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FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THIS WEEK?
1. What’s the over/under on the total dollar amount of line-item vetoes by Gov. Scott? (I say he’ll be under $100 mil.)
2. Speaking of the budget, does Gov. Scott sign it Monday afternoon or Tuesday?
3. Speaking of Gov. Scott signing bills, when will SB 1030 — the Charlotte’s Web bill allowing for the cultivation and distribution of non-euphoric medical marijuana treatments in Florida — make its way to the governor’s desk?
4. Speaking of medical marijuana, what kind of news will come out of a first-of-its kind medical marijuana business conference expected to draw 150 to 200 people to Orlando later this week.
5. No segue for this one, but what will be the next bombshell dropped during the redistricting trial?
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JEB BUSH AND MARCO RUBIO DROP IN IMPORTANT GOP STRAW POLL Full blog post here
In a GOP straw poll of possible 2016 presidential contenders taken last week, Ted Cruz once again came out on top, while moderate Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio did not fare as well.
The freshman senator and Tea Party favorite from Texas was one of the leading speakers at the annual Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, reports CNN.
Cruz led the pack in the conference’s straw poll with just over 30 percent, followed by conservative activist Dr. Ben Carson with 29 percent. Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky came in third with a little more than 10 percent.
Rounding out the top five were former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, each getting about 5 percent.
Among the Republicans skipping the conference, were Bush and Rubio. The two fared much worse in the straw poll, coming in seventh and eighth at 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was last with 1 percent.
Although neither Carson nor Paul spoke, the conservative crowd did show them significant support. The annual conference is a who’s who of big-name Republicans and is becoming a key venue for potential presidential candidates.
OBAMA: HILLARY CLINTON WOULD BE A VERY EFFECTIVE PRESIDENT
President Barack Obama says Hillary Clinton would be a very effective president if she decides to run.
Obama says in a television interview that he and Clinton are “buddies” and he’s long admired her.
They fought in the long-running 2008 primary for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Obama says she couldn’t have been more effective and loyal as his secretary of state.
The president says he’s been blessed to have her work for him, along with Vice President Joe Biden and his chief of staff Denis McDonough.
The president’s comments are in an interview taped Thursday, the same day he and Clinton had a private lunch at the White House. His interview was broadcast Friday on the talk show “Live! With Kelly and Michael.”
OBAMACARE STILL VIEWED VERY NEGATIVELY
A new Kaiser Health tracking poll finds the Affordable Care Act is still viewed unfavorably by Americans, 45 percent to 38 percent.
Sharp political polarization continues to exist, with 64 percent of Democrats having a favorable opinion of the law and 75 percent of Republicans expressing an unfavorable view.
NEW WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC. HAS FLORIDA TIES via William March of the Tampa Tribune
Josh Earnest, new White House press spokesman, has some Florida history that carries a touch of irony for today’s political environment.
In 2006, Earnest was press spokesman for former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa, who lost to then-Republican Charlie Crist in the governor’s race.
That’s just one of many odd juxtapositions that have resulted from Crist’s switch from a Republican to no-party affiliate to Democrat today, including a few Republicans now backing Crist against Gov. Scott and Crist allying with former opponents.
But the state Republican Party immediately leapt on the Earnest appointment, contending it “disses Crist.”
The party dug up a few quotes from 2006 in which Earnest criticized Crist — they aren’t hard to find — and said, “Add this to the list of awkward moments for Florida Democrats and Charlie Crist.”
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CURT CLAWSON ADDRESSES REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE
Clawson, the Republican nominee for Southwest Florida’s U.S. House seat, addressed thousands gathered Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
“Curt was discussing how staying true to Constitutional conservatism is a message of opportunity to the African-American, Hispanic and other non-traditional Republican communities,” said his spokesman, David James. “He was invited because of his recent primary victory in the special election, reflecting his ability to unite business and CEO types with constitutional and Tea Party conservatives.”
The conference signals the unofficial kickoff of the 2016 presidential campaign season. The conference is known for its presidential straw poll, which was won by Sen. Cruz of Texas.
LESLIE DOUGHER ELECTED RPOF CHAIR via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Florida Republicans on Saturday elected Clay County GOP chairwoman Leslie Dougher as interim chair to guide the party through the election cycle this fall. She defeated Eric Miller of Martin County, 106-69.
Party activists gathered under a large white air-conditioned tent on the grounds of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay to ratify the choice of Dougher by party leaders in a crucial election cycle when some Republicans say a unified effort will be needed to ensure that Gov. Scott is re-elected.
