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Sunburn for 6.9.17 – Session collapsing; Pot bill rolling; Supreme Court dishing; Grimsley raising coin; Airbnb booming; Shark biting

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

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

— SESSION ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE AS GOP LEADERS FEUD —

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which has been wracked by feuds among its top leaders for the last several years, is in danger of ending a three-day special session without restoring billions in money that public schools use to pay for day-to-day operations, reports Gary Fineout and Joe Reedy of the Associated Press.

A few days ago it appeared that Scott had worked out an agreement with GOP leaders, but Senate President Joe Negron insisted he never signed off on the deal.

“We’re not just going to rubber stamp an agreement that two parties made without our priorities being taken into account,” Negron said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has so far refused to go along with an override of Scott’s vetoes or set aside more money for hospitals.

House Speaker Rep. Richard Corcoran listens to Rep. Ralph Massullo on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

“We would be the first Republican Legislature that overrode a Republican governor on pork-barrel spending. Find me that example. I don’t think it exists,” Corcoran said.

If legislators don’t act then public schools will lose out on more than $11.4 billion in state funding that it supposed to start trickling down later this summer.

“Negron teed off on ‘fake narrative’ that Senate signed off on Scott-Corcoran budget deal” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – In a stunning departure from his calm demeanor, an irritated Negron on Thursday denounced the “fake narrative” that he struck a deal over the now-imploding special session to fix school funding. Negron didn’t name names, but those close to him say he started to grow irate once Corcoran suggested that the Senate leader wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain …

— Part of Negron’s frustration is rooted in the way he runs the Senate. He doesn’t apply too much pressure to members and often lets them vote their will. As a result, it’s hard to promise votes for any deal — especially one involving Corcoran, whom many senators have begun to despise because they think he has ridden roughshod over the upper chamber.

— In uncharacteristic fashion, Negron pulled back the curtain on how the Senate works internally. He mentioned, for instance, that his office did not approve Senate quotes for the Scott’s press release last Friday announcing the key issues of the special session. More remarkably, he said he wanted to keep the Senate’s name off the special session proclamation.

— “The mood of the [Senate] is that we want to do what we think is right for the people we represent, and we are not going to be told what to do,” Senate budget chief Jack Latvala said Wednesday.

Sen. Jack Latvala reacts as Sen. Gary Farmer tries to make a point in a back corner on the floor of the Senate Thursday. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Was there a strategy behind the Senate vetoes of $75 million in higher education overrides?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Sen. Bill Galvano, the head of the Senate higher education budget, said that the governor’s vetoes seemed to be “an inordinate amount of vetoes” to universities and colleges that betray the Senate’s goal of shoring up universities and colleges this session. The move appears destined to be essentially ignored by the House at this point. So, was there a rhyme or reason for which projects were chosen? Were they targeted projects, intended to put pressure on the House to persuade Speaker Corcoran to reconsider his opposition to overriding vetoes? The answer is “not really,” according to Senate sources. The selection of projects was handled by Senate President Negron‘s office and appear to be based on “whoever had juice.” “We’re feeling left out in Jacksonville,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, whose district was left off the override list.

Funding for HB 7069 left alone after Senate backs off” via The Miami Herald – Florida senators wanting a second crack at stopping a contentious $419 million education reform bill that narrowly passed the Legislature last month were unsuccessful on Thursday in defunding it to redirect the dollars to general K-12 public school spending. Broward County Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer led the charge to undo HB 7069, after Senate Pre-K-12 education budget chairman David Simmons — earlier passionately defiant — backed off his plans to force lawmakers to revisit the legislation during a three-day special session, even though it’s not on the Legislature’s restricted agenda.

– “Deal or no deal? Senate fundraiser makes session extension—complicated” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

— POT BILL ON FAST TRACK DESPITE ‘DYNAMITE’ —

The Special Session’s medical marijuana legislation is speeding toward passage.

For example, the Senate has managed to keep the bill clear of all but technical amendments.

