Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
Can you believe it’s already back-to-school season?
Today is the first day of school for students and teachers in Franklin County. Another 40 of the state’s 67 school districts start August 10, according to the 2017-18 academic calendar compiled by the state Department of Education.
School districts set the opening and closing dates based on a 2015 law that gives them discretion to create their own calendars, which must include 180 school days.
The News Service of Florida notes that most districts opt for an early August start to allow students to take semester exams before the holiday break in December. Another reason for the early start is that it gives students more time to prepare for annual state assessments in the spring, which are linked to student progress and school grades. This is why 52 school systems will end classes before the end of next May.
For the record, the good people of Hamilton County enjoy the latest start date (August. 28) and, along with Miami-Dade, have the latest closing date on June 7.
Now, on to politics, where Sunburn has first looks at the campaign finance reports of three of the four Democratic contenders for governor.
— LEVINE ADDS ANOTHER $500K, GRAHAM $350K, KING’S CMTE OUT-PERFORMS GRAHAM’S —
With Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine traveling the state to speak with Floridians about the state’s direction and how to best position Florida for the future, his political committee, All About Florida, added another $500,000 in July.
Last month’s haul brings the total raised for the political committee to $4.6 million.
A caveat: Much of Levine’s $500K is his own funds.
Meanwhile, Gwen Graham‘s campaign added $350,000 in July — $220,000 for her campaign and over $130,000 for the Our Florida Political Committee. This is the fourth straight month Graham’s campaign has raised $350K plus. That may not be the most impressive number for Graham, however. The campaign adding 2,000 new donors in July is what should turn heads.
Chris King‘s committee had a slightly better month than Graham’s – nice work, Stephanie McClung and Co. – raising $154K for his committee. The political newcomer has now raised more than $2,37M to date.
The bottom line with these figures is that Levine is the fundraising frontrunner, but Graham and King have successes they can tout.
Andrew Gillum‘s numbers have yet to be posted, but we do know that he has spent almost $25,000 on attorneys linked to his use of state-owned email software for campaign-related messages.
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will host Purple Heart recipients and their families for a special Operation Outdoor Freedom event in honor of Purple Heart Day at 11:30 a.m. at Cap Prairie, 21279 Kissimmee Shores Road in Lake Wales.
“Wausau plays possum at annual festival” via Zack McDonald of the Sarasota News-Herald – The Wausau Possum Festival started out as “Possum Day” in 1970. Two of the current main attractions of the festival — the crowning of the queen and king and the possum auction — weren’t part of the original itinerary. Those were incorporated in its second year to compete with other area festivals … Contestants regularly blackout teeth or wear overalls with straw hats, a look outsiders might perceive as daily attire. The possum king this year, Dion Goodman, succeeded to the throne with a cutoff shirt, knee-high neon socks and a barrage of dance moves.
The Possum Festival doesn’t just attract curious visitors and area families. It regularly draws politicians running for local, state and federal office. And this year was no different, with Putnam and Graham participating in the possum auction. Each paid $600 for a possum at auction, the funds of which are slated to go to a worthy cause. “The money we make helps us run truck, buy fuel, buy tires,” said Goodman, also a volunteer firefighter. “It keeps out department providing service for this community.”
“Jack Latvala takes aim at Richard Corcoran over tourism” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Speaking before about 75 people at the Rivertown Community Church in Blountstown, Latvala said lawmakers will need to revisit changes – driven by Corcoran during the 2017 Legislative Session – that have created fissures between the state’s tourism-marketing agency and regional tourism groups. “In the case of that bill, and the House of Representatives’ efforts in the whole economic-development and tourism area, it was all about making political points, all about trying to make headlines, trying to raise your name identification, whatever,” Latvala said. “And what we’ve done is make a product that is going to be very hard to implement” … “And I’m sure we’re going to have to come back next year and work on it a little bit,” Latvala continued. “I don’t know the House speaker understands that or frankly cared. That’s the same House speaker who introduced a bill that would have eliminated VISIT FLORIDA, eliminated Enterprise Florida, eliminated every other economic, 18 other economic-development programs we have in Florida. And I’m not sure he cares.”
