation” via Nicholas Nehamas, Joey Flechas and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A public-corruption probe is underway into a controversial political group linked to Miami Beach commissioner and mayoral candidate Michael Grieco … At least one donor to the political action committee has been subpoenaed by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, according to a Miami Beach defense attorney representing the donor … The list of donors to People for Better Leaders is stocked with Miami Beach vendors, lobbyists and developers with business before the city. The PAC raised $200,000 in 2016. It’s not clear how many of the 23 individuals and corporations that gave to People for Better Leaders received subpoenas. In the Beach, a violation of the city’s ethics ordinance is not a criminal offense, carrying just a small fine. If a commissioner or candidate solicited donations or coordinated with someone else to solicit on their behalf, a fine of $500 per violation would be issued, according to the city code.

Miami Beach Commissioner and mayoral candidate Michael Grieco is linked to the mysterious PAC People for Better Leaders.

Former police chief Jane Castor tops early poll looking at 2019 Tampa mayor’s race” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times — The automated telephone poll, commissioned by Tampa insurance executive Guy King and done by, surveyed 647 registered voters in Tampa. It had a 3.9 percent margin of error and a 95 percent confidence level. When respondents were asked if the election were held today and were given six names to choose from, they responded: Castor, 37.3 percent. Unsure, 29.1 percent. City Council member Mike Suarez, 9.7 percent. Former state Rep. Ed Narain and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, 7.7 percent each. City Council member Harry Cohen, 6.2 percent. Architect Mickey Jacob, 2.3 percent. King said he commissioned the poll because, “I’ve seen the last few years how important having good leadership in the mayor’s office is, (and) I started wondering, when our current mayor is gone, who’s going to fill those shoes?”

“Major project at the Vinoy will require St. Pete voter approval” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A portion of the $50 million renovation plan will need voter approval before construction can begin. Hotel owners announced its one-story parking garage with eight tennis courts on the roof will go before voters for a vote Nov. 7 alongside St. Petersburg mayoral and City Council candidates. If approved, the garage would be built immediately behind the hotel where eight existing tennis courts are located. A 1984 city charter requires construction on historic locations in downtown St. Pete to receive voter approval. The garage won’t require taxpayer funding and will not change the hotel’s overall footprint or impede on St. Pete’s waterfront park system. It will provide approximately 270 new parking spaces for hotel guests, guests of on-site events, Vinoy facility members and people dining at one of the hotel’s restaurants, which are open to nonmembers.

Rendering of one concept for the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club’s two-year, multi-phased renovation and redevelopment project.


“With no legislative action, Confederate statue remains in U.S. Capitol” via Florida Politics — The General abides. With lawmakers taking no action this year, a bronze statue of a Confederate general representing Florida shall remain indefinitely in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Two competing bills died this Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of Grass,” to take Smith’s place. “Next year, we expect movement in the House and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, who sponsored the Bethune measure. “I am encouraged we will get it done next year.”

David Simmons: We’re not done yet with HB 7069” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — At a panel discussion, with three Republican state representatives, held by the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, Simmons sharply criticized the “Schools of Hope” provisions in HB 7069, which he voted against, saying it is setting up underperforming public schools and their students to fail completely. “I don’t think the book is completely written yet on this bill you’ve probably all read about, House Bill 7069,” Simmons said. “It was the amalgamation of at least 20 different subject matter issues that the house put into a bill. Various of us voted against it even though there were a lot of good things in it.” In particular, Simmons charged the Schools of Hope program’s provision that requires schools with consecutive Ds or Fs to be shut down, move all the students to other schools, or create a “district-operated” charter school, which essentially could not be run by the district.

Joe Henderson: Dan Raulerson ‘certainly’ not backing down after saying everyone should be armed” via Florida Politics — Raulerson’s remarks came during a forum at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club in response to a question about how the (Alexandria, Virginia) shooting impacted Florida and the nation. I asked him if he would say the same thing now if he had it to do over again. I got a one-word answer. “Certainly.” Then I got a lot more words. Raulerson isn’t backing down from what said because, and this is important, he honestly believes it’s the right thing to do. “Here’s what I think people are misunderstanding,” he said. “I’m not suggesting we all walk around with 6-shooters in holsters and shoot everybody up. But had (Steve Scalise) not been on the ball field in Washington, there wouldn’t have been two police officers there with guns. He was the only one with a security detail. Without those officers, it would have been a massacre. This isn’t something I’m shying away from. We need to open our eyes and understand we live in a world that is vastly different from 15 years ago.”