It rejected, on a 15-21 vote, a proposal by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes to take a more laissez-faire approach, abandoning the vertical integration required under the proposed legislation, and allowing people to smoke their medicine.

“This bill allows specialization. This bill allows the market to work. It works in everything else,” Brandes said.

Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, opposed the amendment, arguing patients are more concerned with safety and efficacy than free-market principles.

In addition, it could blow up the legislative effort.

“If we were to accept this amendment, we would be throwing dynamite into the middle of the entire process,” Bradley said.

Another amendment by Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, to allow patients to smoke failed on a 14-20 vote.

Sen. Jeff Clemens questions Sen. Rob Bradley about his medical marijuana implementation bill on the floor of the Senate. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Clemens said he’s never gotten a good explanation from county sheriffs who oppose allowing patients to smoke.

“Their response in public was, ‘We just think it’s unhealthy’ ” — an “absurd” response, he said.

The real reason?

“All I can surmise is that, when you see somebody walking down the street, and they’re smoking marijuana, you don’t want to determine whether they have a (ID) card. It’s just easier to bust them for it,” Clemens said.

Both chambers should vote out their respective bills today (Friday).

“Senate sets up its medical marijuana bill for a vote” via Florida Politics – Sen. Bradley returned to the floor to explain the bill and take questions from fellow senators. The legislation allows “edibles,” “vaping,” drops and pills but not smoking. The issue of whether to allow smoking continues to pit Republicans, who oppose it, against Democrats, who support it. Bradley said he was unmoved by arguments that the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year allows smoking. The amendment’s language refers to smoking but does not explicitly permit it. “If the drafters (of the amendment) wanted smoking to be a constitutional right, they should have said ‘smoking is a constitutional right,’” Bradley told colleagues. He added that medical professionals agree “the taking of smoke into your lungs is an inherently unhealthy act.” For now, the Special Session is still scheduled to end Friday.

“House beats back effort to allow smoking of medical marijuana” via Florida Politics A change to the Special Session’s medical marijuana legislation that would have allowed patients to smoke it was handily defeated Thursday. The amendment offered by Rep. Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, was killed on the House floor by a vote of 37-71. “If a doctor and a patient determine that (smoking) is the best way to alleviate pain, or whatever it might be, then that should be left up to them,” he told reporters after the House’s daily session. “In any doctor-patient relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all.”

At left, Rep. Ray Rodrigues confers with Rep. Brad Drake before introducing his medical marijuana implementing bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Former lawmaker’s connections raise questions about marijuana bill” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Critics worry that the Legislature is on track to lock in place a system composed of a small number of politically connected companies, so it’s noteworthy that the bill includes a provision awarding one of those new licenses to a grower tied to lobbyist and former Sarasota lawmaker Doug Holder. Sources say Holder has told them that he is trying to position himself – or an entity he controls – to have an ownership interest in a company that would profit off the medical marijuana industry. A company Holder has been consulting for, Sun Bulb, would obtain a medical marijuana license under the bill before the Legislature right now. Holder asked to have any questions submitted in writing. Responding through text message, he said that, “I do not have an ownership interest with any nursery that has or is seeking a license to grow medical marijuana” and added that “my relationship with SunBulb is in the area of business development seeking interested investors or partners.”

“Whodunit? or, How did citrus get into Special Session medical marijuana bill?” via Florida PoliticsEveryone loves a mystery, so how did a provision to help concerns with underused or shuttered citrus factories get into this year’s medical marijuana legislation? Language in both bills (SB 8-A, HB 5A) would give preferential treatment for up to two growing licenses to applicants who can show “they own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses, and will use or convert the facility or facilities for the processing of marijuana.” Most recently, the Senate bill was approved by the Health Policy Committee on Thursday morning. Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said he didn’t know where the verbiage came from. “I’m not aware of any specific companies,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Sen. Perry Thurston and Sen. Darryl Rouson confer during a Senate Health Policy Committee meeting to take up a medical marijuana implementing bill Thursday in the Knott Building in Tallahassee. The senators are concerned that none of the original seven licensees are black farmers. Photo credit: Phil Sears