— Corcoran said the changes were about creating greater transparency. “Florida taxpayers demand transparency and accountability,” Corcoran said. “The FL House will continue to fight to expand transparency and accountability for the taxpayers. And any elected official who opposes it, does so at their own peril.”
Just saying – “Florida outpacing the nation in hotel numbers” via Sunshine Matters – “Florida’s hotel occupancy rate and rooms sold, both indicators of visitation numbers, outpaced the entire United States,” VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson wrote Friday on the agency’s blog. “Florida’s rooms sold are up 3.3 percent over last year, far outpacing the national average of 1.2 percent. Florida’s occupancy rate for July was up 1.2 percent, while the U.S. average declined by 0.5 percent … Our numbers continue to indicate positive growth and visitation trends, which is great news. As we reach new heights in tourism for Florida, we look forward to continuing our great work with our 43 destination marketing organization partners and over 12,000 industry businesses across the state to reach our goal of a record 120 million visitors this year.”
“Chris King: ‘I want to be the economy candidate’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – King offers data charts, tables, and statistical analysis from various U.S. agencies to back up his claims. He weaves them into almost every speech, highlights them at virtually every event. Those numbers, showing Florida losing ground, dramatically in some cases, to almost every high-population state regarding household income growth, poverty rates and per-capita gross domestic product, provide the foundation for King’s theme: a Democrat who talks economics and business strategy.
— “This was the big ‘Aha!’ for me. That was the decision to run, run now; and that this would be our message; and that I would be the economy candidate in the Democratic Party,” said King, the 39-year-old political novice whose closest friends say has been preparing for politics his whole life. “I will be heavily contested on this concept that Florida is a back-of-the-pack state,” King added. “They will fight me hard on this. But the basic suppositions I make is [based] on 15 years of one party rule, from 2000 to 2015 – it’s obviously been longer than that, but that was the period I really studied. And that during that period it is undeniable, based on Florida’s numbers, state numbers, that when we compare to our peers, Florida went backward.”
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
Joe Negron’s beef with community colleges: Philosophy or personal motive? – In this month’s Florida Trend, Jason Garcia asks why the Senate President“has it in for the state’s community colleges?”
After political and business leaders became concerned that four-year degrees were beyond the reach of many students, the Florida Legislature acted in the early 2000s to help the state’s community colleges pick up the slack, particularly with a series of bills allowing the schools to offer more baccalaureate degrees and drop the “community” name, changing to “state colleges.”
The system seemed to work well for several years until about 2009, when Negron began “waging a war to undo many of those changes,” arguing that Florida colleges have abandoned the traditional role of offering two-year degrees and certifications.
While Negron defends his position as “philosophical,” Garcia reports that some members of the Florida’s college and university system believe the basis of his attitude is a “tension between Indian River State College and Florida Atlantic University in Negron’s treasure Coast-based district.” During the past 10 years, IRSC grew dramatically, while FAU’s footprint shrank. Publicly, both schools say they are allies: “Our relationship has never, ever been stronger,” IRSC President Ed Massey told Florida Trend. But privately, Garcia notes that IRSC’s growth is causing no small amount of tension. As for Negron, he insists the issue has not shaped his opinion: “Believe it or not, legislators actually have their own ideas.”
“Bound for France” via Gary Fineout of The Fine Print – As it happens every year when the humidity bears down oppressively on the Florida capital, many people in the state’s political hierarchy are nowhere near North Florida … One staple for legislators in the past has been visits to various conferences, including ones held by the National Conference of State Legislators or the American Legislative Exchange Council. Many years these conferences are held in cooler and more pleasant environments than Florida … Attendance to these events was usually higher back when legislative leaders routinely approved travel expenses for members. The tradition used to be that members would have one trip a year paid out of the House and Senate budgets. That’s not how it works anymore. Speaker Corcoran allows members to pay for the trips out of their own district accounts, as opposed to having his office cover the expenses. (State law allows legislators to transfer unused campaign money into these accounts.) … Sen. Anitere Flores had been chosen to represent the Florida Senate in the NCSL Executive Leadership Development program being held in Normandy, France from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1.
