Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
LET’S BEGIN WITH A LINE FROM DAVID MAMET – “Watch the weather, baby, because it’s going to change.”
Here’s the latest forecast for Tropical Storm Gaston, which is forecast to eventually become a hurricane.
“Tropical forecasts beyond five days are fraught with uncertainty,” says the Weather Channel, but some of these forecasts do show the storm hitting south Florida this weekend and Tampa Bay on Monday. This could play havoc with Election Day. Best strategy for all candidates is to continue to bank those early votes. One candidate sent an email Tuesday urging his supporters to do exactly that…
EMAIL INSIGHTS via congressional candidate Randy Perkins: “I hope you’re watching the weather, because there’s a storm headed towards the coast. Forecasters are saying it may make landfall Sunday or even Monday. If you haven’t voted yet, please take the opportunity to vote early–with bad weather, it’s one less thing to worry about.”
CONTINUING OUR HYPER-FOCUS ON THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS: A DEM PRIMARY IN THE MOST BATTLEGROUND-Y SEAT IN FLORIDA
It might be the most competitive Democratic House primary in the state of Florida, but the battle for House District 68 in Pinellas County was never supposed to happen in the first place, as incumbent Dwight Dudley appeared poised to run for a third two-year term this November. But a funny thing happened to his re-election bid – he quashed it to instead stay closer to home and run for a local judicial position.
It was considered a big surprise in most circles, but not to Ben Diamond. The St. Petersburg attorney who served under Alex Sink during her tenure as CFO issued a statement just hours after Dudley’s bombshell to announce his own candicacy for the position, complete with endorsements from notable Pinellas lawmakers to boot, including St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.
A week later, Eric Lynn dropped his formidable challenge to Charlie Crist for a congressional seat and moved his ambitions – and the $700,000 plus he had raised in that race – to the HD 68 seat against Diamond.
The race is competitive, in part, because the two candidates are so similar – Diamond is 37, Lynn 38. Both are Jewish, and both relatively progressive in their stances.
Although they have appeared at many events together to speak, they have yet to engage in a true, one-on-one debate setting (they did participate in a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club event in July, but that also included Republican JB Benshimen, who waits in the wings until after the primary to begin his full on campaign.)
Both candidates have received their fair share of major endorsements, though Diamond has snagged two of the biggest, getting the Florida Education Association nod, as well as the Tampa Bay Times imprimatur, which said in their editorial that “Diamond’s Tallahassee experience gives him an advantage.” That recommendation was featured in his second television ad of the campaign.
The race is considered to be close, but there’s been no independent polling. And the the two campaigns dueling polls that were released on August 9 were no help. Lynn struck first that morning, issuing out an internal poll showing up by 12 percentage points. An hour later, Diamond released his poll, showing him up by nine points.
One issue that has provoked emotions in the contest has been those hundreds of thousands of dollars that Lynn raised as a congressional candidate and then moved to a political action committee, as is allowed under Florida election law. But, he was asked at Tiger Bay debate in late June (the only debate they’ve held), was it the right thing to do?
“I have always said that we need changes in campaign finance reform,”Lynn said. “I think it’s wrong that anyone in the state of Florida can set up a political committee to take unlimited funds. Those funds should be limited in the same way that funds from a federal candidate should be limited. But currently, the law states that a political committee can accept unlimited funds.”
“I don’t have a Washington war chest in this campaign, and just because something may be legal, doesn’t mean it’s right,” he said, adding that perhaps that if Lynn is as concerned with using his PAC money as his comments suggested, “perhaps he and I could enter into some sort of discussion about not doing that.” The two did not appear to be discussing that after the event.
After that Tiger Bay forum, Diamond issued a press release calling for as many as five to seven debates before the Aug. 30 primary. Lynn responded that he was interested, but the two camps never were able to come together (Diamond’s team insists that Lynn dropped the ball), depriving the voters of the chance to distinguish between the two candidates ideologies.
Both have aired two commercials – Lynn’s first ad proclaimed that he would stand up for progressive values, because “progressive values are Pinellas values.”
