Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 9.09.16 — Sixty days out and it’s all tied in Florida

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

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


Clinton and Trump are in tied in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The poll shows the two candidates dead even at 47 percent in a one-on-one matchup. With Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein added to the mix, the two remain tied at 43 percent each. Johnson gets 8 percent, and Stein is at 2 percent (all four candidates will be on the ballot in Florida).

Perhaps most interestingly, Trump leads Clinton among independents in Florida, 48 percent to 39 percent. Florida women back Clinton 56-36 percent, while men back Trump 58-36 percent. White voters back Trump 59-36 percent, as nonwhite voters go to Clinton 67-25 percent.

“To understand the racial divide in the electorate, consider the sharp contrast between white men and nonwhite voters in Florida,” says Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown. “Trump is getting just 25 percent from minority voters, while Clinton gets just 26 percent of white men.”

The results of the poll compared to a similar survey taken a month ago show very little movement in Florida.


MORE POLLING – RAZOR THIN MARGIN SEPARATES TRUMP FROM CLINTON IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics — Just one point separates Trump from Clinton in Florida. A Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday found 44 percent of likely Florida voters said they would back Trump; while 43 percent would support Clinton. The polling found Libertarian Gary Johnson received 5 percent, followed by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, and Evan McMullin, an independent candidate, with 1 percent. Six percent of respondents said they were undecided.

Remove the independent candidates from the mix, and the results change slightly. In a head-to-head match-up, Clinton leads Trump with 47 percent. Under that scenario, Trump would receive 46 percent and 7 percent of voters said they weren’t sure who they would vote for. The survey found 62 percent of Floridians thought Trump should release his tax returns. The survey found 39 percent of respondents believed a Clinton victory would be because “election results are rigged for her.”

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DAYS UNTIL: First presidential debate – 17; First day domestic vote-by-mail ballots can be sent – 24; first day of early voting – 49; Election Day – 59; first Legislative Organization Session – 73; premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 97; start of 2017 Legislative Session – 178.

CLINTON RELEASES NEW SPANISH-LANGUAGE ADS, INCLUDING ONE WITH CUBAN-AMERICAN REPUBLICAN via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald –  Carlos Gutierrez, the U.S. commerce secretary under President George W. Bush, says he is “an American first” in an ad titled “País Primero,” or Country First. “Vote for Trump? I can’t,” the Cuban-born Gutierrez says into the camera. “It’s dangerous, and we can’t go back. Hillary Clinton has the experience, and I trust her.” (Gutierrez’s support for President Barack Obama’s rapprochement policy toward Cuba has upset some of his longtime hardline exile friends in Miami.)

The second ad, to air in Florida and Nevada, is titled “Verdadera Fuerza,” or Real Strength, and highlights Clinton’s work for children — juxtaposed with Trump’s infamous comments about some Mexicans crossing the U.S. border being criminals. “Because he yells and insults, Donald Trump thinks he’s got strength,” a narrator says, as words on the screen say, “The hatred of Donald Trump.” The ad also urges viewers to register to vote. Some Democrats have quietly worried that Clinton hasn’t done enough to appeal to Hispanics in the general election. They fear taking the Latino vote for granted could weaken the so-called Obama coalition that Clinton will need to reassemble to try to win in November.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN’S GROUND GAME GETS GOING IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Post-Labor Day, the campaign seems to be getting more focused in Hillsborough County, with a slate of events designed to knock on doors of registered Republicans and sign up new voters before the Oct. 11 registration deadline for the Nov. 8 election. The Trump campaign will host a training session for canvassing this Friday at the Hillsborough County Republican Party headquarters in northeast Tampa (5118 N 56 St.), going from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will then be eight separate door-to-door canvassing events being held this Saturday (the campaign is dubbing it “Super Saturday,”), scheduled to take place in Tampa, Brandon, Riverview and Sun City Center.

HAPPENING TONIGHT – TRUMP RETURNING TO PENSACOLA AS PROMISED via Thomas St. Myer of the Pensacola News-Journal – A long line of Trump supporters walked away from the Pensacola Bay Center on a January night denied access to his campaign rally. Trump is returning to the Bay Center as promised — this time as the Republican nominee and with momentum on his side after pulling ahead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton earlier this week in a CNN poll. “Here we are,” said George Gigicos, Trump Advance Team director. “We’re the nominee now which is a big deal. Mr. Trump obviously has attracted big crowds from the very beginning. It’s changed significantly since we became the nominee. They’re larger and more enthusiastic than ever.” Anyone near the Bay Center this week spotted a massive red billboard with the words “Pensacola Welcomes Trump” in capital letters. The eye-catching advertisement states in tiny letters “Not affiliated with any campaign organization” underneath the Trump name. The Trump rally will be 7 p.m. at the Pensacola Bay Center; Doors open 4 p.m.