Scott was among those supporting Dougher’s candidacy, but the event had a scripted feel that left a small number of activists disgruntled by what St. Lucie County GOP Chairman Bill Paterson called a “top-down” election dictated by insiders.
Dougher, 50, a Middleburg real estate agent and a California native, is a long-time grass roots GOP activist who had the backing of leading Republicans such as House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Sen. John Thrasher who nominated Dougher and called for unity to secure Republican victories this fall.
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JACKSON COLUMN: CRIST’S CUBA VISIT WOULD SEND A MESSAGE
We can’t expect everyday Americans, whose concept of Cuba begins with “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” and ends with Los Angeles Dodger Yasiel Puig, to grasp the essence of evil that lies 90 miles south of Key West. But Charlie Crist did, once upon a time when Floridians imagined his policy stances emerged from examined principles. Remember, he properly excoriated his Democratic rival in the 2006 governor’s election, former Tampa Congressman Jim Davis, for having taken the same trip he now plans.
Now we know — at least some of us know — better. Crist on Cuba is the same as Crist on abortion, gun rights, Obamacare, same-sex marriage, voter-fraud prevention, hiking the minimum wage, medical marijuana and leaving the GOP… to name a few areas in which he opportunistically has transmogrified, all in narcissistic pursuit of nabbing the Democratic nomination, then knitting together a 50-percent-plus-one majority in November.
Well, good luck with that. A Survey USA poll of likely voters released May 23 on behalf of WFLA-TV, Channel 8, had some disquieting news for Changeling Charlie. Not only has Rick Scott eased into a 2-point overall lead with commanding advantages among men and along the Interstate 4 corridor, the first poll taken since Crist declared he would surrender his itinerary to the contemptible Castro regime in hopes of snapping selfies with the island proletariat shows Scott ahead 2-1 among … wait for it … Cubans.
Perhaps that critical mass hasn’t shifted so much, after all. Still time to back out, Charlie. Still time to do the right, even politic, thing.
JOBS NOT HELPING SCOTT’S RATINGS via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Florida’s job market is the healthiest it’s been since Gov. Scott was elected in 2010.
The unemployment rate is dropping and the number of jobs created in the state is now over 600,000, Scott told more than 100 employees at a small boat manufacturing company in Manatee County.
Yet, while other Republican governors in economically rebounding states such as Ohio and Wisconsin have seen their political fortunes climb as their states turn around, Scott has not. In fact, many political analysts rate Scott among the most endangered incumbent governors in the nation.
For most of this year, Scott battled negative job approval ratings from voters in public polls — a stark contrast to his GOP colleagues in the other states who are getting raves and are seen as near shoo-ins for their re-elections.
About 50 percent of registered voters in a Quinnipiac University poll in April said they disapproved of the job Scott has done as governor. Compare that to Ohio’s John Kasich, who had only 33 percent of voters disapproving of his job performance in a Quinnipiac Poll released earlier this month. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s disapproval percentage was at 46 percent in a Marquette University poll released last week.
Asked why he hasn’t seen a similar rebound, Scott answered as he often does, repeating the improving economic numbers that have yet to move the electorate, at least in opinion polls.
What Scott’s campaign is learning is that despite the conventional wisdom of the 1990s, it’s not always just about the economy. In good economic times, voters don’t always give credit to the candidates as expected, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
LIGHT VETOES PREDICTED WHEN GOV. SCOTT SIGNS BUDGET via Steve Bousquet and Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times
Gov. Scott’s veto pen is looking more like a scalpel as signs point to him trimming a fraction of spending in a record-high $77.1 billion election-year budget.
Scott is expected to sign the budget by Tuesday, and it will be an opportunity to express his fiscal values as he seeks a second term.
His line-item vetoes are highly anticipated because Scott is running as a fiscal conservative and careful steward of tax dollars, but the budget on his desk is loaded with hundreds of millions in discretionary spending in every part of the state. Most projects were championed by Republicans whose support Scott will need on the campaign trail.
If Scott vetoes much of the spending, he will offend Republican lawmakers who delivered on his priorities in the session that ended May 2. If he approves most of it, he will face criticism for rubber-stamping what some see as wasteful pork-barrel politics.
One of Scott’s strongest allies in the Capitol, Sen. John Thrasher, expects Scott to veto no more than $100 million, which would be the least in his four years as governor.