As of August 12, Lynn had over $33,000 cash on hand with his PAC – Pinellas Community Voters Fund – and more than $20,000 cash on hand n his own campaign fund. Diamond had more than $13,000 cash on hand in his campaign account, and over $9,000 in his PAC -Protecting Pinellas Families.
The District encompasses much of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Lealman and Feather Sound.
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MARCO RUBIO ROMPS IN NEW POLL via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – According to a new online poll by St. Leo University … Rubio and Patrick Murphy have overwhelming leads in their primary races for Rubio’s Senate seat, and Rubio tops Murphy in a general election match up by eight percentage points. But St. Leo pollster Frank Orlando said Trump’s poor performance in the survey is a warning sign for Rubio as he looks beyond the Aug. 30 primary. “Despite being the incumbent, Marco Rubio is attempting to defy political gravity to some extent,” Orlando said in a press release. “When the top of your ticket is losing by 14 points, it is difficult (and perhaps not sustainable) to be ahead this comfortably.” In the Senate primaries, Rubio is trouncing Carlos Beruff by a 54-point margin, or 68 percent to 14 percent. Murphy also is blowing out Alan Grayson with 48 percent support, compared to 17 percent for Grayson. Rubio has 46 percent support in a general election, compared with 38 percent for Murphy and 15.7 percent undecided.
— “Marco Rubio is running for the Senate — or maybe still the presidency?” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post
BEHIND RUBIO, A POWERFUL ALLY: PRIVATE PRISON OPERATOR GEO GROUP via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Few candidates in the country have gotten more help from the Boca Raton based company, including $80,400 in the last month alone. Geo Group employees and political action committee contributed $30,400 to Rubio’s Senate campaign while the PAC gave $50,000 to the super PAC supporting Rubio, records show. That’s on top of nearly $190,000 in support Rubio has received dating to his time as speaker of the Florida House, when Geo Group landed a major contract with the state, to his presidential run. Rubio said he hadn’t read the Justice Department report citing cost and safety concerns at private prisons. Geo Group stock plunged but was on the rise as company officials downplayed any significant harm to their bottom line. “I’ll look at the report and what they found and if the findings are such that justify their decision, then it will be justified,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times while campaigning in Tallahassee. “At the end of the day, contractors are supposed to save us money, not cost us money.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Murphy will vote at 10 a.m. at the Palm Beach County Gardens Branch Library, 1303 Campus Drive in Palm Beach Gardens. Media should RSPVP to Press@MurphyForFlorida.com.
ALAN GRAYSON FINDS SILVER LINING IN PHONE HACK via Eric Garcia of Roll Call – Grayson said in a fundraising email that after his phone number was released in the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee emails, many people called to offer him praise and encouragement. Grayson noted that one of the leaks posted the phone numbers of nearly all Democratic lawmakers, which led to some members receiving “obscene and sick calls” … “Well, of course, that’s terrible,” he said in the email. “But for what it’s worth, most of mine weren’t like that. Rather, Grayson said many callers appreciated his political stances and one even called for him to stage a presidential primary challenge against Hillary Clinton in 2020, to which he said “thanks, but no thanks” … “But it was interesting to me that while my fellow ‘public servants’ were being served up some very nasty stuff, most people who felt moved to contact me had something good to say about the work that we’ve done, to make the world a better place,” Grayson wrote.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS WORKING TO ASSURE NO SHADE THROWN AT SOLAR AMENDMENT NEXT WEEK via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Amid mud-slinging primary fights and expected low turnout, environmental groups are stepping-up efforts to win voter approval next week for Amendment 4 — a new tax-exemption for homeowners and businesses installing solar equipment. Florida Conservation Voters has posted a website that makes it easy for supporters to find an early voting site near them. Constitutional amendments must be approved by at least 60 percent of those voting on the measure. There hasn’t been much vocal opposition to Amendment 4, put on the ballot by state lawmakers. But supporters know the 60 percent bar is still a high one. “If every Florida voter who supports expanding the use of clean energy and reducing our state’s reliance on fossil fuels came out to vote, Amendment 4 would pass in a landslide,” said Aliki Moncrief, Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director. “The August primary is our chance to make our voices heard.”
