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Sunburn for 8.14.17 – Florida reacts to #Charlottesville; Jack Latvala makes it official; Francis Rooney snags some pythons; Pierce Schuessler joins MHD; Happy b’day, Jack Cory

in Peter by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

There are many lessons to be learned from what took place over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters.

As it applies to Florida politics (which is on what this email focuses), Charlottesville is a reminder that the 2018 gubernatorial race will be a referendum on Donald Trump, no matter what else.

Trump is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of violent clashes in Virginia, with many Florida lawmakers saying he needs to take a public stand against groups that espouse racism and hate.

Trump, while on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, did not single out any group, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. Photo credit: Ryan Kelly: The Daily Progress.

“Hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other.”

Trump did not answer questions from reporters about whether he rejected the support of white nationalists or whether he believed the car crash was an example of domestic terrorism. Aides who appeared on the Sunday news shows said the White House did believe those things, but many fellow Republicans demanded that Trump personally denounce the white supremacists.

Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis, the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

Rubio’s tweet was pitch-perfect and was echoed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

Note that Rubio and Corcoran, along with former Gov. Jeb Bush, used language directly criticizing Nazism, racism, and/or white supremacy.

Unfortunately, as the AP’s Gary Fineout notes, neither Gov. Rick Scott or the leading candidate to replace him, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, initially condemned white supremacists in their comments.

Scott later tweeted that he was “disgusted by white supremacists/evil/bigotry.”

Of the other Republicans running for governor or considering it, state Sen. Jack Latvala retweeted what Bush and Rubio tweeted, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis wrote that “the attack in #Charlottesville was an act of terrorism perpetrated by a Nazi sympathizer. DOJ should seek stiff sentence for killer.”

Among the Democratic candidates for governor, Andrew Gillum was the most forceful, directly challenging President Trump.

Although he’s not running for governor, state Rep. Neil Combee offered one of the worst responses to the events in Charlottesville by attempting to rationalize the attacker’s actions. Read a complete take down of Combee’s comments here.

Charlottesville reignites Lee NAACP fight for removal of Confederate symbols in Fort Myers” via Melissa Montoya of – The images from the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that ended in upheaval and death led James Muwakkil to a Robert E. Lee statue in Fort Myers. Muwakkil, the president of the NAACP in Lee County, placed an American flag at the statue on Monroe Street. It was his way, he said, to remind others that America is for everyone. The Charlottesville rally also reignited Muwakkil’s resolve to have the statue and the portrait of Lee removed from public places in Lee County, which is named for the Confederate general. “When it comes to the Confederate memorabilia or symbols or what have you, they may be good for some, but they are hurtful to others,” Muwakkil said. “I don’t think that we should stand for it. I don’t think we should go along with it. I don’t think anyone should believe that we should support that part of America’s history.” Muwakkil has previously attempted to change a Lee portrait hanging in county commission chambers but failed.

The Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee Memorial is located on Monroe Street in Fort Myers, Florida. It was erected in 1966 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with assistance from Lee County citizens. Photo credit: The News-Press.

White nationalist Richard Spencer may speak at UF Sept. 12” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville SunSpencer, whose speeches on college campuses nationwide has ignited protests, may be speaking at the University of Florida Sept. 12, UF President Kent Fuchs said in a public announcement Saturday afternoon. The announcement, posted on UF’s Facebook page and circulated in an email, said the National Policy Institute reserved space for a speaking event. Spencer is president of the institute. “Per university regulation 2.004, non-university groups, organizations and persons may rent space on campus, provided they cover rental expenses and security costs like all other third-party renters,” Fuchs’ email said. “UF administration, staff and campus police are developing a security plan for the potential event and are working with colleagues across the country who have had similar events on their campus.” The announcement comes as the home of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, was torn by violence that stemmed from a march by white nationalists protesting the removal of a Confederate statue.

White nationalist Richard Spencer, shown speaking at Texas A&M University in 2016, may be coming to UF to speak on Sept. 12. Photo credit: David J. Phillip.