Tag, you’re it: Latest state database ‘slowdown’ hinders motorists” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s fickle state-run driver database had more service interruptions Monday, and county tax collectors said they couldn’t give motorists the service they deserve as taxpayers. But the system was back in full working order Tuesday morning. Monday was the first day that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles migrated to a new cloud-based solution as part of a long-term modernization of its decades-old databases. The agency said “slowdowns” in its system affected only vehicle registrations. Driver’s licenses, license renewals and vehicle titles were not affected and police had full access to its data, spokeswoman Beth Frady said. Why were only tag services affected? “We’re trying to get to the bottom of that,” Frady said.

Visit Florida explains changes to local tourism groups” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Visit Florida is sending a message to the state’s local tourism-marketing organizations when it comes to the financial disclosure rules that are intended to make public tax dollars more transparent: Call your attorney. Last week, Visit Florida held a call with the other local organizations to brief them as best they could and answer questions. Agency spokesman Stephen Lawson said they believe local organizations that receive 50 percent or more of revenue from bed taxes and also work with Visit Florida for marketing purposes will be required to disclose how much they pay their board of directors. The new changes were intended to reveal what — if anything — board members were paid for serving the tourism organizations, said Fred Piccolo, spokesman for House Speaker Corcoran who pushed for more transparency at Visit Florida.


John Morgan ready to sue state over smokable pot” via Dara Kam of News Service Florida — “Great Scott!! I’ll be filing my lawsuit for smoke as soon as it goes into law. Independence Day ?? #NoSmokeIsAJoke,” Morgan (@JohnMorganESQ) promised on Twitter … Morgan’s tweet references a quote from Scott, who pledged to sign into law a measure (SB 8A), passed by lawmakers during the special session that lays out the framework for the constitutional amendment, approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November. Morgan has vowed to sue over the issue of whether patients should be able to smoke the marijuana treatment. Despite Morgan’s threats, the proposal now awaiting Scott’s signature bans smoking of marijuana, but it does allow patients to vape marijuana products. In a recent interview, Morgan said that’s not good enough.

John Morgan doubles down on suing the state of Florida over smokable medical marijuana.

“Health Department getting started on medical marijuana rule-making” via Florida Politics — In the wake of the Special Session’s implementing bill, the Florida Department of Health is gearing up to make rules governing the use of medical marijuana. The Department published a “notice of proposed regulation” in the Florida Administrative Register. But the state still could face a lawsuit from Morgan, who backed the constitutional amendment on medical marijuana that passed in 2016 with 71 percent of the vote. He has said he will sue because lawmakers would not allow medical marijuana to be smoked. The implementing bill (SB 8-A) is pending Gov. Scott’s review, though he said he will sign it.

Lakeland scraps medical-marijuana dispensary rules” via Christopher Guinn of the Lakeland Ledger — Lakeland will scrap its medical-marijuana dispensary zoning ordinance in utero as the proposed language, which was slated for a vote July 5, contradicts rules created by the Florida Legislature in a special session. Under the rules approved by the Legislature and awaiting the governor’s signature, cities and municipalities are not able to limit the location of medical-marijuana dispensaries more strictly than they do for pharmacies. The Lakeland ordinance that was up for second of two required readings in front of the public would have prevented the clustering of medical-pot shops, set a minimum proximity to houses of worship and allow them in only two types of building zones. Under the state legislation, cities and counties will be able to ban medical-marijuana dispensaries, but even the commissioners preferring stricter restrictions have not voiced the idea.

Tampa’s Joe Redner wants to grow his own cannabis plants, says suit” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa’s outspoken strip club entrepreneur, Redner, wants to grow his own marijuana plants. So much so that he’s filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health, which under current rules bars Floridians from growing cannabis plants for their personal use, even those who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients. Redner, 77, is a registered patient in Florida and uses cannabis products to treat conditions related to his stage-four lung cancer. While he actively purchases cannabis oil products from local dispensaries, he says he wants the right to grow his own plants, according to the suit filed in Hillsborough County.

Tampa’s outspoken strip club entrepreneur Joe Redner is suing to grow his own medical marijuana.


South Florida’s trials and tribulations with sober homes was in the spotlight this week after Lizette Alvarez with The New York Times looked at the impact opioid addiction — and the state’s sober home system — was impacting Palm Beach County.

According to the report, Delray Beach paramedics responded to 748 overdose calls last year, 65 of which ended in fatalities. All in told, Palm Beach County dealt with 5,000 overdose calls last year.

But as The New York Times notes, “most of the young people who overdose in Delray Beach are not from here.” Instead, many are visitors who come to a community that has “long been hailed as a lifeline for substance abuse.”