HEDGE FUND CHIEF’S SUPER PAC TRYING TO COMPARE MATT GAETZ AND HILLARY CLINTON via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – A super PAC fueled in large part by the president of a Connecticut-based hedge fund is prepared to make the odd claim that state Rep. Gaetz is similar to Clinton. The Citizen Super PAC has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission indicating it is preparing to drop nearly $40,000 in mail pieces in the 1st Congressional District, a conservative seat in the western portion of the panhandle. The group’s website indicates its latest “project” is to raise money for a mail piece calling him a “crony capitalist” and for a TV ad comparing him to Clinton. The mail piece talks about several organizations impacted by Gaetz-sponsored legislation that also gave him campaign contributions. The super PAC’s site says the group is the “first crowdsourcing platform where voters can select and financially back specific ads for the candidates.” People can use the site to make small-dollar donations to support specific ads, including those going after Gaetz. The site does not mention that its biggest donor is George Fox, president of Titan Advisers, a Connecticut-based hedge fund with more than $5 billion in assets under management. He has given Citizen Super Pac $1 million of the $1.8 million it has raised since July 31. Its second-biggest donor is a committee called Citizens for Sound Government, which gave $400,000. It is a new super PAC that has not yet had to disclose its donors.
MARY THOMAS MAKES CLOSING ARGUMENT IN NEW AD — The Tallahassee Republican released the closing ad in her bid for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The advertisement attempts to contrast Thomas with Republican Neal Dunn. “You and I are different. We work hard, go to church and try to raise our children the very best that we can. We love our country, our constitution, and our freedom. … You and I deserve a voice in Congress.” Thomas faces Dunn and Ken Sukhia in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.
THOMAS BAILS ON CD 2 DEBATE IN TALLAHASSEE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Thomas pulled out just minutes before the festivities were to begin. The two remaining Republicans, Neal Dunn and Ken Sukhia, were left to compete for the mantle of the true conservative in the race. Meanwhile, Democrats Walter Dartland and Steve Crapps said they would stick up for the little guy. “What distinguishes me is that I have already fought for the issues we all hold dear,” Sukhia said … Dunn agreed the country is on the wrong track, but said he hopes to cooperate with Democrats within limits. “You have to be able to work together. Maybe I’m not right on some things. Maybe they’re right.” As for Thomas, she telephoned debate organizers for the Network of Entrepreneurs & Business Advocates in Tallahassee “a few minutes” before the scheduled start, said Barney Bishop, the group’s president. “We got a call saying she was in Lake City or Live Oak” and wouldn’t attend, he said. “I think she had another appointment.”
CORRINE BROWN AND LAWYERS ‘BREAK UP’; TRIAL POSTPONED UNTIL NOVEMBER via Ryan Benk of WJCT – Federal Judge James Klindt granted her previous lawyers’ request to be dismissed from the case; it’s the third set of lawyers who’ve departed from Brown since her indictment … Lawyers Mark NeJame and David Haas cited irreconcilable differences in their motion last week, but NeJame said it’s nothing personal. “That’s why a lot of times people don’t represent friends and family — because it does get personal. She’s been a public servant for 24 years in this area. She’s done a phenomenal amount of good,” NeJame said. “We continue to support her personally and professionally, but we simply believe it was not best for us to continue to represent her.” His motion cited “hostility” with Brown, but … said it was more like arguing with a spouse or friend. “It’s simply a breakup and sometimes you break up and you don’t talk again and sometimes you break up because it’s best to remain friends,” he said. Sporting a lipstick mark on his cheek after a kiss from Brown, NeJame said he’ll be instrumental in picking her new counsel, which must be done by a Sept. 7 status hearing. Her trial is set for Nov. 17, after the general election.
CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE BRIAN MAST’S EDUCATION CREDENTIALS QUESTIONED via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Mark Freeman, a physician running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, said Republican Mast, a veteran also running in the Treasure Coast congressional district, did not graduate from Harvard University. “Brian Mast did NOT graduate from Harvard. He can imply that all he wants but what I say is absolutely true. He graduated from Harvard EXTENSION School. What is the difference you say? A lot,” said Freeman in a lengthy Facebook post over the weekend. Freeman went on to say the extension school has “open enrollment … whereas Harvard University, as everyone knows, a rigorous admission because it is the most prestigious college in the country.” “Mast ought to be proud that he passed the online extension school course. Why does he need to grossly exaggerate his accomplishments?” continued Freeman. “He needs to correct the record, admit that he did not tell the truth and apologize.” The Harvard Extension School offers several programs for adult learners, including undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students hoping to enroll in the undergraduate program must take three admission courses, which are available online, before applying to the program.
NRCC TAKES AIM AT RANDY PERKINS IN CD 18 — The National Republican Congressional Committee has launched a digital ad campaign aimed at Perkins, a Democrat running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The 30-second spot, “’Rip Off’ Randy Perkins,” attacks Perkins and highlights some of the negative headlines involving Perkins’ disaster relief business. “Rip off Randy Perkins, sleazy even by Washington standards. Too corrupt to represent us,” a narrator says in the advertisement. The ad buy indicates the NRCC believes Perkins will be the Democratic nominee. The NRCC isn’t the only organization expected to spend heavily in the district. The GOP Congressional Leadership Fund has said it would spend significantly in the district.
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TEACHERS UNION, VOUCHER ADVOCATES SQUARE OFF IN DEM PRIMARY FOR SD 11 via Florida Politics – The Florida Education Association has put another $25,000 into the political committee chaired by Orlando Democratic Rep. Randolph Bracy, who is running in a four-way primary for the newly redrawn Senate District 11. The “Floridians for Progress” political committee has brought in $55,000 in contributions from the teachers’ union, which accounts for nearly half of its contributions to date. Bracy is leading the pack in fundraising one week out from the primary election, with former Sen. Gary Siplin holding the second place spot. Through Aug. 12, Bracy had about $73,000 on hand in his campaign account and $12,000 in his PAC, while Siplin had about $33,000 in the bank. The other two Democrats in the race, former Rep. Bob Sindler and Chuck O’Neal, trail have about $7,000 in on hand cash between them. Notable names on Siplin’s most recent report include John Kirtley, a Tampa businessman who is a leading advocate for school choice in the Sunshine State, and the “Creating Possibilities” political committee chaired by former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. The nominee will only face a pair of write-in candidates, Joseph Harris and Miranda Ratcliffe, on Election Day.
NEW POLL SHOWS GOP PRIMARY IN SD 23 COMING DOWN TO THE WIRE via Florida Politics – State Representative Greg Steube receives 26 percent in a new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls … Nora Patterson, a former member of the Sarasota County Commission and Sarasota City Commission is at 24 percent, while former state Rep. Doug Holder is at 22 percent. State Rep. Ray Pilon is in fourth place at 16 percent, but that represents a marked improvement from a similar poll taken a month ago. Rick Levine is at 4 percent, while 9 percent of SD 23 voters say they are undecided about who they’ll vote for. The poll from July showed Holder leading the pack with 29 percent of the vote, Steube at 23 percent and Patterson at 20 percent. The five Republicans are vying to replace Sen. Nancy Detert in the newly drawn Senate District. Detert — who has represented the Sarasota area in the state Senate since 2008 — announced in September she was running for county commission. Detert was elected without opposition to the Sarasota County Commission in June.