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Jack Latvala files for Florida governor, becoming latest Tampa Bay contender” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay TimesLatvala, 65, is the sort of pragmatic, give-and-take Republican legislator who has fallen out of favor with much of the base lately, but allies insist he is underestimated in a potentially crowded Republican field dominated by career politicians. “The race promises to be extremely competitive, with Jack having a clear path as the pragmatic conservative, unafraid of reaching across the aisle, and with a lifelong record of delivering real results for our state and our community,” said former U.S. Rep. David Jolly … “Pinellas should be excited about the prospects of a Gov. Latvala.” Latvala sought to maintain a modicum of suspense before his scheduled announcement tour Wednesday that includes speeches in Clearwater, Hialeah and Panama City. But because the law forbids any campaign spending without a campaign account already set up, he went ahead and opened an account.

Latvala: ‘I have never forgotten the party, I will never forget the party’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – It’s got to be tough trying to explain why you are running for governor when you don’t actually want to say that you’re running for governor. Latvala tried that out at a reception he hosted for about 200 people at the Republican Party of Florida’s quarterly meeting in Orlando. Earlier in the day he had filed his paperwork to run for governor, so that he might begin spending money to prepare for an announcement, but he’s holding off actually announcing his run until next week. Yet these people wanted to hear from him, and there was a stage, microphone and public-address system set up, so the longtime party loyalist and current powerful chairman of the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee took his place there, and then railed against elected Republicans who forget the party and don’t contribute money or time to the party. “I have never forgotten the party. I will never forget the party,” he declared to the gathering in a five-minute address. “That’s one of the reason I’m looking so hard at doing what I’m doing,” he said.

Meanwhile … Adam Putnam: Nobody knows Florida better than I” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsPutnam assured the 200 or so delegates to his breakfast at the Republican Party of Florida quarterly meeting in Orlando Saturday that he knows their towns, he knows their roads, he knows their barbecue places, and he knows their hopes, dreams, and struggles of living somewhere that’s not on an Interstate exit. On Saturday morning, Putnam was positioning himself as the grassroots candidate. He spoke of how two-thirds of Floridians don’t have college degrees so the state must put more emphasis on technical training and less on trying to get everyone to go to college. He spoke of making sure everyone has the chance to start their own businesses, and don’t dismiss someone starting out with a lawn-care business. “I know our state,” Putnam said. “I know every corner of our state. I’ve been down every four-lane, every dirt road. I know all the barbecue restaurants. If you need a tip I can tell you where the best pulled-pork meal is, where the best brisket is, who’s got the best chicken. I know our state like the back of my hand. I am dedicated to the future of our state.”


Rick Scott committee tops $164,000 in July” via the News Service of Florida – “Let’s Get to Work” political committee raised $164,150 during July while also spending heavily on consultants … The committee had $2.91 million in cash on hand as of July 31. Large contributions during the month included $25,000 each from Amscot Financial Inc., JM Family Enterprises and Charter Communications. The committee also spent $133,645 in July, with much of the money going to consulting firms. That included paying about $79,000 to the Maryland-based firm OnMessage Inc., the report shows.

Andrew Gillum addresses Netroots Nation – Gillum served as a keynote speaker at Netroots Nation 2017, the nation’s largest annual progressive conference held in Atlanta this week. Gillum talks about defying expectations, his activism as Tallahassee mayor and the theme of “bring it home.”

Click the image below to watch the video.