“Legislature, agency let $20M in aid for drug, mental health care end” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Now, in the midst of an opioid crisis, Naples could lose substance abuse services for 219 people; the Treasure Coast might have to ax a full-time licensed therapist who would have served 50 people; and Jacksonville will likely close a juvenile addiction facility along with slashing a Methadone clinic’s beds by nearly half. Those are just three examples of proposed cuts to essential substance abuse programs throughout the state. The cuts come in a year of budget surpluses and even as the state’s overall funding for mental health and substance abuse went up by $16.9 million for the budget year that began July 1. Gov. Scott in May declared a public health emergency that allowed the state to get $27 million in federal funding to treat the opioid crisis. But that money can’t be used to replace basic services such as beds for crisis units, or detox or residential drug treatment programs.
“Government negligence from the ’90s leads to claim bills” via Florida Politics – A baby’s death and a flying extension ladder, both happening in the late 1990s, resulted in two of the many claim bills already filed for the 2018 Legislative Session. The first, filed by Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, is for $2.4 million for the death of 5-month-old Nicholas Patnode, who was seen at the Martin County Health Department’s Indiantown Clinic in 1998 … The second, filed by Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston, is for $650,000 for the estate of Dr. Sherrill Lynn Aversa, who was killed in 1999 when a 12-foot extension ladder flew off a Department of Transportation vehicle on Interstate 75 in Hillsborough County … Florida law limits local governments and other public bodies to paying no more than $200,000 per person in damages. To get more, lawmakers must pass a claim bill, also known as a relief act, for extra money.
“’Good Samaritan’ legislation sought after Cocoa drowning case captured on video” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY – Outraged by a case in Cocoa — in which a group of teens allegedly watched and filmed a man drowning, but did nothing to help him — state legislators, law enforcement officials and the state attorney’s office are pushing for new “Good Samaritan” legislation to address the issue. The family of 31-year-old drowning victim Jamel Dunn also is seeking legislation, through a grass-roots effort on social media. Cocoa police allege that five teens, ages 14 to 18, watched from a distance … as Dunn entered the water of a pond at Bracco Park in Cocoa, and shot a cellphone video of him while he was calling for help. They could be heard on the video cursing, as well as laughing at and mocking Dunn. But they never called 911 or otherwise tried to help Dunn. Police have asked State Attorney Phil Archer’s office to file criminal charges against the teens, under a state statute that deals with the requirement to report a death in certain circumstances. The statute covers a variety of causes of death, including from criminal violence, by accident, by suicide and “in any suspicious or unusual circumstance.” Now, there are efforts to craft new legislation to more directly address the circumstances of the Dunn case. Sen. Debbie Mayfield said she is working on this issue, along with Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Rep. Tom Goodson.
“Local officials bristle at being overruled by Tallahassee” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel – Orlando’s attempts to regulate everything from Uber to drones to medical-marijuana dispensaries have been overridden in recent months by the Legislature, to the frustration of city leaders. It’s part of what some local officials view as a troubling trend of state laws that erode the authority of city governments, which historically have enjoyed wide latitude to self-govern under the “home rule” principle, which is enshrined in the state constitution. Though state laws that override city ordinances are always a source of tension between local and state politicians, instances of so-called preemption are becoming more commonplace, said David Cruz, general counsel for the Florida League of Cities. “Unfortunately, it seems like we’ve had a lot of special interests and big business interests come to Tallahassee and ask for preemptions at the expense of local control,” Cruz said.