SHADE OF THE DAY via a fundraising email from Jeff Clemens: “I am definitively not Irv Slosberg and that’s a good thing. For one, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a neon hat…”
MICHAEL STEINGER DROPS ANOTHER $150 K INTO SD 30 RACE via Florida Politics – West Palm Beach Democrat Steinger [has brought] his total loans to $490,000 since he entered the race in May. Steinger, an attorney, didn’t bring in any other contributions between Aug. 6 and Aug. 12 according to his most recent campaign finance report, while his spending hit nearly $200,000 for the week. About $182,000 of that money went to Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media for an ad buy, with $11,155 heading to Get Out the Signs and $5,000 going to Cornerstone Solutions for campaign management. The performance leaves the candidate with about $40,000 in the bank. Steinger is running against state Rep. Bobby Powell in a contentious Democratic primary, which has seen the two get personal. Steinger’s campaign ran an ad featuring a mugshot of Powell’s father, and Powell fired back by bringing up Steinger’s father, who is serving currently serving a 20-year prison sentence. The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will face Republican Ron Berman in the general election, though the coastal Palm Beach County district carries a sizable advantage for Democrats.
IRV SLOSBERG GIVES ANOTHER $378K TO SD 31 CAMPAIGN, NOW OVER $1M IN LOANS via Florida Politics – Outside of the loan, the veteran lawmaker raised just $1,500 between Aug. 6 and Aug. 12 — $1,000 from Florida Crystals and $500 from UPSPAC-Florida — while he spent $378,618 for the week in the hotly contested primary race against Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens. Most of that money went toward advertising, including $150,000 to Wyoming-based National Campaign Services and $75,000 to Georgia-based CPN Station. Boca Raton shop Mark Graphics also picked up about $40,000 over the course of the week. Clemens brought in about $16,000 for his campaign during the weeklong stretch while his associated committees, “Each Vote Counts” and “Committee for a Prosperous Florida,” brought in a combined $124,000. The Florida Education Association was by far Clemens’ biggest backer for the week, with a $100,000 check Aug. 8 to Each Vote Counts, though he also picked up $5,000 contributions from the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Service Employees International Union Florida.
POLLS SHOW SD 34 RACE WAY TOO CLOSE TO CALL via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – One of Florida’s most expensive state Senate races is dead even, according to two new polls showing former state Rep. Jim Waldman tied with attorney Gary Farmer heading into the last week of early and absentee voting. In one poll, conducted by Waldman’s campaign, he pulls in 25 percent of the vote to Farmer’s 26 percent while state Rep. Gwyndolen “Gwyn” Clarke-Reed receives 17 percent support. The margin of error is four points for the survey … Between their two campaigns and political committees, Farmer and Waldman have spent nearly all of the $2.5 million in the race for a seat in a part-time Legislature that pays less than $30,000 yearly. Waldman has spent about $1 million and Farmer’s campaign and committee have spent about $1.5 million more. Clarke-Reed has raised only $25,000 and spent about $16,000 as of Friday. “This race is a dead heat between Jim Waldman and Gary Farmer and has been so for the last two weeks,” pollster Keith Frederick wrote in an internal campaign memo obtained by POLITICO Florida. “At 31 percent undecided, this Democratic Primary race remains fluid.”
FLORIDA DEMOCRATS LAUNCH FIRST TV AD BACKING JOSE JAVIER RODRIGUEZ IN SD 37 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — The ad, a 30-second spot called “Restore,” features Rodriguez talking about his commitment to the people of Miami. In the ad, Rodriguez says “for too long well-connected special interests have had their way.” Rodriguez faces Republican Miguel Diaz de la Portilla in the November general election. “The people of State Senate District 37 deserve a Senator dedicated to protecting their rights, not another career politician who has spent his career consistently serving the special interests,” said Anders Croy, the deputy communications director for Senate Victory.