– “Gwen Graham spends ‘workday’ at camp for sick children” via Florida Politics

Phil Levine took Vladimir Putin-linked GOP donor’s cash” via Grant  Stern of theSternFacts.comPhilip Levine’s PAC “All About Florida” took over $200,000 in campaign donations from a Putin-linked oligarch, who struck it rich in Russian oil and commodities. Levin’s backer Len Blavatnik is the wealthiest man in Britain, and personally contributed over $7 million to GOP causes in the 2016 election cycle, including President Trump’s campaign, and to Florida Senator Marco Rubio as well as Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Florida Division of Elections reports that Blavatnik and his brother Alex have donated a combined $225,000 to Levine’s PAC in June 2017. The Blavatniks are Levine’s second largest donor to “All About Florida” and represent 10 percent of the Miami Beach Mayor’s overall total third party donations of $2.3 million. Blavatnik’s first business partner was Oleg Deripaska, whose deal with Paul Manafort is the subject of special counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation. The Soviet-born U.S. national Blavatnik then partnered with Alfa Bank’s Mikhail Fridman, ex-KGB officer Victor Vekselberg (Russia’s wealthiest man) and BP to buy an oil company on the cheap, and re-sell it to Putin’s Rosneft oil company.

How Adam Putnam’s votes in Congress might haunt his bid for governor” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay TimesPutnam voted for a new Medicare prescription drug benefit; $700 billion for the so-called Wall Street bailout; $187 billion to rescue mortgage lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae; and $2 billion for a “Cash for Clunkers” car trade-in program … But for Putnam, one issue in Congress still stalks him like no other. On immigration, many conservatives see any attempt to chart a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as “amnesty,” a vague but toxic term in a race for governor in which Putnam is sure to face serious challenges from the right. Putnam … twice pushed for legislation in Congress that would have helped undocumented workers. Both proposals had conditions that had to be met, such as specific work hours and a clean criminal record. Eight years ago, he was a co-sponsor of H.R. 2414, a bill known as the Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act, or the “Ag Jobs Act of 2009.” “This would provide amnesty and a direct path to citizenship,” the Heritage Foundation said at the time. “Reject amnesty.” It died without a vote. Then as now, Putnam rejects the notion that he favors amnesty for immigrants. “I’ve never supported amnesty,” he said. “I worked to find a way to fix a broken immigration system.”

Disney puts another $500K into gambling amendment” via the News Service of Florida – Disney Worldwide Services has contributed another $500,000 to a ballot initiative that could limit the expansion of gambling in Florida. The contribution last month brought to $1.15 million the amount that the Disney company has funneled to the political committee “Voters in Charge” since April … Voters in Charge is spearheading the drive to pass a constitutional amendment in November 2018 that would make it harder to expand gambling. The proposed constitutional amendment, if approved, would give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state … Voters In Charge still needs to submit 766,200 valid petition signatures to get on the ballot. It has submitted 151,476, a total that has steadily increased in recent weeks.

Save the date:

VISIT Florida key issue in Republican primary for state HD 44” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – A special election for a Florida House seat in west Orange County is keeping alive the Republican debate over public financing for tourism marketing. Four Republicans – Usha Jain, John Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski and Bruno Portigliatti – are facing off in Tuesday’s primary to fill Eric Eisnaugle‘s former seat in District 44, which includes Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, is a vital tourist area, with the most hotel rooms of any Florida House constituency. Newstreet, president of the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce, and Portigliatti, CEO of Excellence Senior Living, are straightforward in supporting funds for VISIT Florida. Olszewski, a former Winter Garden commissioner, said he’s a “huge supporter” of tourism — but backs the transparency changes Corcoran pushed. Jain, a doctor at Emergi-Care Medical Center, called VISIT Florida “a great thing” but added, “taxpayers should not be paying for any of this.”

Lawrence McClure says he’s raised $90K in a week” via Florida Politics – … for his campaign to take over for Republican Rep. Dan Raulerson, who is stepping down from his seat next week due to health problems. McClure, a Plant City Republican, filed for the seat on the first of the month and said he already has enough petition signatures to qualify for the special election ballot. He also said his campaign was “very proud” of their fundraising effort one week into the race. “In our first week we’ve raised over $90,000, which will help us spread our positive, conservative message to every corner of District 58,” he said in a campaign email. “With just over 60 days left before the Primary we are working hard to meet with each and every Republican voter and share with them our conservative principles.”