PAM BONDI SILENT ON QUESTIONS ABOUT $25,000 DONALD TRUMP DONATION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – She’s evaded questions about her relationship with the Republican nominee for president, refusing interviews and ignoring text messages. A onetime Fox News regular, she has kept her public appearances to a minimum as questions about “pay-for-play” mount. WhileBondi‘s office this week answered unrelated questions … it took two days for her office to respond to questions related to Trump’s contribution. And even then, some responses didn’t come close to providing answers. Nagging questions remain with what the New Yorker now calls “The Scandal That Won’t Go Away.” The controversy doesn’t look good, said Mac Stipanovich … “The optics on this are terrible, there’s just no question about that … I don’t think she or Donald Trump would deny that.” Since Bondi took office in 2011, she hasn’t been the most accessible elected official. Her official calendars typically don’t disclose her whereabouts, who is meeting with her or the topics being discussed. Public events, where reporters might be able to ask her a question or two, are rare. Even when entries were listed, Bondi’s schedule does little to explain how she spent her time as the state’s top law enforcement official. On 36 of the 90 workdays … the lone entry was “staff & call time” with no further elaboration. From week to week, it’s not clear how she’s putting in 40 hours … two new complaints sought to clarify the circumstances surrounding Trump’s contribution. One, filed with the U.S. Department of Justice by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, asserts that Trump’s contribution to Bondi violated federal antibribery laws. The second complaint by Massachusetts lawyer J. Whitfield Larrabee says Trump gave an unreported contribution to Bondi by making his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach available for a fundraiser at a rate considerably lower than he charged his presidential campaign this year. Still, Bondi’s silence may yet be golden, Stipanovich said.

HOW THE BONDI-TRUMP U SCANDAL IS PLAYING – Miami Herald, Donald Trump’s gift to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi deserves a closer look  – “Isn’t it terrible about those connections between the candidate’s foundation and charitable donations that changed hands in what appeared to be play-to-pay? Yes, it is.” Miami Herald, Unraveling the controversy of Trump’s $25,000 donation to Pam Bondi – “Last week, Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service and refunded his foundation $25,000 from his personal wealth because the … contribution violated tax laws.” Tampa Bay Times, Bondi and Trump: A fairy tale gone wrong – “They hardly noticed that their hero had slowly begun to change. Instead of fighting for the defenseless, she dined with the powerful. Her actions never seemed to match her words … Almost unrecognizable to those who once adored her.” Tampa Bay Times, Trump camp denies wrongdoing in Bondi donation – “Trump was not made aware of any investigation or discussion about a potential investigation.” POLITICO Florida, Trump campaign: no contradiction with Bondi over Trump University – “Trump’s campaign wants to make two things clear: He broke no laws and he wasn’t contradicting her concerning about a political contribution he made before her office declined to investigate Trump University in 2013.” Orlando Sentinel, Bondi says Hillary Clinton ‘bullied’ her: Here are the facts – “The truth, however, is that Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with Bondi’s black eye. Bondi’s behavior was criticized long before Clinton ever spoke her name. Long before Clinton was ever running. Long before Trump was either. I know because I was the original critic.” Orlando Sentinel, Bill Clinton hits Trump on Bondi scandal in Orlando – “Trump ‘attacked my foundation,’ Clinton said. ‘I think that’s because he knew they [the news media] were about to report that he used his foundation to give money to your attorney general.’” New York Times, Donald Trump’s Donation Is His Latest Brush With Campaign Fund RulesThat 2013 campaign gift amounted to only the latest slap of his wrist in a decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.” New York Times, Pay to Play, Mr. Trump? – “While it hasn’t been proved that Mr. Trump or Ms. Bondi violated bribery law, there’s little doubt that they abused the public trust.” New York Daily News, Briber-in-chief: How Donald Trump gave big money to Pam Bondi, who then stopped investigating Trump University – “A true pay-to-play scandal centering on a charitable foundation, rather than manufactured innuendo, has erupted in the rancid presidential campaign.” Washington Post, Trump bragged that his money bought off politicians. Just not this time.– “Trump’s gifts have been tightly focused on his own personal and business needs.” Washington Post, Why isn’t Trump facing a bribery investigation? – “He broke federal law … reporting that the donation was given to an unrelated group with a similar name — effectively obscuring the contribution.” Washington Post, Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one? – “While the Trump organization characterizes that as a bureaucratic oversight, the basic facts are that Bondi’s office had received multiple complaints from Floridians who said they were cheated by Trump University.” Huffington Post, Trump Held Fundraiser For Pam Bondi At Mar-a-Lago After She Dropped Investigation – “In March 2014, Trump opened his 126-room Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, for a $3,000-per-person fundraiser for Pam Bondi … Trump did not write a check to the attorney general that night … by hosting her fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago and bringing in some of his own star power, Trump provided Bondi’s campaign with a nice financial boost.”POLITICO, Trump rejects impropriety in Trump U. donation controversy – “Trump insisted … he never spoke to Bondi … Bondi has publicly denied the reports in recent months, a response Trump echoed.” Bloomberg, Trump Says He ‘Never Spoke to’ Florida Attorney General About Donation – “’I just have a lot of respect for her as a person and she’s done an amazing job as the attorney general of Florida’ …  he has known Bondi ‘for years’ and that she was ‘beyond reproach.’” CBS News, Report: Donald Trump held $150K fundraiser for Pam Bondi after her Trump U decision – “About 50 people attended, meaning Bondi picked up at least $150,000 from the March 2014 event.” Talking Points Memo, How Trump Has Explicitly Described The Pay To Play Politics He Now Denies – “Trump has boasted about his history of making major contributions to politicians of both parties — contributions he said are part of a ‘game’ that he has been on the ‘other side all of my life.’” Fortune, Here’s Why Trump’s Florida Attorney General Scandal Is a Really Big Deal – “Trump has … called many of his opponents spineless politicians … Of course, Trump has also bragged that he has long been on the other side of this process. ‘When I want something [from politicians] I get it …  When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true.’”