The report notes that what many people find is a “crippled and dangerous system, fueled in the past three years by insurance fraud, abuse, minimal oversight and lax laws.” The result has been a “rapid proliferation of troubled treatment centers … and group homes where unknowing addicts, exploited for insurance money fall deeper into addiction.”

“We have these people sending us their children to get healthy,” said Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, who established a sober homes task force to combat the problem, “and they are leaving in ambulances and body bags.”

— “Haven for recovering addicts now profits from their relapses” via Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times

— The Palm Beach Post took a hard look at the addiction treatment and sober home industry with its series “Addiction Treatment: Inside the Gold Rush.”


Kendrick Meek joins King & Spalding — The former Miami congressman has joined King & Spalding as a senior adviser in the government advocacy and public policy practice in Washington, D.C., the firm announced. Meek will focus on health care, homeland security, agriculture, and financial services sectors. “Congressman Meek has built a strong reputation as a bipartisan leader and is highly-regarded by his fellow lawmakers as a strategic negotiator and advocate for his constituents,” said Tom Spulak, chair of the firm’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice, in a statement. “Our clients will benefit from his insights and his deep experience as a legislator at the state and federal level.” Meek served in the U.S. House from 2002 until 2010, during which he served on the House Ways and Means Committee. He sponsored and passed legislation focused on tax, trade and health care issues. Meek did not run for re-election in 2010, choosing instead to run for U.S. Senate, where he came in third behind then-candidate Republican Marco Rubio and then-independent candidate Charlie Crist.

“Miami-Dade school district hired Ballard Partners at $108,000 a year” via The Miami Herald – At a meeting on Wednesday, the School Board approved a three-year contract — at $108,000 a year — with Ballard Partners to advocate for the district’s interests before Congress and several federal agencies. … It’s not unusual for a large school district to have a lobbyist at the federal level. The Broward County school district is represented by the firm Alcalde & Fay in Washington, D.C., and the Palm Beach County school district had a contract with a lobbying firm up until 2010.

New and renewed lobby registration

Angela Dempsey, PooleMcKinley: Gigamon

Matthew Leopold, Carlton Fields Jordan Burt: Resource Environmental Solutions

Lincoln Quinton, NorthPointe LLC: Sandata Technologies

William Rubin, Amy Bisceglia, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Our Children PSN of Florida

Jessica Janasiewicz, Corrine Mixon, Mixon & Associates: Matific USA

Danny Jordan, One Eighty Consulting: Centrify

Samuel Verghese, Don Yaeger, Jeanette Yeager, One Eighty Consulting: Dell Technologies

— ALOE —

That flaming sword in the new Game of Thrones trailer has an important purpose” via Megan McCluskey of Time magazine — Following his brief reappearance in Game of Thrones’ sixth season, Beric Dondarrion is set to make an epic return in the coming seven episodes. The leader of the Brotherhood without Banners — who has been repeatedly resurrected after being originally killed by the Mountain — was last seen successfully recruiting the Hound to travel north. Based on footage from Thrones’ new season seven trailer, it looks as if Beric will wield his famed flaming sword in a battle against the White Walkers. However, this sword — which he first used during the Hound’s season three trial by combat — isn’t just an intimidating weapon. It’s also an integral part of the legend of the One Who Was Promised, a prophesied savior in the religion of R’hllor who is the reincarnation of hero Azor Ahai. Click on the link below to watch the new trailer.

Uber will add a tipping option to its app” via Kia Kokalitcheva of Axios — The feature is first available in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Houston and to all U.S. drivers by the end of July 2017. Uber has notoriously resisted adding a tipping feature to its app since its beginning, even despite it being available via rival Lyft’s service. Last year, as part of a settlement proposal, Uber said that it would tweak its language in regard to tips to clarify to riders that while they’re not expected to tip, they can do so in cash or other means — though it still declined to add an in-app feature. In April, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission said it will propose a new rule that would force credit-card only companies to add in-app tipping. However, Uber has been working on its tipping feature since before this development and is unrelated.

Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe files closure notice” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Grand Café plans to lay off all 193 employees when it closes its Disney Springs location Aug. 1 … The café is owned by Chicago-based Levy Restaurants. Some of the employees, who transferred from Levy’s Portobello Country Italian Trattoria, will return to Portobello, when it reopens after renovations are completed this fall. The remainder have been encouraged to apply at other Levy properties, including Paddlefish and Amway Center, according to Kristi House, regional director of employee relations at Levy. Disney Parks blog reported last month that a new Puck concept is planned for 2018 in the Town Center area of Disney’s shopping and dining complex.

Happy birthday to Rep. Chuck Clemons.


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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