– “Ross Spano endorses Yvonne Fry in House District 58 contest” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

“Michael Steinberg signs on to Jose Vazquez Figueroa’s HD 58 campaign” via SaintPetersblog – The Tampa lawyer and former political candidate says he’s volunteered to be campaign treasurer for Vazquez, the Democrat running in the House District 58 special election. “I support him because I know he’ll support all the Democratic Party’s issues,” Steinberg told SaintPetersblog. “I also know how hard it is as a candidate and want him to be on top of all the paperwork.” Steinberg has run unsuccessfully for the state Legislature and was the Reform Party’s vice presidential candidate for the 2016 election. Vazquez, a frequent candidate, is still challenging incumbent Dan Raulerson’s election last year in the courts.


Rick Scott’s $10,000 college degree plan falls flat” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Nearly five years after Scott challenged state colleges to offer $10,000 degrees to students, none at Central Florida’s largest two schools have graduated with such degrees, hampered by eligibility requirements and limited program offerings. At Valencia College and Seminole State College, no one has graduated with a four-year bachelor’s degree for $10,000 in tuition and fees. In Valencia’s case, that’s because it hasn’t actually offered a degree program for that amount, despite being one of the first colleges to take up Scott’s challenge. Other large schools around the state have also struggled to meet Scott’s challenge. Miami Dade College has 180 students enrolled for $10,000 degrees, but no graduates yet. Broward College has 15 enrollees and one graduate. Palm Beach State College has two participants and one graduate. Scott did not call for additional funds to help schools meet the challenge he issued and at the same time encouraged colleges not to raise tuition. Democrats slammed the challenge as a “gimmick” at the time because it wasn’t supported with funding for the colleges.

’Small business Saturday’ pitched for 2018” via the News Service of Florida – Small businesses would be able to sell items costing less than $1,000 without charging sales taxes the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2018, under a proposal filed this week by Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia … (SB 76) calls for a “Small Business Saturday” during the start of the traditional end-of-year holiday shopping season. Garcia backed similar measures in 2015 and 2016 that drew unanimous support in two Senate committees but failed to advance through the Appropriations Committee. House proposals those years also died.

Sen. Rene Garcia tries in vain to lobby for an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill on the floor of the Senate Thursday, June 8, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Phil Sears

Ridesharing legislation may trigger new wave of litigation” via Cecile Mendizabal and Lisette Alvarez of the Daily Business Review – Legislators enacted a new law … imposing new insurance requirements for ridesharing companies; and, provides for new requirements for auto insurance coverage that affect TNCs and personal auto insurance companies. Although on its face the statute seems straightforward, given the proliferation of TNCs, it threatens the insurance industry with a potential flood of litigation — not only between TNCs or TNC drivers and the TNC driver’s personal auto insurance policy, but also among insurance companies themselves. Additionally, the statute permits TNCs to lawfully classify their drivers as an “independent contractor” and not an “employee” of the TNC, which raises the question, which insurance carrier is responsible for the insurance claim should you get into an accident during the ride? Florida, being a no-fault state, requires all individuals who own a motor vehicle to have personal injury protection coverage (PIP). The new statute, however, states that insurance companies “may” deny coverage, including PIP, to TNC drivers. The caveat is that the statute allows the statutory exclusion of coverage only while the TNC driver is logged on to the TNC’s app or while on a prearranged drive. This exclusionary language in the statute provides personal auto insurance companies with a way to decline coverage for the specific accident without having to cancel the TNC driver’s policy even if the personal auto policy does not reference such exclusion to coverage.

Happening today – State Sen. Kelli Stargel will speak at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County, 11:30 a.m. at the Bartow Civic Center, 2250 South Floral Avenue, in Bartow.

Happening today – State Sen. Dorothy Hukill will attend a Space Coast League of Cities meeting beginning 6:30 p.m. At the Cocoa Beach Country Club, 5000 Tom Warriner Blvd. in Cocoa Beach.