HAPPENING NEXT WEEK – ANNE HOLTON TO CAMPAIGN IN FORT MYERS, PALM BEACH COUNTY — Holton, the wife of vice presidential hopeful Tim Kaine and the former Virginia education secretary, is scheduled to campaign for Hillary Clinton and Kaine in Fort Myers on Sept. 12 and in Palm Beach County on Sept. 13. Both events are open to the public, and, according to the Clinton campaign, Holton is expected to discuss the Democratic ticket’s “plan to create an economy that works for all, not just those at top.” Details about the events weren’t immediately available Thursday, but media interested in covering the events can RSVP here.

NEW POLL SHOWS MARCO RUBIO AT 40%, PATRICK MURPHY AT 37% via Florida Politics — A Public Policy Polling survey found 40 percent of likely Florida voters said they were backing Rubio, while 37 percent picked Murphy. Ten percent of respondents backed Libertarian Paul Stanton, while 13 percent said they were still undecided. The firm surveyed 744 likely voters between Sept. 4 and Sept. 6. The survey had a margin of error of 3.6 percent. According to the poll, 45 percent of likely Florida voters disapproved of Rubio’s job performance. Thirty-five percent of respondents approved of him, while 20 percent said they weren’t sure. A significant share of voters (47 percent) said they weren’t sure what to think of Murphy. According to the poll, 29 percent of voters had a favorable opinion, while 24 percent had an unfavorable opinion. “Marco Rubio is not popular as he runs for reelection to a second term,” said Dean Debnam, the president of Public Policy Polling, in a statement. “But voters aren’t really familiar with Patrick Murphy yet, so that’s helping Rubio start out the general with a modest advantage.”

HILLARY CLINTON ENDORSES MURPHY AFTER BEING SO FAR SILENT ON HIS U.S. SENATE RACE via Kristen Clark of the Miami HeraldClinton endorsed Murphy with the following statement provided to the Herald/Times, shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday: “I am proud to endorse Patrick Murphy to be Florida’s next U.S. Senator. Patrick is a problem solver who will work hard for the people of Florida. From strengthening our middle class to fighting for common-sense solutions to reduce gun violence to protecting women’s health care, I know that I can count on Patrick to be a strong partner in the U.S. Senate. Florida families deserve a leader who will put their interests first – and I know that Patrick Murphy will be a voice for families across the state.” During the past 18 months, Murphy has racked up support from most every party leader with one obvious exception: Clinton. Clinton has been in Florida frequently in the past few months but conspicuously hasn’t mentioned the Jupiter congressman’s name during her recent public rallies, let alone referenced Florida’s high-stakes Senate race. Clinton didn’t mention either in Tampa when she made her first visit back to Florida since last week’s statewide primary.

NRSC FOCUSES ON MURPHY’S RESUME IN NEW AD via Florida Politics — The new ad hits Murphy over allegations he padded his resume. In June, CBS Miami ran a two-part report where it revealed he did not meet the minimum requirements to become a CPA in Florida and wasn’t a small business owner. “Patrick Murphy lied about being a CPA, lied about being a small business owner, and continues to lie about his professional experience even after being exposed as a liar,” said Greg Blair, a spokesman for NRSC, in a statement. “Murphy is nothing more than an empty suit with a rich father who, with no accomplishments of his own, has resorted to making them up.” According to the NRSC, the ad is part of a significant ad buy in the Sunshine State. The ad will begin airing Wednesday in Tampa and Orlando media markets.

REPUBLICAN GROUP MISLEADS IN ATTACK ON MURPHY’S RESUME via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact – The NRSC ad says Murphy “never worked as a CPA” and was “never a small-business owner.” Murphy did work as a CPA, albeit for only several months. He first worked as an audit assistant, and then got licensed through the state of Colorado. Murphy has been an owner of Coastal Environmental Services. The firm only did work in the Gulf for a few months in 2010 and has since been dormant. Since it is a private business, we lack some information about it such as whether he put up any money to finance the business. He was a co-owner along with his father. In both cases, the word “never” is too extreme to characterize Murphy’s work experience. However, in both cases we are talking about Murphy working for brief periods of time. Murphy may be overselling his resume, but the ad also exaggerates when it says “never.” We rate this claim Mostly False.

