Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 8.3.17 – Member-driven process?; Aaron Bean in the clear; Richard Corcoran’s impressive July; Jon Killman’s new project; John Thrasher to HOF?

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

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

It isn’t often that we lead Sunburn by highlighting the work of another outlet, but this morning we must. The reporting by Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida is just that good. It may be the best single piece of work about the 2017 Legislative Session, it’s that good.


Text messages whizzing across the Capitol showed “an intra-party feud in the Republican-led state Senate” over a contentious education bill that passed in the 2017 Legislative Session, according to a POLITICO Florida report published Wednesday.

“The Senate’s top brass weathered resistance from powerful members within their own party as they propelled the controversial House bill,” said the story, by Bakeman, soon decamping for South Florida public broadcaster WLRN.

Gov. Rick Scott later signed the omnibus HB 7069 into law, including the “Schools of Hope” package, a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The bill offers changes for all kinds of schools in Florida, from requiring recess to reducing mandatory testing, accelerating state tax dollar funding for for-profit and nonprofit charter and private schools, expanding parents’ abilities to choose schools, and tightening Tallahassee’s controls over what local school boards can and cannot do.

The text messages uncovered by Bakeman show:

— The degree by which David Simmons privately pushed for changes to HB 7069

— That, in the end, Jack Latvala was dead wrong about the bill’s fate: “I’m fairly sure that all will get vetoed,” Latvala wrote, inaccurately as it turned out. “Negron and I have had parting of the ways.”

— That state Senators were ‘blindsided’ over the issue of “preeminence” funding for the University of South Florida.

— That Senate President Joe Negron considered subbing in Galvano to carry the bill because they questioned whether they could trust Simmons to present it on the floor.

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Assignment editors – The Constitution Revision Commission’s Rules and Administration Committee will meet next Wednesday in Senate Office Building room 401. The meeting is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. On the barebones agenda: “Scheduling and Deadlines” and “Administrative Policies.” The meeting will be livestreamed by The Florida Channel.

First on #FlaPol –State ethics panel clears Aaron Bean in budget controversy” via Florida Politics – The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause to believe that Senator Bean misused his position to secure an appropriation in the State budget for a business venture in which he was personally involved, and dismissed the allegation,” according to a press release … The Commission also “voted to dismiss an allegation that he had a voting conflict when he voted to approve a line item appropriation for the business venture,” according to the release. And “no probable cause was found to believe that the Senator misused his position to ask a fellow legislator to include a request for the business appropriation in the Florida State University budget.” Why, the board even cleared Bean of “misus(ing) his position to receive a $7.76 reimbursement for mileage.”

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, makes a point on the Senate floor Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit by Phil Sears.

Ethics Commission finds probable cause for Kim Daniels’ dodgy financial disclosures” via Florida Politics – The Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Daniels filed inaccurate Form 6s, representing financial disclosures for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Daniels failed to list properties owned by her churches, which added up to $1,000,000 of undeclared assets. Indeed, her churches had multiple properties — “parsonages” in multiple cities, timeshares, and over a dozen cars. Daniels, at that point, was serving her term on the Jacksonville City Council. Daniels has faced similar scrutiny related to campaign finance before: the Elections Commission found probable cause that Daniels spent campaign funds advertising one of her religious books, the Demon Dictionary, in a vanity-press publication called Shofar.

It’s nice lawmakers restored recess, but just 20 lousy minutes?” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times – This year, in its wisdom, the Legislature passed a measure requiring the state’s elementary schools to carve out recess time for kindergartners through fifth grade. That’s a good start. There is one problem though. As stipulated by Tallahassee, recess is only supposed to last for a mere 20 minutes. Really? Just 20 lousy stinking minutes? The paltry amount of time dedicated to recess would seem to suggest that neither the Florida Legislature nor professional school administrators seem to appreciate the value of giving especially young children a much needed break from the stresses of the classroom. What’s missing here, it seems, is a complete lack of understanding of the intrinsic educational value of recess in the overall learning process. These are children after all. Children play. That’s what they do. This is elementary school. It is not Harvard. And playtime is educational time, too.