HEARING that the Gov. will sign the budget later today…
WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – HAS FLORIDA FOUND THE SECRET TO SAVING THE ECONOMY? via Tim Mullaney of the Wall Street Journal
Smart investors, and citizens, should think about the minus-sized magician today when they look at the government’s new estimates of first-quarter gross domestic product. Because what went right in Florida, which has built an investment boom around the reported $260 million that Universal spent on the now four-year-old Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is the flip side of what’s wrong with the national economy.
Florida is surging because tourism leaders massively reinvested in their businesses throughout a recession that took statewide unemployment to 11.4 percent. When consumers had money again, Orlando and Miami had new stuff for tourists to do, from Harry Potter to Legoland, with new attractions opening every season. Those new products, created because tourism players large and small had the guts and vision to invest when Orlando’s hotel occupancy fell below 50 percent, drew new customers and ignited 600,000 new jobs.
But nationally, investment has been at best tepid — at worst, awful. It collapsed during the recession, falling at annual rates of more than 30 percent during parts of 2008-2009. Even recently, the numbers are bad. And last year’s pace is down by two-thirds from a mediocre 2011 and 2012.
Don’t blame the politicians: The collapse in investment growth came after business lobbies got most of what they wanted in the 2011 budget act and 2012 fiscal-cliff deal — smaller federal deficits, way less government spending, and the “certainty” about future policy that suits on CNBC kept claiming was the key to the kingdom. (And 20 percent capital-gains rates, low carried-interest taxes and a host of other concessions. They did not, however, get lower corporate-tax rates that might have required cuts in consumer tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction.) Thus appeased, CEOs invested even less.
The problem has been CEOs nationally who lack the cojones Floridians had in 2008, being less willing to invest and take risk before consumer demand is obvious. In the past two recoveries, we’ve seen investment grow about 12 percent a year when the economy is cooking. By its nature, investment is supposed to rise when things heat up. In this cycle, it hasn’t.
The signs of rising consumer demand are clear now, but will business step up and match the demand with new products worth buying, and more efficient processes to make them?
To put it in terms politicians understand: The model is Florida, Florida, Florida.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a hurricane readiness press conference. Escambia County Emergency Operations Center, 6575 North W. Street, Pensacola. 12 p.m.
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CONTEXT FLORIDA: GUNS & MENTAL HEALTH, KOCH BOTHERS, REDISTRICTING AND POLITICAL ADS
On Context Florida: On the recent killing of six college students in Santa Barbara, Marc Yacht writes that although sensible gun policy is urgently needed, gun restrictions alone will not end the carnage. The lack of mental health services point right to the nation’s dysfunctional health-care system. If the Koch Brothers and radical-right groups get their way in November, Stephen Goldstein says, Republicans will maintain or increase their power in state governments nationwide and things will be as bad, or worse, than ever in Washington, D.C. The landmark Florida redistricting trial is exposing partisan hijinks and shady backroom conniving that enabled Republican leaders to pick voters instead of the voters picking them, writes Mark Ferrulo, something that is a clear violation of the Fair Districts Constitutional Amendments. Former Sen. John Grant is already tired of the negative, cheesy and underhanded political ads aimed at pulling opponent candidates down, with the political season only in its semi-annual infancy.
CHIEF JUSTICE APPLIES FOR FSU JOB via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston on Saturday jumped into the race to become the next president of Florida State University.
Polston’s decision to seek the top spot at his alma mater is a surprising development since right now the frontrunner for the position is state Sen. John Thrasher.
But Thrasher’s candidacy has come under fire from some FSU faculty and students who have suggested he is getting the nod due to his political connections. The search committee agreed to interview Thrasher at a June meeting after a search consultant told members that the university was having trouble attracting other high profile candidates in the wake of Thrasher’s interest in the job.
FSU has been without a permanent president since Eric Barron stepped down earlier this year to take the top spot at Penn State University. While Barron was highly regarded by FSU alumni, his decision to leave came as a shock to many FSU supporters since it occurred during the middle of a large fundraising campaign. FSU is also in the middle of an effort, aided by extra money from the state, to bolster its ranks among American universities.
In his letter to the FSU search committee, Polston said that he was applying out a deep loyalty to his alma mater. Polston has two degrees from FSU including his law degree.
“I am not seeking a career path upward in the university system,” Polston wrote. “I am not being critical of President Barron in any way for leaving, but the practical effect of his exit is that we are now faced with following through with a plan in the initial stages, and in a very disruptive search proceeding.
“At a time when we should be taking great strides to advance FSU in a unified way, we are experiencing divisive events,” Polston wrote. “We need unity to achieve our goals.”