Assignment editors – Sen. Dorothy Hukill will attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mike Eader Turnbull Bay Bridge and host a roundtable discussion hosted by CareerSource Flagler/Volusia. Groundbreaking begins 9 a.m. at the east side of Turnbull Bay Bridge, New Smyrna Beach. Roundtable starts 2 p.m. at the CareerSource Orange City Career Center, 846 Saxon Blvd In Orange City.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Donald Trump taps Florida donor as next ambassador to Spain” via Florida Politics – Duke Buchan is a founder of private investment and management firm Hunter Global Investors. During Trump’s campaign for the White House, he and his wife Hannah Buchan gave nearly $900,000 to Trump’s joint fundraising committee with the RNC. Buchan backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the Republican primary before throwing his support behind Trump. In addition to being appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Buchan will also serve concurrently as the U.S. Ambassador to Andorra. The White House said Buchan has a “working knowledge” of Catalan, the primary language of the landlocked microstate between France and Spain.
“Al Gore on Miami’s future, new sequel to his climate movie and Donald Trump” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – When theaters nationwide begin showing “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” former Vice President Al Gore’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning documentary on climate change, Miami appears as a key supporting cast member. After breathtaking views of the arctic’s melting polar ice caps, the documentary pivots to soggy South Florida, where Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine takes Gore to see four new massive pumps, part of a half-billion dollar fix to keep the city dry. “Kind of hard to pump the ocean,” Gore says as dirty stormwater sloshes over the tops of his rain boots. “My role in the first movie actually increased bipartisanship a lot. What changed was when Barack Obama was elected, it was in the midst of the financial crisis. People got worried, understandably, about the economy. But that’s the moment when the Koch brothers financed the Tea Party and started driving a wedge to create this partisanship deliberately. And any Republicans who break ranks, they would threaten them, to run a primary opponent and give lots of money to a far-right primary candidate to scare them back in line. And so that’s what really caused the partisanship.”
“Report: Pro-Marco Rubio nonprofit primarily funded by two anonymous megadonors” via Florida Politics – A nonprofit organization that raised $22 million for Rubio’s failed presidential bid could be a two-man show that went a little too heavy on its support for the Florida Republican’s campaign … Conservative Solutions Project, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, brought in over 90 percent of its funds from one or possibly two anonymous donors according to tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics. Of the $22 million raised, $20.5 million came in through two anonymous donations, one for $13.5 million in 2014 and another for $7 million in 2015. Social welfare organizations aren’t required to disclose donor information, so it is unclear whether the two multimillion-dollar contributions came from the same source. The bulk of the money raised was spent on ads and campaign research to boost Rubio’s presidential bid, and it appears that little if any money was doled out for activities that could be deemed “social welfare.”
– “Florida league of cities applauds Marco Rubio for FEMA claw back bill” via Florida Politics
“Jeb Bush weighs in on arrested Debbie Wasserman Schultz staffer” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Bush drew attention to the recent arrest of an information technology staffer who worked for Wasserman Schultz and several other House Dems … “The incompetence and terrible judgment displayed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and House Democrats is jarring,” Bush tweeted. He added a link to a Wall Street Journal column that says the arrest of Imran Awan and investigation of four other IT staffers is “a tale of massive government incompetence that seemingly allowed a family of accused swindlers to bilk federal taxpayers out of millions and even put national secrets at risk. In a more accountable world, House Democrats would be forced to step down.”
“North Fla. congressmen call for hearing on Chinese ‘treachery’ ” via Florida Politics – Republicans Matt Gaetz and Neal Dunn announced a town hall later this month on Chinese espionage against American companies, citing a Tallahassee-based business Gov. Scott once promoted as a job-creator. The meeting, “Wanton Loot: How China Is Stealing Ideas from American Entrepreneurs,” will be held in Florida State University’s Turnbull Conference Center in Tallahassee, 1-2:30 p.m. Aug. 30 … “There are too many signs to ignore the likelihood that the Chinese government is behind blatant acts of thievery of technology and systems designed in the United States,” said Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach. “One glaring example took place right in Tallahassee, and we’re going to hear the details so we can fight back to protect our ideas as much as our people, communities, businesses, and borders in the future,” he added. That example is Bing Energy, a technology concern that will be “spotlighted as anecdotal evidence of such treachery,” Gaetz said. In 2011, Scott held a press conference at the company, which had moved from California and developed high-tech fuel cells.