“Update on Capitol reconstruction” via Florida PoliticsWork on the grounds of the Florida Capitol and its underground parking garages continues after the Senate garage was closed last May. It was shut down when its primary support girder showed signs of stress after years of water intrusion. “Utility relocation efforts are expected to be completed in mid-August with the installation of sheet piles beginning later on in the month,” said Maggie Mickler, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Management Services. “Crews will … stabilize the dirt 30 feet below the surface so crews can excavate the soil, make structural repairs and install new waterproofing on the external walls.” Last month, construction crews put in the seventh and final support beam inside the Senate parking garage and metal decking on the upper deck. They also built permanent walls along the edge of the garage to “enhance the garage’s safety and stability,” Mickler said. The project continues to run on schedule and is set for completion in August 2018.

What Cesar Fernandez is reading – “UberEATS launches Thursday in Tallahassee” via Florida PoliticsUber, the online ride-booking company, is expanding its UberEATS on-demand food delivery service to the state’s capital starting Thursday. J.P. Restrepo, general manager for UberEATS in Florida, said Tallahassee is the fifth city to come online in the state, after Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville, another college town. It’s also available in 100 cities around the world. In Tallahassee, the service goes live at 11 a.m., with about 60 restaurants signed up, he said in a Wednesday interview. The UberEATS app, available for download now, will link to a user’s existing Uber account. “It’s a very interesting combination of small places and chains that people know and like,” Restrepo told Florida Politics. “This is a convenient way for people to get delivery to their office or their house, to get food when they want it, where they want it.”


“Ken Lawson to tourism industry: ‘I want to earn your trust’ ” via Florida PoliticsVISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson is telling tourism industry leaders he “want(s) to earn (their) trust” in a Wednesday post on the public-private tourism marketing agency’s blog. “As you know, I have been traveling the state, engaging with our partners, board members, legislators and other stakeholders to listen, learn, and offer VISIT FLORIDA’s support at every stop,” he wrote on “Sunshine Matters.” “I want to earn your trust and learn from you first hand. This has been a hard year for all of us,” he added. “VISIT FLORIDA is your organization, one that each of our industry partners have built over the years. Its value cannot be underestimated” … Scott moved Lawson from secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to head VISIT FLORIDA in January. The former Marine went hat in hand to lawmakers this session to ask for funding—a “hard and messy battle,” he called it. Since then, Lawson has hit the road, going around the state to meet with stakeholders. “It is now time to heal and come together,” he said Wednesday.

2 counties seek new review of Brightline” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post – Renewing their objections to Brightline’s proposed high-speed rail service from West Palm Beach to Orlando, officials in the Treasure Coast are demanding another look at how the trains would affect their region. Brightline dismissed the call for another impact assessment, which could further delay the much-anticipated Orlando leg, as “fearmongering.” In a July 26 letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, county attorneys from Martin and Indian River said a 2015 regulatory review “has become stale and aged through the passage of time and changes in circumstances.” The letter, also signed by Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, notes that two companies involved in the operation of Bright-line changed hands this year. Japanese giant SoftBank bought Fortress Investment Group, the owner of the rail service, and Grupo Mexico snapped up the Florida East Coast railroad tracks on which the train operates. Critics also say the federal review process never carefully considered such issues as noise, vibration and effects on flooding, wildlife and boat traffic. Brightline has offered only a “vague” response to those concerns, Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reingold said.

Floridians continue pulling plug on landlines” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – A state report … released by the Florida Public Service Commission, said an estimated 51 percent of homes in the state were wireless-only in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of traditional residential wirelines in the state dropped 15 percent from 2015 to 2016 … consumers are “able to find comparable services at reasonable prices” through the different types of technologies and providers in the industry. The report said there are an estimated 21.1 million wireless phones in Florida and 4.2 million Voice over Internet Protocol subscribers — while the state’s population was 20.6 million last year. In all, Florida had almost 3 million wirelines in 2016, with business lines totaling about 1.8 million and residences making up 1.2 million, the report said. That is down from nearly 4.58 million lines in 2013, 3.8 million in 2014 and 3.27 million in 2015.