JOHN THRASHER’S TIES TO FLORIDA STATE GO DEEP via Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times
To understand Sen. Thrasher’s deep bond with Florida State University, start in the 1960s.
The Jacksonville native enrolled in the business school, earning his bachelor’s degree. After a stint with the Army in Vietnam, he returned for a law degree in 1972.
His involvement in politics as a leader of the Republican Party provided a platform for him to give back. During an eight-year tenure in the Florida House, including two as speaker, Thrasher earmarked millions in the state budget for updating campus facilities and programs. One of his final acts as the outgoing leader in 2000 was overcoming powerful opposition to create a medical school at FSU; its building was later named the John Thrasher College of Medicine Building.
When Thrasher returned to the private sector, he started a lucrative lobbying firm that allowed him time to give back to FSU in a new way: as the first chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees. There he suffered one of few defeats as he tried to establish a school of chiropractic medicine.
Thrasher returned to the Legislature in 2009 after winning a special election for a Senate seat representing St. Augustine. Soon after, he was appointed chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He also developed a strong relationship with Gov. Scott and now serves as his re-election campaign chairman.
Thrasher’s education policies will get the most scrutiny as he prepares to interview for the FSU presidency.
He joined a majority of legislators in supporting a $300 million cut to state universities in 2012, the same year he also emerged as a vocal backer of fast-tracking the establishment of Florida Polytechnic University. Then-FSU President Eric Barron never hid his disdain for the slash in funding and said it had a negative long-term impact.
DEPUTY DEP SECRETARY JEFF LITTLEJOHN RESIGNS via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times
After three years of running the regulatory side of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn — son of veteran Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Chuck Littlejohn — turned in his resignation Friday afternoon.
Littlejohn, a frequent target of criticism from environmental activists, said in his resignation letter that he was glad he had been able to reduce “unnecessary regulatory burdens” on Floridians by eliminating or streamlining hundreds of rules “without lowering environmental standards.”
He also said his staff of 1,250 had “significantly reduced the time it takes to make a permit decision” from 79 days in 2010 to 28 days this year.
Littlejohn, who earned $125,000 a year, said he would be pursuing a job in the private sector, but did not say what. Prior to being hired by DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. in March 2011, Littlejohn spent more than 10 years working as a consulting engineer getting state and federal permits for his clients.
In a memo to the staff, Vinyard hailed Littlejohn’s work at DEP, which he said “yielded tremendous performance gains for DEP and Florida’s natural resources.”
FLORIDA COMMUTER RAIL PROVIDES ECONOMIC BENEFITS, BUT IT’S EXPENSIVE Full blog post here
Light rail may have created some economic activity in Central and South Florida, but it also comes with many concerns for taxpayers, according the state’s leading government watchdog group.
The non-profit Florida TaxWatch released its latest Economic Commentary, highlighting Orlando’s recently launched SunRail and South Florida’s All Aboard Florida commuter rail, which expects to begin operating in 2016.
Pinellas County is also considering creating a light rail corridor, with the upcoming Greenlight Pinellas initiative, which is based on a one-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot that supporters claim will “transform bus service and create a modern passenger rail system.”
In the report, TaxWatch recognizes the need for improved transit throughout the state, and Florida is receiving a few benefits from at least one of the rail systems.
After independent analysis, TaxWatch found that the Orlando SunRail commuter line, the first new commuter rail system to open in the United States in nearly three years, created 17,000 local jobs, with nearly $1.7 billion in new economic development.
However, TaxWatch also points out several potential drawbacks to commuter rail, such as declining property values, increased traffic congestion, and high public investment costs.
The report warns that local governments should balance the costs of commuter rail against the benefits, and explore other options to ensure the best, most economically efficient solution to Florida’s long-term transportation needs.
PERSONNEL NOTE re Joanna Hassell: “She is now the Deputy Director of Policy/Implementation for ExcelinEd, so her work is more policy-focused, supporting student-centered reform efforts across the country,” emails Deputy Comms Director Allison Aubuchon.
STORY TOO IMPORTANT TO MISS, BUT TOO LONG TO CLIP: “How DCF kept 30 child deaths off the books” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald
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EDITORIAL: WHERE IS THE CHARLOTTE’S WEB BILL? via the Pensacola News-Journal
Sources in Tallahassee are telling us that the Charlotte’s Web legislation sponsored by conservative state Rep. Matt Gaetz and passed by both the Florida House and Senate has yet to make it to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. What’s the holdup?