AFP-FLORIDA TAKES AIM AT MURPHY IN NEW DIGITAL AD via Florida Politics — The organization released a digital ad Wednesday targeting Murphy over his support of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, the farm bill, and export-import bank. “It’s clear that ‘Pay More Patrick’ doesn’t want to serve Floridians,” an announcer says in the one-minute digital ad. “His policies just mean you have to pay more for everything. Vote against ‘Pay More Patrick Murphy’ for U.S. Senate.” The organization … has begun a “relentless grassroots effort” to defeat Murphy come the fall. The organization said it has made over 540,000 contacts already, and volunteers hope to show how Murphy’s agenda will increase Floridians cost of living.

THE PATRICK MURPHY ZIKA FILIBUSTER via the Wall Street Journal – Maybe Democrats aren’t so confident anymore about retaking the Senate in a romp. This would explain why they’d rather reserve the Zika crisis as political ammunition for the campaign than pass the bipartisan $1.1 billion bill to wipe out the mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats for the third time this year filibustered the Zika rescue legislation, which failed 52-46. They have claimed for months that more money is urgently needed for prevention, research and health services.

NRA SET TO FUND MORE THAN $400K IN PRO-RUBIO MAIL via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission indicating it is preparing to do $423,802 in mail pieces in support of Rubio’s bid against Murphy. The group’s political action committee endorsed Rubio in early July … It had remained out of the five-person GOP primary before Rubio got in, and decided to endorse in his primary challenge against Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff “Marco Rubio is a strong advocate for the rights of law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen,” Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA’s Victory Fund, said at the time. “He has fought to preserve our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage, and stood strong against President Obama, Hillary Clinton and former New York City billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s extreme gun-control agenda.”

RUBIO PERSUADES EVERGLADES FOE IN SENATE TO BACK KEY PROJECT via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – The next best hope for Florida’s ailing Everglades may be a senator from Oklahoma who doesn’t believe in climate change … Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe [said] that fellow Sen. Rubio had convinced him to back a suite of Everglades restoration projects expected to cost about $1.9 billion and aimed at stopping the kind of crisis that gripped South Florida over the winter when El Niño dropped record rain. Inhofe, the powerful chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee, notably cast the only vote against a master plan to fix the Everglades in 2000. “Marco showed me this was different. And I wouldn’t have gotten into it if Marco hadn’t talked to me,” he said. “When Marco said one out of three Floridians are affected, I thought that wasn’t right.”

POLL: 70% OF FLORIDIANS SUPPORT MEDICAL MARIJUANA AMENDMENT via Florida Politics — A medical marijuana ballot initiative continues to enjoy strong support from Floridians. A Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday shows 70 percent of likely Florida voters said they supported the 2016 ballot initiative. That’s up from a similar survey conducted in March, which found 65 percent of voters said they supported the ballot initiative. The poll found strong support across most demographics, including 81 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independent voters, and 55 percent of Republicans.

— “Jeff Brandes is first Florida GOP legislator to back medical marijuana initiative” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

2018 WATCH – FLORIDA REPUBLICANS LIKE THE IDEA OF MIKE HUCKABEE RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR IN 2018 via the Sunshine State News – With speculation growing that he could run for governor of Florida,Huckabee does well with Republican voters in the Sunshine State according to a new poll from Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling (PPP) … 70 percent of Republicans in Florida see Huckabee in a favorable light while only 20 percent see him unfavorably. Huckabee does far better with Republicans than other voters in Florida. Almost half of Florida Democrats — 46 percent — see Huckabee unfavorably while 18 percent see him as favorable. Voters outside the major parties are more divided with 35 percent of them seeing Huckabee as favorable while 28 percent see him as unfavorable. Overall, Huckabee is seen as favorable by 40 percent of all voters while 30 percent of them see him in an unfavorable light. Asked if Huckabee should run for governor in 2018, 42 percent of all voters say no while 32 percent say he should. But half of Florida Republicans — 50 percent — say Huckabee should run while 24 percent of them say no. A majority of Florida Democrats — 52 percent — think Huckabee should stay out of the race but 21 percent think he should run. Almost half of voters outside the major parties–47 percent–say Huckabee should stay out while almost a quarter of them — 24 percent — think he should run.

MIAMI NATIVE #2 ON THE HILL’S MOST BEAUTIFUL LIST – The Hill has just announced the 2016’s winners of the annual 50 Most Beautiful list, which recognizes the Beltway’s best-looking as nominated by their peers and chosen by The Hill staff. The #2 winner on the list, Colin Rogero. Serving as a Democratic consultant, Rogero got his start in activism when he made a film called “Undocumented” portraying the plight of California immigrants. See here for Rogero’s profile.