The worst story you’ll read today – “Foster dad arrested in death of 13-month-old girl in Cape Coral” via Melissa Montoya of – … on charges of suspected homicide and cruelty toward a child. Dustin Gregory Todd, of Fort Myers, was arrested by the Cape Coral Police Department shortly before 6 p.m. He was picked up by U.S. marshals … The child, 13-month-old Mackenzie Fewox, died Jan. 29, said Capt. Tony Sizemore with the Cape Coral Police Department. An online obituary for the little girl shows the toddler wearing a pink headband with a bow while precariously standing as she holds onto furniture. A Christmas tree is visible in the background. “She is extremely loved by all,” the obituary reads. Sizemore called it “a very difficult case.” The investigation began when they were called to a home in the 500 block of SE 9 Avenue in Cape Coral Jan. 29. Death investigations are initially treated as a homicide investigation until homicide can be ruled out, Sizemore said. But with Mackenzie’s death, it quickly became apparent that it was a homicide, Sizemore said.

Correction — A sentence in a Wednesday SUNBURN item from the Associated Press titled “Florida judge: 20-year sentence for firing gun an injustice” should have read, “Court documents show that Wright’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his child barged into his fiancee’s Jacksonville home in 2013 to confront him.” We regret the error.


Poll: Democrats surge ahead on generic ballot” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO – Republicans trail Democrats by 7 percentage points on the generic congressional ballot, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the Democratic Party’s greatest advantage on the generic ballot since the poll began asking the question this past spring … a generic Democrat [leads] a generic Republican, 44 percent to 37 percent, with 19 percent of registered voters undecided. The two parties were tied, 40 percent apiece, in the previous week’s poll. Democrats’ previous high-water mark on the generic ballot question — which asks voters which party they would support in a congressional election without mentioning specific candidate names — had been a 6-point lead in early May. Still, the long-term trend for Trump has been downward — and it has the potential to drag down Republicans in elections this year and into the 2018 midterms.

First on #FlaPol –  “Richard Corcoran’s committee has now raised nearly $3 mil” via Florida Politics Corcoran’s political committee brought in more than $820,000 in July. Watchdog PAC has now raised nearly $3 million since being formed at the end of May. Corcoran has said he is considering a 2018 gubernatorial run. These figures put him on track to have several million dollars in the bank when he makes a decision, which he has said will come after the legislative session concludes in March. In addition to a high-profile $100,000 check from the law firm of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA, Corcoran’s committee also picked up a $100,000 check from Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, a political committee indirectly connected to the Florida Justice Association. State Rep. Carlos Trujillo‘s committee contributed another $50,000 after seeding the committee with a sizable contribution in June.

First on #FlaPol –Jack Latvala now has $3.84 mil on hand for possible 2018 run” via Florida PoliticsLatvala’s fundraising arm, “Florida Leadership Committee,” will report it raised $336,000 in July. Contribution records on the committee website run through July 27 and show $255,000 raised, meaning the Clearwater Republican brought in more than $100,000 in the final days of the month. Latvala is waiting until Aug. 16 to formally announce whether he will run for governor, and hasn’t budged from the planned reveal. “Everything is coming along according to plan,” he said.

Jack Latvala ‘thank you’ billboard appears in Winter Park” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A billboard has appeared on Winter Park’s busiest boulevard praising and thanking state Sen. Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who chairs the appropriations committee. The ad thanks him, and credits him for saving Florida jobs, supporting Florida tourism, and supporting Florida businesses. The billboard’s disclaimer says the message was sponsored by Clear Channel Outdoor, the billboard company that owns that particular sign. A Clear Channel Outdoor spokesman did not return calls Wednesday. The Latvala spot has several versions in the rotation, each one thanking him for different things.

‘Clearwater Curmudgeon’ no more: A smiling Jack Latvala beams down from an area billboard.

Mia Jones backs Andrew Gillum for Governor” via Florida Politics – Former state Rep. Jones called Gillum a “tireless public servant willing to take on the tough fights … just the kind of leader Floridians need now … He will rebuild our economy so it creates better-paying jobs at every rung of the income ladder; protect and defend our access to affordable health care; fight for public school students’ education; and confront our climate change crisis” … saying that Gillum would “fight for what we believe in.”