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— STATEWIDE — 

Supreme Court sends Bessman Okafor sentence back, Scott reassigns it from Aramis Ayala” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The move came with swift intervention from state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, who asked the governor to keep the case from going back to Ayala, who has vowed to not prosecute death penalties. The governor concurred, reassigning it to neighboring State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit, as he has done with 23 previous first-degree murder cases in the past three months. “I am grateful,” said Cortes, a Republican who has been a stern critic of Ayala’s declaration and how she arrived at her decision. Okafor’s murder conviction stands, according to the Supreme Court. The court threw out his death penalty and ordered another penalty phase trial.

“Supreme Court strikes down limit on medical malpractice awards” via Florida PoliticsIn a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday agreed with a lower court and said limiting certain damages in personal-injury medical malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional. The ruling split along the usual lines, with the progressive-leaning justices concurring, and the conservatives—now including new Justice C. Alan Lawson—in dissent. The Legislature established $500,000 limits, or caps, on what are called “non­-economic” damages for such cases. The Supreme Court previously ruled they don’t apply in medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death. The 4th District Court of Appeal had extended that decision to personal injury cases.

The Florida Medical Association is disappointed with the ruling, says FMA president David Becker, “but given past decisions, it was not unexpected. The FMA will continue to do all it can to ensure that the costs of the medical liability system do not unfairly impact physicians ability to practice medicine.”

Corrine Brown’s attorney files motion for new trial” via Lynnsey Gardner of News 4 JaxJames Smith had also talked about filing a motion to interview Juror No. 3, the juror who told the I-TEAM that the verdicts might not have been reached if one of the jurors hadn’t told Judge Timothy Corrigan something that got juror No. 13 removed from the panel. But Smith said after reviewing case law, nothing juror No. 3 could tell his team would be admissible in court to invalidate the verdict, but he continued to call the comments from juror No. 3 “disturbing.” “It just doesn’t look like we have a legal avenue to be able to get it in,” Smith said. “So rather than filing a motion where we know we have no chance of winning, we’ll simply move on and pursue the motions that we have that are viable.” Brown is having financial difficulties and hasn’t paid a chunk of her legal bills, sources tell the I-TEAM. Those bills will continue to climb as Brown goes through the appeals process.

“State athletics panel wins case over football field prayer” via Florida Politics – A federal judge ruled this week for the Florida High School Athletic Association, which was sued by Cambridge Christian School in Tampa. Association officials didn’t allow a spoken prayer over the public address system before a 2015 game at an Orlando stadium. The judge disagreed with the school that its constitutional free-speech rights had been violated. To have allowed the prayer would have amounted to a state endorsement, since the Association controlled the loudspeakers, of a religious message. Noting that players gathered on the field for unbroadcast praying, the ruling added that the school was “not denied alternate means of engaging in communal prayer.”

State year-end test results show small fluctuations, with strongest growth in math” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – The percentages of students passing the tests remained overall stable in language arts, math and science. But there was notable improvement among high school students passing the Algebra I end-of-course exam, which is a graduation requirement, and the Algebra II end-of course exam, which lawmakers have slated to eliminate beginning next year. The Algebra I exam has always had high success rates in middle schools, where the students who take the course are advanced. This year, 89 percent of younger children taking the test passed it, up from 88 percent a year ago. The students who remain to take Algebra I in high school have always lagged behind, and this year proved no different. Just 42 percent of high schoolers passed the exam this year. However, that’s up from 36 percent a year earlier, indicating that high schools are working to overcome that gap and improve the course.