DCCC, HOUSE MAJORITY PAC MAKES MASSIVE TV BUYS IN STEPHANIE MURPHY-JOHN MICA CONTECT via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee … is planning a $3 million onslaught of television commercials in the Orlando market during the last five weeks of the campaign season. In addition, the House Majority PAC, another committee seeking to elect Democratic members of the House of Representatives, has its own push in the works. No full numbers are available for what that committee is planning, but a review of records shows the PAC has already purchased nearly $400,000 worth of TV commercials to run in late September. The outside buys are unprecedented for a congressional campaign in Central Florida. The newly drawn CD 7 area loses heavily Republican regions in southwest Volusia County and picks up more-Democratic areas in Sanford and north-central Orange County. A review of Orlando TV stations’ public files found that the DCCC already has reserved more than $1.2 million in TV time, for hundreds of ad spots starting Oct. 4, on four broadcast stations. The review does not include commercials the committee has placed on cable networks in Orlando. The review found $384,000 worth of TV ads already reserved by the House Majority Political Action Committee. They start airingSept. 20.

WHY IS DAVID JOLLY TALKING TO HIS DOG? via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida Jolly ran out of friends at the National Republican Congressional Committee. So he got a dog in Washington. And now Jolly is talking to his pet in his latest TV commercial to show how he took on his own party and fought to keep members of Congress from nonstop fundraising … Facing a tough challenge from former governor Charlie Crist in a newly drawn Democrat-leaning district, Jolly said the frosty reaction from the GOP reminded him of Harry Truman’s famous quote that, “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” So he and his wife got matching Dobermans, Huck and Junebug. “Members of Congress spend too much time raising money,” Jolly says in the ad while talking to Huck. “And they don’t do enough for our veterans. And they don’t get we can prevent terrorism and protect the Constitution.” Because he has alienated so many deep pockets in his own party, Jolly acknowledges that his ad might not run for long. He could run out of cash quickly. He hopes to start airing it digitally … and on television Friday in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

JOLLY ACCUSES CRIST OF LYING ABOUT HIS STANCE ON STUDENT DEBT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – For the second time in a little over a week, the Jolly campaign is accusing Crist of lying about Jolly’s record. At issue was a tweet by Crist, in which he said Jolly opposed the refinancing of student debt: “Student loan debt is skyrocketing. I agree w/@USRepKCastor refinancing should be allowed. My GOP opponent disagrees.” Not true, countered the Jolly campaign. They responded by providing a link to a videotape of Jolly’s debate against Alan Grayson April 25, where he said, “There are some simple things we can do right now by allowing student loans to be refinanced, by making them eligible for reorganization in bankruptcy cases — those are two initiatives I have supported …” Jolly added he would also like to create additional flexibility for accelerating and expanding Pell Grants, and would also like to tie the performance of long-term student loans to what the universities receive in federal funding. Jolly is also one of just two Republican co-sponsors on a bill (H.R. 449) that would make student loan debt eligible for reorganization in bankruptcy and other relief provisions. Congresswoman Kathy Castor is a co-sponsor of the same bill. Jolly does not support the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” (SB 2432) first introduced in the Senate by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2014. The bill has more than 170 co-sponsors, including Castor.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Crist will hold a roundtable at 2 p.m. at Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th Street South in St. Petersburg to discuss making college and career education affordable for middle class families. Crist, a Democrat, faces Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

KATHY CASTOR FILES BILL TO RESTORE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS OF PREMIUM CIGARS TO U.S. TROOPS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “Restore Charitable Contributions of Premium Cigars to the Troops Act,” is a response to regulations on cigars, e-cigarettes and other products that took effect Aug. 8. Those regulations also include what has been understood to be a ban on the charitable donation of tobacco products … the new regulations had prompted Tampa cigar retailers like J.C. Newman and Thompson Cigar to stop donating their products to U.S. troops based overseas, prompting Castor to promise to take action when she returned to Washington after the congressional summer break. “Charitable contributions of traditional, premium cigars to members of the U.S. Armed Forces – a time-honored tradition that dates back to WWI – were recently swept up and disallowed in the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of a broad range of tobacco products that took effect Aug. 8,” Castor said … “I strongly disagree with the FDA’s ban on premium cigars as charitable gifts to our troops and as donations to nonprofit organizations that in turn use these donations to support our troops.” Castor also says she supports the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act, which would exempt individually-rolled, premium cigars from regulation by FDA because, unlike other tobacco products brought under the jurisdiction of FDA by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, premium cigars are not marketed to children.

MARIO DIAZ-BALART HONORED AS ‘GUARDIAN OF SENIORS’ RIGHTS’ BY 60+ ASSOCIATION via Florida Politics – “I’m grateful to receive this award from the 60 Plus Association. Preserving Social Security for current and future generations, saving Medicare, and repealing the estate and death taxes are important to our seniors, and these issues are ones that I strongly support,” the Miami Republican said. “I have fought to protect the rights of seniors across Southern Florida, and will proudly continue to do so.” Founded in 1992, the 60 Plus Association advocates repeal of the federal estate tax and for a privatized option for Social Security, among other issues. The group represents about 7 million seniors. The Miami Republican faces little competition for re-election to Florida’s 25th Congressional District this year, and the district’s demographics make it exceptionally friendly for Republicans.

ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN ATTACKS DEMOCRATIC RIVAL’S CRIMINAL DRIVING RECORD IN TV ADS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami HeraldRos-Lehtinen debuted a pair of hard-hitting television ads … slamming her Democratic challenger, Scott Fuhrman, as untrustworthy because of his criminal driving record. One spot centers on the father of a 16-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver. The other features the retired Miami-Dade County police sergeant who responded to the girl’s 2000 death. Though Fuhrman was not involved, both show an illustration of Fuhrman behind bars. “My 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie Witty, was killed by a drunk driver on Red Road,” John Witty says into the camera. “Now another drunk driver, Scott Fuhrman, wants to be in Congress, even after also being convicted of possessing a firearm while intoxicated. Less than three years ago, he fled on foot from a hit-and-run on U.S. 1.” Retired Sgt. David Greenwell, who introduces himself “as a 33-year police veteran and 16 years as a supervisor in traffic homicide,” delivers a similar message. “I don’t trust Scott Fuhrman in Congress,” he says. Ros-Lehtinen is not considered one of the most vulnerable Florida Republicans in Congress, though her redrawn 27th District now leans Democratic.

— “Florida Conservation Voters backs Bob Buesing against Dana Young” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times

JOHN HOUMAN — THE FORGOTTEN MAN THAT STANDS BETWEEN DARRYL ROUSON AND A SEAT IN THE FLORIDA SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – At a Tampa Tiger Bay event last month, Ed Narain joked that he wasn’t sure that Houman actually existed, since he hadn’t previously seen the lone Republican in the race on the campaign trail. Part of that was because all of the focus on the Senate District 19 race was on the Democratic primary, ultimately won by last week by House District 70 state Rep. Rouson by less than 80 votes over Narain. So as attention now moves to November, the question must be asked: Who is John Houman, and why does he call himself “Mr. Manners”? Houman attempted to fill in some of the blanks in his background. He’s 69 (he prefers the phrase “pushing 70”), has lived in the North Tampa area for the past three years, and is currently retired, after a career working as an electrician and then a Realtor. He grew up in Danbury, Wisconsin, and jokes that he was something of a “professional student,” before ultimately escaping the brutal winters of the Midwest once he discovered South Florida. Due to the strongly Democratic leanings of SD 19, Houman is considered a likely also-ran … “You never know until the horse race is over,” he says when asked about the slim odds of his winning the district. He hasn’t raised any money — none at all in the race, and is running out of the $3,000 loan he gave his campaign back in May. Houman speaks effusively about the Democrats in the SD 19 race, mentioning Betty Reed and Augie Ribeiro in addition to Rouson and Narain. “When I met the other four candidates, I felt guilty,” he says, alluding to his lack of a political pedigree. “They’re role models in my book. They’ve gone out of their way to get where they are,” he says admiringly. “They’re truly public servants.” In a statement … Houman sounds as progressive as any Republican running in Florida this year, proclaiming his support for human rights, “be it women’s rights, gay rights, or civil rights,” adding that you should be judged (which he misspells as “judges”) as a person, “not on your race, creed, color, or sexual orientation.” Before we ended our conversation, I had to ask Houman — what is up with the “Mr. Manners” moniker? He says it derived while watching Dr. Phil a few years ago on television. “It’s just the thought of the way you should treat people,” he says, referring to terms like “please” and “thank you.” “It’s about being polite,” he says.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Frank Artiles will host the grand opening of his Senate District 40 campaign headquarters at 12 p.m. at 8946 Southwest 40th Street in Miami. Media is asked to RSVP to Nick Recuset at

— “Fred Marra’s opening salvo condemns fracking in HD 29 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

HAPPENING TODAY: State Reps. Ben Albritton and Ross Spano are holding a joint fundraiser from noon to 2 p.m. at the Governors Club library, 202 ½ S. Adams Street in Tallahassee. Spano is running for re-election to House District 59; Albritton is looking for a fourth term in House District 56.


Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, running for Florida Senate District 39, has received the endorsement of SAVE Action PAC, and organization dedicated to electing candidates who will work to promote, protect, and defend equality for the LGBTQ community.

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FLORIDA ADDS MORE THAN 15K PRIVATE-SECTOR JOBS IN AUGUST via Florida Politics – The ADP Regional Employment Report shows the Sunshine State increased by 14,100 service industry jobs and another 1,100 goods-producing jobs, split evenly between manufacturing and mining and construction. Professional and business services positions made up 4,000 of the new service industry jobs, while 4,200 trade, transportation and utilities jobs were added in August. Florida’s gain was a slight dip from July, when the state added 16,400 jobs, but came in slightly ahead of ADP’s numbers from August 2015, when Florida added 15,100 jobs. The performance was good enough for third place among the states tracked in the report. California topped the list with 27,800 new jobs, followed by Texas with 21,400. The August report marked the first time since January that Texas added more jobs than Florida. The top-5 was rounded out by Illinois with 8,900 new jobs and New York with 6,700.