– “The day the music died: Corrine Brown cancels fundraiser concert” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Lolita Grayson starts GoFundMe page, saying legal battles with ex Alan Grayson leave her broke” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “I really am in bad shape right now. I went to GoFundMe because I’m totally broke and I’m being evicted,” Lolita Grayson said … Her GoFundMe.com page says the legal battles through and beyond their divorce proceedings and annulment have exhausted her finances, and yet she still has legal expenses involved in their fights over disposition of assets. Those assets include the Dr. Phillips house they had shared in marriage and she continues to live in. He has filed to have her evicted. She is seeking to raise $20,000.
Assignment editors – U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch will visit a “Summer BreakSpot” site, which provides children with free meals during the summer, at 11:30 a.m. at Tallman Pines, 700 N.E. 41st St. in Deerfield Beach. At 4:30 p.m., Deutch will be at a screening of former Vice President Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” beginning 4:30 p.m. at the Cinemark Theatres, 3200 Airport Road in Boca Raton.
— STATEWIDE —
“In op-ed, Rick Scott calls Nicholas Maduro a ‘dictator’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Scott has increasingly directed heated rhetoric at the Maduro government, including a proposal unveiled earlier this week to no longer allow the state to invest in companies that do business with the South American country. Scott’s op-ed, first published in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald in Miami, comes after last weekend’s election of its Constitutional Assembly, a vote termed a “sham” by White House officials. “His brazen efforts to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution under the guise of democracy is an insult to freedom, and taking power away from his citizens against their will is completely reprehensible,” Scott wrote. Maduro has become an issue with increased importance in the state as Venezuelans fleeing the country continue to flock to South Florida, mainly Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Although the overall population remains relatively small, as their numbers increase, so does their political clout.
“Businesses bucked Gov. Scott’s rule to notify public about pollution” via Jason Ruiter of the Orlando Sentinel – Scott took action after more than 200 million gallons of contaminated water last year seeped into the Floridan aquifer — a source of much of the state’s drinking water — from a sinkhole at the Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry, 80 miles southwest of downtown Orlando. “It does not make sense that the public is not immediately notified when pollution incidents occur,” Scott said in a statement. But companies such as Wawa and RaceTrac — and industry groups representing more than 180,000 members — quickly assembled arguments against notifying the media. Lawyers for the groups argued that it wasn’t a private company’s responsibility and “would impose a sustained adverse impact on Florida’s economy and job creation.” RaceTrac lamented the cost of training its 3,100 employees in Florida to comply with the new rule. But the state environmental agency countered that it wasn’t a major burden — and that costs would total $182,000 annually. In response, industry groups challenged the rule and a judge agreed, overturning it as “an invalid exercise of its [the state’s] delegated authority.”
What John Kirtley is reading – “More than 100,000 Florida students receiving school vouchers” via The Associated Press – Step Up for Students, the largest organization that administers the program, said enrollment hit 100,238 … Jon East, a spokesman for Step Up, said the target enrollment for the coming school year is 102,000 and that the group expects to hit that number in the next few days. Florida’s tax credit scholarship program is the state’s largest private school voucher program. It’s used primarily by low-income families and most families send their children to religious schools. Most of the children who receive the vouchers are black or Hispanic. The vouchers are funded by corporations, which in turn receive tax credits. The law creating the program was first approved in 2001 under then-Gov. Bush.