Miami Beach voters will decide whether to limit alcohol sales on Ocean Drive” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald – Following shootings during Memorial Day weekend, Miami Beach commissioners unanimously agreed to let voters decide whether to limit alcohol sales at outdoor venues along Ocean Drive. A question will appear on the November ballot asking voters if the city should adopt an ordinance ending alcohol sales in outdoor venues at 2 a.m.instead of 5 a.m. Indoor establishments that are completely enclosed and located entirely within hotels would be exempt. The vote came after last week’s shootings in South Beach, including the fatal shooting of Miami-Dade resident Ladarian T. Phillips during an argument over a parking space. The violence reignited a debate about the state of the South Beach’s entertainment district.

Zika concerns arise after heavy rainstorms” via Caitlin Randle of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – … leading to more mosquito spraying in four Broward cities. The county’s mosquito control division will spray portions of Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise and Lauderhill for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is the variety known to carry and transmit the Zika virus. The spraying is a preventative measure as there are no active cases of Zika in Broward County. One local case of Zika was reported in August of last year.

— WHAT MANY PEOPLE GET WRONG ABOUT FLOODING IN SOUTH FLORIDA —

As South Florida experienced torrential rain this week, with more to come, many communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee watched the big lake rise. From drought conditions Last week, the lake was down to 10 feet. Rains pushed that number up to 11.2 feet. That leaves what Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News calls “breathing room” in Lake O.

It’s unlikely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is will open lock gates before lake level reaches 15-foot-6.

“But something else has begun to happen,” Smith writes. “In some easily flooded areas, canals have risen farther above sea level than the lake.”

What the water table shows are inflows to Lake O from the Martin County side — the St. Lucie Canal — because the lake level is lower than the canal water flowing in the from the east.

During periods of discharges, the number would be positive, but because water is actually flowing INTO Lake O, it’s negative.

The point is, many in the media got it wrong. They followed the Sierra Club’s lead, claiming – as they did in an NBC2 story – farmers were back pumping polluted stormwater into the lake to save flooded crops.

As Smith notes: Farmers have no say in the decision to back pump; they have no authority to turn on the pumps themselves and the South Florida Water Management District, which is in charge of flood control, isn’t concerned with keeping agricultural fields dry — they back pump when communities south of Lake Okeechobee — and the people in them — are flooded.

— DENISE GRIMSLEY TOPS $875K IN BID FOR AG. COMMISSIONER —

Sen. Denise Grimsley has more than $800,000 for her bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Grimsley’s campaign announced it raised a total of $71,000 in the days following the end of the regular 2017 Legislative Session through May 31. That brings her total raised to $875,000 — $386,600 for her official campaign and $488,500 for Saving Florida’s Heartland, her political committee.

“I am honored by the support our campaign has received from Floridians all over the state. We are working hard every day talking to voters about the vital importance of agriculture to our state’s economic health and the need for continued conservative leadership from our next Commissioner,” she said in a statement.

“With over two million Florida agriculture-related jobs, we need a proven fighter to carry the Republican banner next November and hold this seat,” she continued. “With over 600 donors and more joining our campaign every day, our message of supporting farmers and ranchers, defending our Second Amendment rights, and fighting to protect families and seniors is resonating with Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys.”

Grimsley faces Rep. Matt Caldwell and Paul Paulson in the Republican race to replace Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits.

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Gwen Graham calls for gun safety measures in advance of Pulse anniversary” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Graham proposed new gun safety measures in the wake of Monday’s mass shooting outside Orlando and the approaching one-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting. “A year after the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history — after the murder of 49 young people — Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature haven’t done a thing to curb gun violence in our state,” she said in a statement. Graham called for comprehensive universal background checks on all gun sales “to stop criminals and terrorists from purchasing guns.” She also proposed: a ban on large-capacity magazines; a requirement that abusers surrender firearms when a protective order is issued against them; and giving law enforcement “the tools they need to prevent those with serious mental illness from purchasing or keeping firearms.”

First on #FlaPol – “Baxter Troutman entering competitive Ag. Commissioner race” via Bill Rufty of SaintPetersBlogThe grandson of the late citrus baron and one-time gubernatorial candidate, Ben Hill Griffin Jr., Troutman will enter the competitive race to succeed Putnam. “I will file either Friday or Monday at the latest,” Troutman said. “This isn’t a decision I came to lightly and it isn’t a step to advance to a higher position up the career ladder.” 