Happening today – State Rep. Tracie Davis will speak to the Duval County Democratic Senior Caucus, 6:30 p.m. at the IBEW union hall, 966 North Liberty St. in Jacksonville.


Republican Dan Raulerson of Plant City has served five years as the state representative for District 58, but he will be voluntarily leaving on Aug. 15. Before he goes, though, he has some things to say about the way state government runs and, more importantly, what needs to be fixed. He knows a lot of people won’t agree with him, including members of his own party. Here are five things he told columnist Joe Henderson.

Dan Raulerson knows what he has to say won’t sit well with some of his colleagues. “The worst thing I can do is resign from this position and keep quiet.”

— “The worst thing I can do is resign from this position and keep quiet.”

— “What you have now is basically a six-year apprenticeship, learning how things work. You get two years in leadership, then forced retirement. That structure breeds incompetence.”

— “People need to understand term limits are indicative that the electorate is lazy and wants to have decisions made for them.”

— “You get into office up there and if you’re new, the bills you introduce are brought to you by lobbyists, anyway.”

— “What’s so magic about 60 days in March and April when we are voting on an $83 billion state budget that will affect 20 million people in the state?”


“Pam Bondi asks court to end lawsuit over charities” via Florida Politics – The Attorney General’s Office has filed a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to donate millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial. Another motion asks Circuit Judge Charles Dodson to suspend “discovery” in the case — the gathering of information from Bondi’s office in preparation for a possible trial. Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith had been investigated on a consumer fraud allegation by Bondi’s office in 2015 for his Storm Stoppers plastic panels, marketed as a “plywood alternative” to protect windows during storms. He sued, saying some of the unregistered charities Bondi makes settling parties give money to is her own “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” award and various “scholarship funds designated by the Attorney General.” Bondi’s motion in part says “there is no statutory requirement that … settlements under (Florida law) be made to a charity, much less to a registered charity.” A hearing on the motion is set for Aug. 28.

Lawyers toast fees as Big Beer courts Florida brewers” via Monika Gonzalez Mesa of the Daily Business Review – “The growth in craft beer has eclipsed the growth for mainstream beers,” said Holland & Knight Miami corporate partner Marc Druckman. “Big beer has taken notice and by that fact has sought to acquire these craft breweries in order to enhance their own growth and not lose market share.” While regions such as the Midwest may have more craft beer companies than Florida, craft beer is growing in popularity nationwide. Druckman said some 5,000 craft brewers were operating in the U.S. last year, selling to bars, tap rooms and regional and even international distributors. The competition has gotten so fierce, Druckman said, that it is getting harder for the craft breweries to grow organically. So not only are big beer companies like Constellation buying up craft breweries, but the various craft beers have been buying each other out as well in order to grow. Druckman said the shift to craft beers is driven in part by branding, ingredients and a greater focus on how the beer is made.

Utah Uber driver dominates ideas for Florida Constitution” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – An Uber driver from Utah may have until  Sept. 22  to add to the 103 proposals he submitted for consideration by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Loyal Evan Millett‘s proposed changes to the state constitution range from increasing tax revenue to supporting the Everglades to recognizing same-sex marriage. He filed many of them as a resident of North Carolina and has since moved to greater Salt Lake City … Millett’s proposals are among roughly 1,000 submitted by members of the public to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission since March. Each proposal needs sponsorship from a commissioner and approval from nine other commissioners. A commissioner could also adopt a proposal independently. Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds said she is curious about why someone from Utah is taking such an interest in Florida’s Constitution, but there’s no law prohibiting his proposals.

Wildlife agency: review won’t jeopardize panther protections” via The Associated Press – The panther is one of over a dozen animals whose listing status is being reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Panther biologist David Shindle said his agency’s review aims to gather the best available data on panther biology, habitat and conservation plans, as well as threats to their survival. Shindle said any change to the panther’s status would require separate action from the wildlife service.Public comments for the panther’s review will be accepted through Aug. 29. Officials expect to complete the review by 2019.