OUTSIDE GROUPS BEEF UP AD BUYS IN SD 23, HD 21 AHEAD OF PRIMARY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics,” “Conservatives for Truth,” and the “Conservative Leadership Fund” upped their ad buys this week, buying a combined $153,713 worth of TV ad time in at least two legislative races, Senate District 23 and House District 21. Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics is set to spend at least $82,203 for cable ads through Aug. 29 in Senate District 23. The Tallahassee-based political committee was created in June, and has spent $96,000 on advertisements since July. The committee has raised $179,248 since its creation. The committee received $117,500 from “Floridians for Limited Government,” a political committee linked to Rep. Doug Broxson. Broxson is running in Senate District 1. Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics purchased TV time in two media markets — Fort Myers and Tampa Bay. Both of those media markets cover portions of Senate District 23, which includes all of Sarasota County and western Charlotte County. Conservatives for Truth also bought TV time in Tampa Bay and Fort Myers markets, spending $45,994 to air 30-second spots on cable through Aug. 30. The Miami-based political committee was formed in July, and has raised $280,000. Records show the group received $100,000 from “Rebuild Florida,” Rep. Jose Felix Diaz’s political committee.
Dana Young, running for Florida Senate District 18, has been endorsed by the GREY2K USA Worldwide (GREY2K USA), the largest greyhound protection organization in the world.
Sam Killebrew, running for Florida House District 41, has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC).
John Cortes, running for Florida House District 43, has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC).
Rebecca Smith, running for Florida House District 60, has received the endorsement of the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC.
Robert Asencio, running for Florida House District 118, has received the endorsement of the South Florida Council of Firefighters.
KEN DETZNER TO VOTERS: PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO MAIL YOUR BALLOTS ON TIME via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Detzner reminded voters to get their votes mailed off before it’s too late … telling voters who have requested vote-by-mail or absentee ballots they have a limited time to return their ballots for the August primary. “I strongly encourage all Florida voters who have requested a vote-by-mail ballot for the upcoming Primary Election to allow sufficient time to return their vote-by-mail ballot,” said Detzner. “Voters returning vote-by-mail ballots should also make sure to sign the back of the return envelope. Plan ahead and make sure your voice is heard!” The United States Postal Service says voters should mail their completed ballots at least a week before they are due to ensure they arrive on time. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Aug. 24. Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Aug. 30.
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GOV. SCOTT CONFIRMS LOCALLY TRANSMITTED ZIKA VIRUS CASE IN PINELLAS COUNTY via Michael Auslen, Megan Reeves and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s the first locally-transmitted case of the virus confirmed outside South Florida. Florida Department of Health officials declined to say when or in what part of Pinellas County the case was discovered. The state believes mosquitoes continue to spread Zika only in two parts of Miami-Dade County, where Scott confirmed four additional infections … “While this investigation is ongoing, DOH still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring in the two previously identified areas in Wynwood and Miami Beach,” Scott said in a statement. But a University of South Florida expert is warning that the presence of one infected person likely points to more cases emerging, as happened in both Miami Beach and Wynwood. “I think it will be like what we’re seeing in Miami Beach, where we have a few cases,” said José Montero, an associate professor at USF’s Division of Infectious Disease at the Morsani College of Medicine. “There’s never just one. I hope it’s just a few. This is something the whole Gulf Coast is concerned about.” The most likely way the virus arrived was via a person who caught it in South Florida, then traveling to Pinellas and either being bitten by a mosquito or passing the virus on through intercourse, Montero said. About 80 percent of infected people exhibit no symptoms, meaning they go about their normal routine instead of being home bound.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a Zika preparedness round table at 9:30 a.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, 1105 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.
AS ZIKA COMES TO PINELLAS, CHARLIE CRIST AND DAVID JOLLY CONDEMN CONGRESSIONAL FAILURE TO DEAL WITH DISEASE via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics – They agreed Congress’ failure to provide funding to combat the Zika virus is unconscionable. They were reacting to news released by Gov. Scott that the Department of Health had confirmed a non-travel-related case of Zika in Pinellas County. Crist, a Democrat who is running against Jolly for the Congressional District 13 seat, said, “For this virus endangering Floridians to now spread unabated to Pinellas County is inexcusable. Lives are in danger, particularly expectant mothers, children, and women planning to have children.” Jolly, a Republican who has long criticized Congressional inaction on the threat from the Zika virus, repeated his call for Congress to return to Washington, D.C., to pass a long-term Zika funding package. “Florida is at risk and Washington is tone deaf,” Jolly said. “Today’s news of a locally transmitted case of Zika in Pinellas County is another alarm that should prompt leadership to call members back to D.C. to address this public health issue … As a representative of a frontline state dealing with the Zika outbreak, I fully understand the serious public health risk this virus presents. But we must address this issue now and responsibly and without playing politics. This is a public health issue, not a political issue.”