DOJ DROPS FIGHT OVER RELEASE OF 911 CALLS FROM CLUB MASSACRE via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – The reversal by federal prosecutors keeps the freedom of information fight in state court. About two dozen media groups, including The Associated Press, have asked the city of Orlando and the Justice Department to release the recordings of the 911 calls and other calls gunmanOmar Mateen had with Orlando Police after opening fire at the Pulse nightclub … His hourslong rampage killed 49 people and wounded 53 before he was killed in a shootout with a SWAT team rescuing his hostages. The U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI are now dropping their request that the city of Orlando withhold releasing the 911 calls, said William Daniels, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Tampa. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has determined that the specific records at issue are no longer part of its active and ongoing criminal investigations into the shootings at Pulse nightclub,” Daniels said in an email. The media groups have said releasing the recordings could help the public evaluate the police response to the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. The city countered that the recordings were exempt under Florida’s public records law, and that the FBI was insisting that their release could disrupt the criminal investigation. The Department of Justice had pushed to have the legal fight moved to federal court, where Florida’s public records law wouldn’t apply, but a federal judge sent the case back to state court. That’s where two hearings have been scheduled for later this month.

HERMINE CLAIMS MAY REACH $500 MILLION, INSURANCE ANALYSIS SUGGESTS via Florida Politics – Fitch Ratings Inc. cited an estimate from Karen Clark & Co., a “catastrophe modeling” consultancy in Boston. Total economic damages could amount to $1 billion in Florida and other southeastern states, Fitch said. Insurers could absorb the losses, although they might depress third-quarter earnings. The biggest homeowner insurance carriers in Florida are Universal Insurance Holding Group, Tower Hill, State Farm Mutual, Citizens Property Insurance and Federated National Insurance, Fitch said. Hermine, a Category One storm, was the first hurricane to land in Florida since Wilma in 2005. Since then, Fitch said, the risk has shifted away from Citizens — Florida’s state-run insurer of last resort — and national insurers to smaller, specialist Florida insurers. These now control 60 percent of market share. The largest reinsurer for these policies is the Florida Hurricane Cat Fund — also state-run. That fund has built its capital reserves and ability to pay claims since Wilma. Still, “the limited history for most new primary companies means that their balance sheets and operating infrastructures are untested by any large loss experience,” Fitch said.

LEON COUNTY SHERIFF MIKE WOOD DEFENDS PERSONAL USE OF COUNTY GENERATORS via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist – While thousands of Leon County residents and businesses continue to languish without power, Leon County Sheriff Wood is defending his senior staff’s personal use of taxpayer-funded portable power generators at their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine. And so far, he’s refusing to identify key members of his command staff who took personal advantage of the county government equipment. Not only does it raise new questions about the city and county’s shaky response to the disaster, it has current and former law enforcement officers outraged. “When you’re in law enforcement, public safety comes first, period,” said one former law enforcement official who has since retired. “There are reports across the city where frail, sick and elderly people could have really used a spare generator, but these selfish, so-called ‘leaders’ are only worried about their own personal comfort. That’s not leadership. That’s dereliction of duty.” Another police officer on active duty declined to be identified, but [said] citizens must always come first. “The priority of life for law enforcement puts victims and citizens before our own. Using public resources for personal use, especially during a crisis, is a selfish and blatant misuse of authority” … two of the highest ranking members of Wood’s command staff had a bit less to worry about than the men and women they command, thanks to their use of the expensive, taxpayer-funded portable generators. The officials used the equipment to power refrigerators and personal appliances in their homes, while tens of thousands of ordinary citizens waited in dark, overheated buildings for relief. A spokesman for … confirmed … that two command staff members, in addition to other, unnamed personnel, used government equipment at their homes.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will join Florida Department of Transportation crews to help with debris clean up at 8:45 a.m. at Arden Road at S. Adams Street (Crawfordville Highway) in Tallahassee.

ANDREW GILLUM ‘HOPES’ JACK LATVALA’S STORM CONCERNS ARE LEGIT via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsGillum said he “trusts” that state Sen. Jack Latvala isn’t unduly politicizing the city’s hurricane recovery efforts. Gillum spoke with reporters after a meeting with Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor on the progress of local recovery after Hurricane Hermine … Latvala was considering calling for legislative action next session to address the City of Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine. The Clearwater Republican, set to become the next chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, specifically questioned whether community-based power operations — such as City of Tallahassee Utilities —are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms. “I hope and I trust that the senator is really genuine in his interest in making sure that all of our utilities, public and private, are up to the task of dealing with storms,” said Gillum, a Democrat.