… The full-throated backing of the fiercely conservative Matt Gaetz should be more than enough to allay any Republican reservations that Gov. Scott may be struggling with. Still, we’ve heard from some political insiders who believe the governor is still waffling.
Gov. Scott needs to step up, act quickly and uphold the plain fact that the Charlotte’s Web bill has absolutely nothing to do with the larger medical marijuana issue that will go to voters in the form of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: Now @Newsmax_Media has picked up @washingtonpost piece on Fla. Redistricting. To repeat – there is little chance maps will be redrawn in 14
SPECIAL REQUESTS: LAWMAKERS LINED UP PROJECTS FOR PIECE OF BUDGET SURPLUS via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News
When crafting the 2014-15 budget, lawmakers had a surplus of $1.3 billion in revenue to work with, which prompted the Legislature’s 140 members to increase their effort to get a piece of the pie.
Senate President Gaetz “had established some clear guiding principles on how he and I wanted the budget process to move forward (that) he wanted to be acceptable to each member of the Senate,” Negron said. “That didn’t change.”
The documents in many cases link an individual lawmaker to a specific budget request, helping crystalize a process that can be shrouded in secrecy. Sometimes it’s a formal email under a lawmaker’s letterhead. Other requests are messages from constituent groups to members, and some arrive as handwritten notes.
“Sarasota County Fair BLDG, $2.5mil,” read one such hand-scratched message jotted down on notebook paper. It came with the words “priority” and “Detert.” It’s a reference to state Sen. Nancy Detert who has served in the Legislature since 1998. The Sarasota Fairgrounds ended up with $250,000 in the final budget.
Another handwritten request came on a Post-it note: “Hardee County Civic Center $2m,” it read. The last name “Grimsley” was also written on the note. The request was from Sen. Denise Grimsley, the Senate’s top health care budget writer. The final budget included $500,000 for the center.
… A typed request to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for General Government was for $450,466 for Southwest Ranches. A handwritten note next to that request reads “Republican town in Broward.” It’s a reference to the town being one of the only GOP-leaning towns in Broward County, which is overwhelmingly Democratic.
TIMING OF THRASHER-FSU HAS SENATE IMPLICATIONS via Steve Bousquet of the Miami Herald
Now that John Thrasher has submitted his resume and letter of interest for the FSU presidency, the question in a lot of minds is not if the influential state senator will get the job but when.
The answer may have big implications for control of the Senate in 2016 and beyond.
Thrasher is one of 20 senators up for re-election this fall. The week-long qualifying period for legislative candidates is June 16-20. It’s doubtful that FSU will have decided on Eric Barron’s replacement by then, partly because Thrasher’s candidacy is likely to stir more controversy, which could slow the trustees’ decision-making process.
If Thrasher is the only Republican who files qualifying papers in strongly Republican Senate District 6 and he then gets the FSU job, he will have to resign from the Senate. That creates a vacancy in nomination under state election laws, and the Republican Party gets to choose a new nominee for the Senate seat.
Thrasher’s district includes all of three counties (Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns) and part of Volusia. By law, the state party chair notifies the county chairs, who then call meetings of the county executive committee to choose a replacement candidate.
Thrasher’s replacement could play a decisive role in the battle for control of the Senate for the 2016-2018 cycle when Sens. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Joe Negron of Stuart both hope to succeed Sen. Andy Gardiner, the Orlando Republican who will become Senate president in November. Gardiner surely would have a say in the selection of the new Senate candidate.
TWO LESSONS JOEY REDNER TOOK FROM THE 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION via Chris Wilkerson of the Tampa Bay Business Journal
Before you go to Tallahassee, invite Tallahassee into your shop.
That was Cigar City Brewing Founder and CEO Joey Redner’s main piece of advice coming out of the 2014 Florida legislative session in which the Florida Brewer’s Guild failed again to get a law passed that would legalize the 64 oz. growler.
The state senators and representatives who were the most open to the Brewer’s Guild and its requests were the ones who drive past the breweries every day and see them as part of an emerging industry that is growing and hiring, he said.
Redner’s second piece of advice was to engage your customers in the need for legislative change.
Craft beer fans across the Sunshine State chimed in on social media using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to spread the word about how the law was moving through the halls of the capitol building. Redner said that push helps because people are educated and they let their legislators know how they feel.
LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND
With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round.
Off: James Kotas is no longer Sen. Aaron Bean’s legislative assistant
Off: Brooke Renney is no longer working for Sen. Tom Lee.
Off: Dan Rogers has left his post as legislative assistant to Sen. Geraldine Thompson.