BOB BUCKHORN SAYS TAMPA IS ABOUT TO GET AGGRESSIVE IN TRYING TO COMBAT ZIKA VIRUS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Standing in front of an empty pool in an abandoned home in Tampa’s Wellswood area … the mayor announced a plan to attempt to combat the chances that the virus will spread to the region. “We’re going to be aggressive about going out and identifying in those areas and those circumstances and those situations where we can affect some change,” Buckhorn said. “These abandoned pools are one of these circumstances.” The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. They tend to breed in standing water, which is why the city will begin utilizing all 45 of their code inspectors and 38 additional neighborhood enhancement personnel to locate areas around the city where standing water has accumulated. Those inspectors will be equipped with 3,600 dunks to drop in those pools of water. These dunks contain BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), a bacterium that naturally kills mosquito larvae before they can grow up to become flying, biting, disease-spreading adults. BTI is deadly to mosquito larvae, but it is harmless to people, plants, pets, fish, wildlife and beneficial insects. Code Enforcement will distribute those dunks to residents, and also use them throw them into pools, retention ponds and other areas where they know standing water exists. They’re also available at Home Depot and Lowe’s for the general public.
S&P WARNS ZIKA HARM TO MIAMI-DADE TOURISM IS INEVITABLE via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald – Standard & Poor’s said it was too early to say whether Miami-Dade’s bond rating — which scores a government’s ability to repay debt — would be hurt by a Zika travel warning coming to Miami Beach. The agency maintained its AA credit rating for Miami-Dade (defined as “very strong”) and its stable outlook, suggesting S&P sees no immediate change to the county’s financial forecast. Authors of the report wrote that Miami-Dade’s real estate market should provide enough of a buffer to avoid budget disruptions if taxes tied to tourist spending dip because of Zika. The key question, S&P said, was how big of a hit Zika will deliver to the region’s tourism market. “The real question is not if Zika will affect tourism and related revenues, but by how much,” S&P analyst Hilary Sutton said in the report.
RICHARD CORCORAN BRIEFS HOUSE MEMBERS ON NEW SPEAKER’S TRANSITION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – House Speaker-Designate Corcoran updated House members on planned changes to committees, staffing, a rewrite of the rules and other issues … revisions to the House committee structure will be released by Sept. 30 and that his leadership team, including the majority leader and all committee chairmen, will be announced Nov. 9, the day after the general election. Corcoran has not named any chairs, but it’s widely expected that Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, will chair the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. House members will get committee assignment preference forms Nov. 15. A draft rewrite of the House rules for the 2016-2018 cycle will be available by Nov. 10, Corcoran said. The Pasco Republican said in his memo that he hopes to finalize staff assignments by the end of next month. In addition to chief of staff Mathew Bahl, Corcoran’s senior staff includes Lynn Cobb, Tom Hamby and Carol Gormley on policy; Tony Cortese (process); Celeste Lewis (administration); Fred Piccolo (communications) and James Blair (external affairs). JoAnne Leznoff will stay on as staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, Stephanie Birtman will remain at Rules, and Joanna Hassell will rejoin the House staff next month in the education policy unit.
PSC SAYS IT NO LONGER HAS DOCUMENT SUBMITTED BY FORMER COMMISSIONER IN FPL RATE HIKE CASE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – The Florida Public Service Commission said Tuesday it no longer has a copy of a document involving former commissioner Nathan Skop that was submitted on Monday with an exhibit and then withdrawn. A PSC spokeswoman said the commission returned the document to Skop, who represents a couple challenging Florida Power & Light Co.’s $1.3 billion rate hike request. But a public records law expert said the commission should have retained the document and should provide it to POLITICO Florida, which had requested it. During a hearing on the rate hike request Monday, Skop distributed a document that he said was an exhibit for use in questioning the veracity of an FPL witness, company president and CEO Eric Silage. Skop, who worked at FPL from 2000 to 2002 as a business manager, said the document addressed the issue of whether he left the company voluntarily.