Opioid crisis declaration by President Trump welcomed in Florida” via Ledyard King of TCPalm – A formal declaration of a public health emergency — or a presidential emergency declaration — gives the administration additional powers to waive health regulations, pay for treatment programs, and make overdose-reversing drugs more widely available. In 2015, 7,293 Floridians died from opioids, a 21 percent increase from 2014, when 6,011 died … former GOP Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose daughter Noelle battled drug addiction, tweeted his gratitude after Trump’s announcement. “Thank you @POTUS for declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency. We must combat this dangerous epidemic.” … “Opioid addiction continues to wreak havoc on families in Florida and across the country,” said GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan, whose Sarasota-area district has been hit particularly hard by fentanyl-related deaths. “We need a national focus on this epidemic. I salute the president for declaring a public health emergency so states and federal agencies can have the resources necessary to combat the drug crisis.”

Powerful Venezuelan lawmaker may have issued death order against Marco Rubio” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Though federal authorities couldn’t be sure at the time if the uncorroborated threat was real, they took it seriously enough that Rubio has been guarded by a security detail for several weeks in both Washington and Miami. Believed to be behind the order: Diosdado Cabello, the influential former military chief and lawmaker from the ruling socialist party who has publicly feuded with Rubio. At a July 19 Senate hearing, the same day he was first spotted with more security, Rubio repeated his line that Cabello — who has long been suspected by U.S. authorities of drug trafficking — is “the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.” A week ago, on Twitter, Cabello dubbed the senator “Narco Rubio.” The death threat was outlined in a memo to several law enforcement agencies disseminated last month by the Department of Homeland Security. The memo, designated “law enforcement sensitive” but not classified.

Now convicted, Corrine Brown finds donors are no longer there” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – Brown is now facing another challenge — trying to raise money when she’s not in office. And she’s having a tough time. Last week, Brown postponed a fundraising concert — one supposed to feature the legendary Shirley Caesar — citing both weather concerns and slow ticket sales … And it appears fundraising is going poorly for her in general. She said she’s had to sell a house and is struggling to raise money for a legal defense fund, saying she needs as much as $900,000. As of this week, her fundraising site showed she’d collected only $2,135. The pathetic irony to all this is that Brown had no trouble attracting donations when she was in office. It was those freely flowing donations, in fact, that got her in trouble. And I’ll submit that it’s not even the conviction itself that slowed the stream of cash her way. It’s that she’s not in office.

Daniel Webster helps secure $1M in back pay for CD 11 veterans” via Orlando Rising – The Clermont Republican congressman announced that since January, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded more than $1 million to Florida veterans in compensation, pension or retroactive payments. Webster represents Florida’s 11th Congressional District, which covers a region northwest of Tampa from Spring Hill to Ocala. “We owe our military a debt we can never repay,” Webster said. “Yet, sometimes our veterans’ attempts to receive the benefits or compensation they have earned are met with delays. Working with veterans whose claims have gone beyond the expected time frame for processing is taken seriously at my office.”

Francis Rooney joins Everglades python hunting trip, touts snake removal program” via Patrick Riley of the Naples Daily News Rooney traded in his slacks and suit coat for snake chaps and a headlamp as the first-term congressman from Naples accompanied python hunters on a nighttime excursion through the Everglades. For 4½ hours, the group — peering into the black from atop pickup trucks — searched the brush just east of the Collier County line and north of U.S. 41 hoping to spot, catch and kill the invasive snakes, which experts say are threatening to upend the Southwest Florida ecosystem. “I thought it went great,” Rooney said. “The hunters found five snakes, two big ones, 7 or 8 feet, two medium ones. And we had one little fella.

Rep. Francis Rooney went on a python hunt Thursday evening, Aug. 10, 2017, in eastern Collier County to raise awareness for the growing problem the invasive species poses to the Everglades. Photo credit: Rep. Rooney’s congressional office.