On: Travis McCurdy is Sen. Thompson’s new district secretary.
Off: William McRea has exited term-limited Rep. Eddy Gonzalez’ office.
Off: Chelsea Swift has left Rep. Brian Nelson’s staff to work in the Scott administration.
On: Lara Medley is Rep. Seth McKeel’s new LA.
On: Kevin Thompson is Rep. Debbie Mayfield’s new legislative assistant.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Jennifer Green, Melanie Bostick, Thomas Hobbs, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Florida Attractions Association, Inc.
Jeff Sharkey, Taylor Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, Inc.
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BEST SUBJECT LINE IN A FUNDRAISING EMAIL: “Before you hit the beach” via HD 65 candidate Chris Sprowls
TAMPA CITY EMPLOYEES UNION ENDORSES ED NARAIN IN HD 61 via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times
The recommendation came after the board of the 900-member Amalgamated Transit Union, No. 1464 looked at Narain and candidate Sean Shaw, union president Effrem Green said Friday. Narain, Shaw, Sharon Carter and Tatiana Denson have filed to run in the Democratic primary to succeed term-limited state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa.
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HOW GOOGLE GOT STATES TO LEGALIZE DRIVERLESS CARS via Justin Pritchard of the Associated Press
About four years ago, the Google team trying to develop cars driven by computers — not people — became convinced that sooner than later, the technology would be ready for the masses. There was one big problem: Driverless cars were almost certainly illegal in the U.S.
And yet, Google said it wants to give Californians access to a small fleet of prototypes it will make without a steering wheel or pedals.
The plan is possible because, by this time next year, driverless cars will be legal in the tech giant’s home state.
The campaign was based on a principle that businesses rarely embrace: ask for regulation.
The journey to a law in California began in January 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Nevada legislator-turned-lobbyist David Goldwater began chatting up Anthony Levandowski, one of the self-driving car project’s leaders. When talk drifted to the legal hurdles, Goldwater suggested that rather than entering California’s potentially bruising political process, Google should start small.
Here, in neighboring Nevada, he said, where the Legislature famously has an impulse to regulate lightly. It made sense to Google, which hired Goldwater.
Feeling some urgency, Google bet it could legalize a technology that though still experimental had the potential to save thousands of lives and generate millions in profits.
The cars were their own best salesmen. Nevada’s governor and other key policy makers emerged enthusiastic after test rides. The bill passed quickly enough that potential opponents — primarily automakers — were unable to influence its outcome.
VOLUNTEER FLORIDA, AMERICORPS MARK 20TH ANNIVERSARY IN JACKSONVILLE Full blog post here
Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps joined forces on Saturday for “Serving Seniors,” a daylong community service project to aid veterans and Alzheimer’s patients in the Jacksonville area.
The project is part of a yearlong series of public service events to mark the 20-year anniversary of both Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps.
Aid workers distributed 7,000 pounds of food, 2,000 hygiene kits to veterans and Alzheimer’s patients across Duval County. Passing out hygiene kits was representatives of The City of Jacksonville Independent Living, Elder Care Jacksonville, Aging True, and Meals on Wheels. Nourishment Network, a food bank that provides food to 450 agencies in the North Florida area, distributed the pre-packaged food.
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CONGRATULATIONS to Kathleen and Dr. Ed Moore on their 40th (!!!) anniversary. Our good friend Dr. Moore tells the story, “We actually met both working for the Florida House — a mutual friend introduced us as I was coming out of the old Speaker’s Office – truly love at first sight! In those days the session were April and May, ending that year on May 31, a Friday. We held our breath to make sure the day would end on time so we could get to our own rehearsal dinner, held at the old Joe’s Spaghetti House on East Tennessee Street. We made it and the next day, a very hot Saturday, we were married at 6 p.m. I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. We were very young and many said, ‘Why marry? You are too young!’ Forty years later, I look back and life has been wonderful. I think often of the Old Capitol building and the old metal staircase to the attic outside the Speaker’s Office where I first saw Kathleen. God has been good to me.”
MORE CONGRATS to Kathleen McGrory and Michael Van Sickler. The two reporters have formed their own Herald/Times bureau, so to speak, after their wedding this weekend at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.
CONGRATS ALSO to Caitlin O’Connor Dunn and Roger Alexander Conant, who were married Saturday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Washington. Conant is the press secretary for Senator Marco Rubio.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to State Rep. Mike Hill.
STORY I DID NOT RETWEET: “Florida High School Graduation Ruined By Giant Penis Etched Into Field” via Adam Weinstein of Gawker