Assignment editors: Jeremy Ring is scheduled to address annual convention of the Florida Professional Firefighters at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota.

Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell weighing bid for Carlos Curbelo’s seat” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami HeraldDebbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016, was in Washington on Thursday to meet with party leaders and members of Congress. “I met with various members of Congress who are extremely concerned about the direction our country is in, they are encouraging me to take a serious look at it,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “One of the reasons I’m considering it is that I’m fully committed to the people in the district. The horrible healthcare vote that Curbelo took a few weeks ago shows that they don’t have a member in Congress. He doesn’t represent the district.” Mucarsel-Powell met with Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel along with Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell and Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark.

Equality Florida backs Annette Taddeo in SD 40 — Equality Florida Action PAC announced Thursday it was throwing its support behind Taddeo, a Miami-Dade Democrat, in the race to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “We are proud to endorse a true champion for equality in Senate District 40, replacing one of the most anti-LGBTQ legislators in Florida’s history,” said Hannah Willard, public policy director for Equality Florida. “We are eager to work with our ally and friend Annette Taddeo in Tallahassee, and we know she will tirelessly advocate for the best interest of all her constituents, including LGBTQ Floridians.” Taddeo said she was honored by the early support of Equality Florida Action PAC. “I am a longtime Ally of the LGBTQ community, not only because it’s the right thing to be, but because it’s personal to me,” she said in a statement. “As a teenager, I witnessed the injustices my sister confronted as she came out, and saw some in the family I love be ashamed, more worried about appearances than my sister’s happiness or love. I stood up for her then and will continue fighting for equality until everyone understands that love is love. I look forward to taking this fight to the Florida Senate.”

Republican attacking opponent for Cuba travel has himself worked with Cuban exporter” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New TimesJose Mallea once worked as a lobbyist for (Ariel) Pereda and later chaired a fundraising group founded by the businessman who regularly deals with Havana. Mallea’s work for Pereda was perfectly legal, but it raises a serious question of just how strongly Mallea believes that traveling to Cuba or spending money on the island “feeds the dictatorship.” After all, Pereda’s work has a much bigger impact on the Cuban economy than a 29-year-old who took some engagement photos there.

Rick Baker raises more than half-a-million dollars in May for mayoral bid” via Florida Politics – After just three weeks on the campaign trail, Baker‘s campaign is reporting that it raised an eye-opening $553,174 in contributions to his campaign and Seamless Florida, an affiliated political committee. Baker’s haul is a record-breaking amount for any campaign during the six elections the city of St. Petersburg has conducted under its current strong-mayor form of government. Baker’s campaign says it received money from 651 contributors, of which nearly half gave $25 of less.

— MOVEMENTS —

How Brian Ballard is turning close ties to Trump into big business” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Trump pledged to “drain the swamp,” but Ballard is flourishing in a city where access is the ultimate commodity. “It’s luck,” he said in an interview from his new office on a recent afternoon, a Diet Coke before him and the TV tuned to Fox News. … Having already opened offices across Florida, including Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Ballard now is has formed partnerships with firms in New York and Chicago and is exploring Austin and Los Angeles.

Personnel note: Jennifer Hinson joins Rutledge Ecenia – Most recently, Hinson served as Senior Director of Hospital Contracting for WellCare Health Plans, where she had overall responsibility for WellCare’s Florida hospital network. She brings extensive knowledge in health care law and policy through private and public-sector experience. Throughout her career, Hinson has worked on a wide range of issues in health care law, and policy and litigation.