Phil Levine talks Florida places, characters in ‘non-political’ SiriusXM ‘real Florida’ show” via Scott Powers of Orlando RisingLevine, a potential Democratic challenger for governor in 2018, premiered his “real Florida” show “A Day in the Sun” on a SiriusXM satellite radio channel with interviews of innovative and offbeat Floridians. The question arises, was anybody listening to the internationally-broadcast show that’s on a high-up channel; and might Levine milk any name recognition or other advantage from a show that had him travel, by bus, interviewing Floridians, from Miami to Pensacola last month? Levine insists the show is not about politics. Well, maybe a little bit of politics. But, mostly, the show is about characters and places that make up Florida’s tapestry. Levine not only conducts the interviews, but narrates the intros and wrap-ups of the episodes, and of each interview segment within it, raising his own curiosities, and lavishing love on Florida.

Save the date: The Leon County Republican Party is hosting a Regan Day BBQ with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Aug. 15 at “The Property,” 620 Cody Church Road in Monticello. The VIP reception begins at 4:30 p.m., with the general meet-and-greet set to begin at 5 p.m.

Francis Rooney’s congressional seat has second Democratic contender” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News Todd James Truax, of Bonita Springs, is running because he can’t stand to see Medicare/Medicaid and Planned Parenthood threatened by the Republican-controlled Congress. “I became a politician four weeks ago to protect those folks I’ve been protecting all my life,” said Truax, 48, who runs nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida. “I really feel their lives are being threatened.” Truax has said he’s worked with the elderly and frail in one way or another for his entire career. He has a master’s degree in social service from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He said he planned on using the connections he’s made running nursing homes to launch his campaign and raise money to “flip” Republican senior citizens into voting for a Democrat.

Is Pam Keith running for Congress, or still in Senate campaign mode?” via Florida Politics – In a new fundraising email to supporters, Keith – who recently announced a bid for Florida’s 18th Congressional District – flaunts an endorsement from the Democracy for America chapters in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties. After losing a U.S. Senate bid in 2016, Keith is now seeking the House seat of Palm City Republican Rep. Brian Mast, which encompasses much of St. Lucie and Martin counties and a part of Palm Beach County. What CD 18 does not include is either Broward or Miami-Dade counties. Of course, the endorsement would be most effective if Keith were still running a statewide Senate race, but she is not. Out-of-district support is somewhat less helpful.

Email insights: Congressional Leadership Fund targets Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26” via Florida Politics — The Congressional Leadership Fund has wasted no time in lobbing its first attack after Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who announced this week she would challenge Republican Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The super PAC, which has the backing of the entire House Republican leadership, sent an email Wednesday saying Mucarsel-Powell is “slowly becoming a perennial candidate.” “Despite having a war chest and strong establishment support throughout her campaign last year, including that of President Obama, South Florida strongly rejected her,” reads an email from Courtney Alexander, the press secretary for the Congressional Leadership Fund. “Mucarsel-Powell lost in a district where Hillary Clinton won by a whopping 10 points.” The Congressional Leadership Fund email goes on to call Mucarsel-Powell a “soldier of the so-called extreme and at times violent ‘Resistance’ movement.” It also says she is the “handpicked candidate of Nancy Pelosi’s DCCC.”

“Annette Taddeo settles AmEx lawsuit” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – The terms of the lawsuit were kept private. In a statement, Taddeo’s campaign spokesman said the lawsuit “has been amicably resolved by both parties.” AmEx sued Taddeo and her translation business, LanguageSpeak, in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month.

Matt Spritz crosses six-figure fundraising mark in HD 89 race” via Florida Politics – Republican Spritz announced his campaign had brought in more than $100,000 since he filed for the seat in late June. Spritz’s said in a news release that 124 donors have contributed over $78,000 to his campaign since he filed June 26. The Boca Raton Republican also touted $35,000 in money raised through his committee, “Invest in Florida,” over the same span. Spritz kicked off his campaign with a $40,000 loan and raised an additional $5,300 during the last five days of June, so his July report will likely show $33,000 in contributions. The Emory University and New York University Law School alumnus is one of two candidates running for the seat, which is currently held by term-limited Republican Rep. Bill Hager.