Hall of Fame welcomes Democrat legend Bill Cotterell” via Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat – Just as Major League Baseball has an MVP trophy and the movie world gives out Oscars, it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge the best performers in any field. Which is why Cotterell will have to accept the award he won … inducted in the Florida Press Association’s Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. Cotterell spent 45 years as a full-time newspaper reporter, including 27 years with the Tallahassee Democrat. Though he officially retired in 2012, he continues to write a twice-weekly column about political issues for the Tallahassee Democrat. Cotterell, 74, is joined in the Class of 2017 by Frances DeVore, who spent 59 years at the Ocala Star-Banner and who died in 2007. They become the 49th and 50th members of the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, which began in 1989.

Tallahassee Democrat political reporter Bill Cotterell speaks at the Governor’s Mansion at a retirement party held in his name on March 19, 2012. Photo credit: Tallahassee Democrat.

– “Why quit when there’s something new every day?” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat

“Personnel note: Pierce Schuessler joins Metz Husband & Daughton” via Florida PoliticsSchuessler, formerly Sen. Tom Lee’s chief of staff, comes on board to the law firm’s Tallahassee office. “With nearly a decade of experience in state government, we have no doubt Pierce’s background will give our clients a key advantage that will enhance their success,” said Jim Daughton, the firm’s president. Schuessler also was director of legislative affairs for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, legislative affairs director for former Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, budget and legislative affairs director for current Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and served in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget. Schuessler is a graduate of Florida State University with an undergraduate degree in political science.

AppointedDon DeFosset to the Tampa Sports Authority.

Spotted over the weekend at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Conference in Amelia Island: incoming board member Claudia Davant of Adams Street Advocates.

— ALOE —

Could research in Keys give coral the 2nd chance it needs?” via Elizabeth Djinis of The Associated Press – A strange scene plays out in the depths below the clear azure water of Key West’s Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park … About a quarter-mile offshore, two Mote Marine Laboratory scientists dive into the water, holding trays with tiny pieces of coral mounted on a ceramic base. They delicately grasp each circular piece, resembling something one might see at a dinner party — a mini-quiche or canape — and place them gingerly into the rock, nearly 15 feet below the surface. Soon, scientists expect the 320 pieces of coral planted in late July will grow and fuse into full-size mountain star coral, which will spawn and produce coral of its own. The nearly 6,000 coral fragments planted last year in an underwater landscape mere meters from this one have already begun what David Vaughan, executive director of Mote’s newly completed Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration, calls “re-skinning.” It will take them two to three years to fully come together, but Vaughan said their progress is a positive indicator for the 7,000 corals they planted in another section this year. “This is the good news — that’s what’s different,” Vaughan said. “This is now a turnaround that we can make a difference growing corals. But it’s not over.”

“Disney merchandise commemorates 2 rides that are closing” via the Orlando Sentinel – The Great Movie Ride and Ellen’s Energy Adventure will stop running at Walt Disney World after Sunday. Disney announced last month the rides would be replaced by new attractions. Since then, souvenirs such as T-shirts and mugs have been available for sale in the Florida park.Attractions Magazine Editor and Publisher Matt Roseboom said it was difficult to buy anything representing The Great Movie Ride or Ellen’s Energy Adventure until their closing created attention. He said the new merchandise generated revenue for Disney while helping fans get closure.

What Alan Suskey is reading —Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte coming to store shelves” via FOX 13 News – Starbucks announced it will roll-out ready-to-drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Pumpkin Spice Ground Coffee. It’s true that the coffee chain hasn’t announced the return date of the uber-popular Pumpkin Spice Latte yet. The difference is likely that the ready-to-drink product will be sold in grocery stores across the U.S. The bottles will be sold for about $2.79. The bottles hit stores shelves in late August, but the ground coffee is available now.

Happy birthday belatedly to Jack Cory. We’re told he spent his special day traveling back from the NCSL in Boston, where he was able to get a photo with Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox’s mascot.

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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