Personnel note: Zoe Linafelt joins Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers Linafelt leaves Sachs Media Group to become the statewide organization’s communications manager, reporting to Chief Communications Officer Molly Kellogg-Schmauch. Linafelt has over seven years of experience in communications. “We are thrilled to have someone of Zoe’s skill and background join us at FCCC,” Kellogg-Schmauch said. “She brings a wealth of experience in strategic planning, writing and campaign measurement, and will be a strong addition to the team.” Linafelt received her undergraduate degree in English from Florida State University. She is an active member of the Capital Chapter of FPRA, currently serving as the director of membership.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Rebecca Roman, Adams St. Advocates: Unisys Corporation

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “1967 Tampa Race Riots & The Taking of The Central Ave. Community” with documentary filmmaker Travis R. Bell, professor at the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Mass Communications & Marketing.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include Dr. Susan MacManus, USF professor of Government and International Affairs; reporter Joe Henderson; Democratic National Committee Member Alan Clendenin and Republican Party activist Leonard Mead.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on current and proposed gun legislation with Democratic State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando, Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood and Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Angel Santiago, Jr.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto talks proposed gun legislation and reform introduced in Congress. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about mass shootings and current gun legislation.

Orlando Democrat Darren Soto talks guns and gun control bills in Congress on Spectrum’s Sunday talker Political Connections.

Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO: Friday night guests include author and activist Michael Eric Dyson; performer Ice Cube; former NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory; former Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly, and Symone Sanders, who served as national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will be speaking with Feeding Florida director Robin Safley.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week, Justice speaks with Jacksonville City Council member Danny Becton, Duval County Public School Chair Paula Wright and School Board member Becki Couch. Also appearing is Teri Chenot, associate professor at the Keigwin School of Nursing /Brooks Rehabilitation College of Health Care Sciences at Jacksonville University.

— GRADUATION SEASON MEANS BIG BUCKS FOR AIRBNB —

Floridians traveling for the college graduation took advantage of vacation rental options in a big way, according to new data from Airbnb.

The data showed local Airbnb host communities expanded lodging capacities and offered affordable rental rates for visiting families. The report found guests booking rooms in Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes more than doubled the Gainesville and Tallahassee around University of Florida and Florida A&M graduations.

“Home sharing provides significant economic value by expanding lodging capacity during commencement weekends for Florida communities that are home to large universities,” Tom Martinelli, policy director of Airbnb Florida, stated in a news release.

“As a Gator alumnus, I can certainly relate to my family having to book Gainesville hotel rooms a year in advance of my graduation, as is the case in college communities throughout the state,” he recalled. “We’re very encouraged to see how our platform has been utilized to provide affordable lodging accommodations for college families during stretches when hotels traditionally reach peak occupancy.”

The report noted 290 Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes hosted 752 guests during the week of UF’s late April commencement. That’s 136 percent more than rental activity than the previous week.

In Tallahassee, 290 Airbnb vacation rental homes hosted 444 guests during FAMU’s graduation week, a 138 percent increase. The following week they hosted 637 guests for FSU’s commencement week, but since the previous week was FAMU’s graduation, the increase was just 35 percent. Tallahassee also was hosting the last two weeks of the Florida Legislative Session during those weeks.

Jacksonville’s 350 vacation rental home hosts saw 759 guests during the University of North Florida’s graduation in late April, a 59 percent increase over the previous week.

In Pensacola, 230 hosts had 433 guests during University of West Florida’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week; while 230 hosts had 433 guests during UWF’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week.

— ALOE —

Man attacked by shark while spearfishing” via Timothy O’Hara of the Florida Keys News – Despite being bit by a shark and treated at the hospital, Key West resident Parker Simpson will return to spearfishing off the Florida Keys as soon as possible. Simpson was spearfishing some 6 miles off Stock Island when he was bit in the leg by a reef shark, Simpson said. Simpson and friends were freediving and shooting fish in roughly 50 feet of water. Simpson lost more than two pints of blood. He later said he spent four hours at a hospital.

 Happy birthday to the Ambassador of Tallahassee, Jay Revell. Celebrating this weekend are Nick Iarossi, Amy Farrington, and Mike Fasano.

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

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