– “Jason Fischer endorses Wyman Duggan in HD 15 GOP race” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

– “Anna Eskamani gets Darren Soto’s endorsement for HD 47” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising


John Thrasher among nominees for veterans’ hall” via the News Service of Florida – Florida State University President Thrasher, a former state House speaker who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 candidates for spots in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council the maximum number of names to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet to consider for enshrinement in the hall of fame. Scott and the Cabinet – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis– are expected to vote on the nominees Sept. 26.

“Personnel note: Jonathan Kilman joins Hispanic Chamber board” via Florida PoliticsFoley & Lardner lobbyist and partner Kilman has been appointed to the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce‘s Board of Governors and the its newly-formed Strategy Committee, the group announced Wednesday. “We did our homework and Jonathan is regarded as a widely respected and visionary leader who understands the intersection of business and policy in Florida,” said Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Chamber, in a statement … Kilman, co-chair of the firm’s Florida Public Affairs Practice, … was behind some of Foley’s recent marquee hires, including former Department of Economic Opportunity head Jesse Panuccio (later tapped by President Trump for a U.S. Department of Justice position), former Environmental Protection secretaries Jon Steverson and Herschel Vinyard, and former state CIO Jason Allison.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: AbbVie Inc.; Pondera Solutions

Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: Estate of Camilla Merville

Bob Martinez, Holland & Knight: The White House Boys

Georgia McKeown, GA McKeown & Associates: NextNav

Larry Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: Estate of Camilla Merville

— ALOE —

Some feared hackers and the devil. Others got microchipped.” via Danielle Paquette of The Washington Post – Three Square Market, which designs software for vending machine, hopes to soon launch a global microchip-reader business, marketing the technology to other firms. But first they have to conquer reservations about the devices. Patrick McMullan, the chief operating officer, said he and another executive learned about Biohax, the Swedish startup that produces the implants, about six months ago during a business trip to Europe. The microchips are about as big as a grain of rice, and enable the wearer to perform various tasks such as entering a building or making a payment. The company already uses similar proximity readers in its vending machines. Shoppers can tap a credit card and walk away with a soda. With microchips, McMullan said, the company could take their products to the next level of convenience — and beyond the vending industry. As of now, implants are practically useless in the United States. But Three Square Market is betting that will soon change. People in Sweden can already use the chips as train tickets, the company said. Technology analysts fear the chips could ease the way for hackers. Some churchgoers say the devices violate their religious beliefs.

St. Regis will run the Colony property on Longboat Key” via Maggie Menderski of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – St. Regis is slated to operate the long-abandoned 18-acre beachfront site of The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, its Orlando-based owner said … The high-end luxury brand of Marriott International Inc.‘s Starwood Hotels and Resorts operates 61 hotels worldwide and just one other in Florida. In addition to that property in Miami, St. Regis’ portfolio includes such exotic destinations as Cairo, Bali and Bora Bora. A name like St. Regis adds validity to the area in the deeply competitive travel world. The industry notices when a property like a Ritz-Carlton opens, said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. She remembers being at conferences and in meetings in the months leading up to the Ritz-Carlton’s opening, and there’s a buzz that comes with it.

Will parent of SeaWorld, Busch Gardens put theme park business up for sale?” via the Tampa Bay Times – Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment, the Orlando parent of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks, fell nearly 8 percent, closing at $14.07 Wednesday amid reports that the company has hired investment adviser Evercore to find a potential buyer. Beleaguered SeaWorld has suffered in recent years from a public backlash to breeding captive killer whales and using them for SeaWorld’s Shamu-branded orca shows. SeaWorld is stopping those activities but has struggled to find an entertainment formula that will sustain visitor numbers in its theme parks. With the hiring of Evercore, SeaWorld wants a “fresh perspective” on how to handle their weak operational performance, says Dealreporter, a specialty new service that tracks merger activity.

Happy birthday to Lisa Ard and Sunshine State News’ Nancy Smith.

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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