“State will pay $82,000 after losing vote-by-mail lawsuit” via The Associated Press – Florida is paying attorneys who represented the state and national Democratic Party more than $82,000. Court records filed last week show the administration of Gov. Scott agreed to pay the money to end a lawsuit over the state’s vote-by-mail law. The Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee sued the state last year because the law did not require voters to be notified if their signatures on their ballot and voter registration forms don’t match. A federal judge called the law “illogical” and “bizarre.”
“Florida faces 61 percent chance of hurricane hit” via the News Service of Florida – Researchers estimate there will be 16 named storms this season, eight hurricanes and three “major” hurricanes with at least Category 3 winds of 111 mph. Through July, there have been five named storms in the Atlantic Ocean, including Tropical Storm Emily which struck Florida this week. The researchers predict an “above average” storm season due in part to “anomalously warm” waters in the Atlantic. The 61 percent chance of a hurricane striking Florida, compares to a 51 percent historical average. The forecast projects a 27 percent chance the state could be hit by a major hurricane, compared to a 21 percent historical average.
“Citizens Insurance finds 315 more post-storm claims adjusters” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – … hopefully reducing long waits for customers who will be eager to get paid and start making repairs. Ten independent claims adjustment firms responded to Citizens’ latest solicitation with commitments to provide about 30 adjusters each. An iinternal evaluation team recommended the company’s Board of Governors approve contracts with the 10 firms. The company hopes to have the adjusters available for post-storm work before the peak of hurricane season in September, Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said. A shortage of available catastrophe adjusters came to light as Hurricane Matthew threatened South Florida. Estimating Matthew would generate 75,000 damage claims, Citizens contacted four companies under contract to provide 2,048 adjusters on demand. The company requested 624 adjusters but got just 279. Jay Adams, Citizens’ chief claims officer, said in December the company “would have certainly failed as a claims operation” if Matthew generated 75,000 claims.
“Medical marijuana clinics multiply in Florida via Susan Jacobson” of the Orlando Sentinel – Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida, plans to open a new office on State Road 434 in Longwood in about two weeks. It’s less than a mile from an unrelated cannabis clinic that opened in February. The company began revving up in November, the same week Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment on medical marijuana, and has been growing ever since. Other companies are rushing to get a piece of the market, too. Nearly 27,000 patients are in Florida’s medical-marijuana registry, with the potential for tens of thousands more. The going rate for a visit, which can take 30 to 45 minutes, is $200 to $300. Health insurers won’t pick up the tab because cannabis is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration or legal under federal law … These clinics don’t dispense marijuana or perform complete medical exams. They specialize in reviewing other doctors’ records to determine whether patients are eligible under state law for treatment with medical marijuana and help them get ID cards that allow them to buy the drug through a dispensary.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Robert ‘Budd’ Kneip retires from CFO’s office” via Florida Politics – Kneip, chief of staff to state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, will retire Aug. 31, the office announced Friday. Kneip will be retiring after nine years of public service, with “an announcement on the transition to a new Chief of Staff (to be) made in the coming days,” a press release said, suggesting that decision is in the can. Kneip had been former CFO Jeff Atwater’s man, a fellow Palm Beach Countian who served as Atwater’s chief of staff when he was Senate President, following him to the CFO’s office in 2010. Atwater stepped down to become CFO for Florida Atlantic University; Gov. Scott tapped Patronis to replace him in June.
Appointed – Peter Butler to Technology Advisory Council; Casey Reed to Florida’s E911 Board.
New and renewed lobby registrations
Bryan Cherry, PinPoint Results LLC: Veritas Technologies
Kim McDougal, GrayRobinson: University of Central Florida Foundation
H. Lee Moffitt, Lee Moffitt PA: AutoNation, Inc.
Facebook status of the day:
Happy birthday from the weekend to Arlene DiBenigno of Converse, Mercer Fearington of Southern Strategy Group, and former state Rep. Ed Hooper. Celebrating today is Daisy Baez, our friend Kristen Borman Doughery, David Browning of Southern Strategy Group, Jill Gran, and Eric Seidel.