LACK OF SUBSIDIES IN FILM INDUSTRY DRIVING FLORIDA JOBS TO OTHER STATES via Adam Walser of WFTS Tampa Bay – “Georgia is cleaning our clocks,” said Film Florida President Kelly Paige. She says there’s a steady stream of film industry employees leaving Florida. “The mill workers, the craft services, the plumbers, the carpenters…they’re all leaving,” she said. It hasn’t always been like that. The state approved $269 Million in film tax credits in 2010. That was supposed last six years, but the money ran out almost immediately. One reason is that the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment awarded incentives on a first-come basis, with no consideration of the number of Floridians hired or the merit of the projects. Some money even went to companies that produced video games and commercials. Lawmakers recently tried to renew incentives. We have over 100-thousand people in the film industry in the state of Florida,” said Florida Sen. Nancy Detert, during a committee hearing last spring. But those efforts failed, largely because the Koch brothers-backed “Americans for Prosperity” lobbied against incentives, saying they were a handout to Hollywood moguls. “We remain in opposition primarily to this incentive program as a whole,” said Skyler Zander, Deputy Director for Americans for Prosperity in Florida. Florida Speaker of the House designate Richard Corcoranopposes incentives and helped to defeat bills calling for more money in committee during the last legislative session.
MICCOSUKEE COURT LOSS COULD CLEAR WAY FOR IRS TO CLAIM $1 BILLION IN BACK TAXES via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald – The Miccosukee Indians have lost a contentious tax case that experts say will strengthen federal government efforts to collect more than $1 billion in overdue personal income taxes. U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga found … that a tribal member must pay $278,758 in taxes, interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service for failing to file a tax return in 2001. The judge concluded her family’s gaming income — a distribution of casino profits — was not exempt from U.S. tax laws, a ruling likely to have ripple effects on many of the West Miami-Dade tribe’s 600 members. Altonaga’s decision, which will be formally filed as a judgment against the Miccosukees and tribe member Sally Jim … provides the IRS with the legal power to compel other members — including Chairman Billy Cypress — to pay personal income taxes on casino gaming distributions dating back more than a decade. Miami attorney and tax specialist David Garvin said the judge’s decision was “definitely significant because it sets a precedent … I anticipate this will propel the IRS to move more expeditiously now that they have the court agreeing with their position … The tribe cannot take any solace from this order. The outcome is inevitable.”
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AFTER SHOCKING SHOOTING ON THE STREET, A FAMILIAR FLORIDA FAILURE via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – Last month, Arnaldo Rios Soto was swept up in a national spectacle when a North Miami police sniper shot his African-American caregiver in the leg as the man lay prone in an intersection. Rios, a 26-year-old with autism, schizophrenia and an intellectual disability, was playing with a toy truck. Behavior aide Charles Kinsey instantly became an exemplar of the Black Lives Matter movement. But for Rios, there is no movement to sustain him, no placards or demonstrations. If he is a symbol of anything, it is the state’s decades-long failure to provide adequate community-based services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Rios has languished in a psychiatric hospital since the shooting made headlines July 18. The hospital has restricted his visitors, his family said, and refused to allow them to bring him toy trucks — which are as comforting as a teddy bear for a man who is large in stature but small in maturity. Aventura Hospital wants to discharge Rios, whose tantrums and violence have bedeviled staff. And he’s remained under involuntary commitment long past the hospital’s ability to help him. But state disability administrators had no place to put him. There are no group homes near his mother in Miami capable of handling his very challenging behavior.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a slew of Florida politics, including Dan Bruno, Steve Cona of Associated Builders & Contractors, Dave Kerner, TV’s Troy Kinsey, Andrea Reilly of Smith Bryan & Myers, and Seminole Mayor Lesile Waters.