RUSKIN MAN WHO LANDED GYROCOPTER ON CAPITOL LAWN IS FREE FROM PRISON via Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay TimesDoug Hughes, the former mailman who landed his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last year to protest government corruption, returned home on his 62nd birthday, after serving three months of a four-month prison sentence at Federal Detention Center Miami. He arrived home wearing prison-issued sandals and carrying meager belongings in a paper sack, along with bundles of letters from admirers who had written him in prison from places such as Walla Walla, Washington, and Bonne Terre, Missouri “As your incarceration draws to an end,” one of his correspondents wrote from Kansas, “I wanted to thank you for your bravery in highlighting the cause of Big Money in our democracy with your creative gyrocopter landing.” In good spirits, Hughes hugged his wife, Alena and daughter, Kathy, 13, and sat down to a plate of Kentucky Fried Chicken, his first good meal since June. “The baked chicken on Thursdays was OK,” he said of prison grub. “The spaghetti, it was edible and it had enough carbohydrates to meet the requirements, but I’d rather eat the tray.” He said he spent his time in the pokey writing letters, listening to NPR and practicing speeches on other inmates about campaign finance reform and recruiting candidates for the 2018 midterm elections. “It’s good to have a captive audience,” he said.

UBER SUPPORTERS LAUNCH PETITION TO THWART HILLSBOROUGH REGULATIONS via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Tampa Bay area residents and even some outsiders are rallying behind Uber and Lyft in the unraveling battle between the on-demand transportation giants and the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. The PTC is just one vote away from passing rules that could force the two companies out of the county. The rules include mandates for fingerprint-based background checks and vehicle inspections and minimum wait times and fares as well as potential limits on how many drivers the companies can put on the roads. A petition had more than 550 signatures as of noon Thursday. The petition, started Wednesday, is being sent to all members of the PTC as well as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Buckhorn, however, has been a vocal proponent for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. “When you propose restrictions for ride-sharing services such as a seven-minute wait and a minimum $7 fair (sic) [it’s] clear that you are not acting in a public safety role but rather attempting to “level the playing field” for limo/taxi special interests,” wrote Zach Jacobs in the letter being sent to officials. Uber has said definitively that if forced to follow the PTC’s proposed rules by a judge, it would leave Hillsborough County. Lyft representatives hinted at the same fate.

WHEN A BOOK CHANGES A LIFE. Via Florida Politics – The Gainesville Sun is reporting on Christopher Mark Smith, a genuinely evil sicko. Smith … was apparently repeatedly sexually molesting a very young girl; he had been doing so for years. This creep was also trying to get the 11-year old girl to perform a pornographic live-feed video. Now Smith is in jail. The young girl, it turns out, was motivated to report her ongoing sexual abuse after a teacher read her class a book — “Lauren’s Kingdom.” From the book, she learned not only about what was happening, but it also gave her guidance and courage to report the abuse to a trusted authority figure. And that is exactly what she did. “Lauren’s Kingdom” was written several years ago by newly elected Florida Senator Lauren Book and is now part of a sexual abuse education curriculum used in over 65,000 classrooms throughout the state. And the book — and Book — changed that little girl’s life. Sadly, there is no happy ending here. As we know, this kind of sexual abuse leaves permanent and everlasting scars, ones that could take many years to heal. Hopefully, that healing begins today.

AHCA WON’T ASK FOR LIP EXTENSION, BUDGET DOCUMENTS SHOW via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – The State Agency for Health Care Administration won’t be asking the federal government to renew the supplemental Medicaid program – also known as the Low Income Pool – beyond June 30, 2017. “The Agency for Health Care Administration has indicated it will not seek an extension of the LIP beyond the current expiration of LIP waiver authority at the end of Fiscal Year,” reads an excerpt from the Long Range Financial Outlook. The decision … means hospitals in 2017-18 will lose access to approximately $370 million in federal Medicaid dollars they currently have access to. The Low Income Pool, or LIP program, was established by the state July 1 and was included in a sweeping Medicaid 1115 waiver that allowed the state to run a mandatory Medicaid managed care pilot program launched by then Gov. Jeb Bush. The federal government renewed the Medicaid 1115 waiver, which makes possible the new statewide mandatory Medicaid managed care program Florida has for most of the poor, sick and elderly, regardless of whether they are infants or the elderly. As part of the waiver, the federal government authorized the Low Income Pool program which gave financial support for providers serving the uninsured, under insured and Medicaid populations. Initially, a $1 billion program the federal government in 2014-15 authorized $2.167 billion in funding. In 2015, the federal government advised Florida that it would renew the LIP program for another two years but that it would reduce the spending to $1 billion in fiscal year 2015-16 and $608 million in fiscal years 2016-17.

FLORIDA LOTTERY BREAKING TICKET SALES RECORDS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Lottery set “an all-time record high” of $467 million in ticket sales for August … roughly 5 percent higher than last August’s sales. The increases were attributed to “a series of rollovers and high jackpots for both Powerball and Mega Millions” games. The Lottery now plans to transfer about $120 million from the August proceeds into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education. Last month, the Lottery chipped in $150 million to the fund from July operations. “The Lottery’s sole mission is to sell tickets to generate additional funding for education,” Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie said in a statement. “We are extremely proud that this unprecedented sales record will assist in furthering that goal.

STATE QUELLS MAJOR PRISON DISTURBANCE via The Associated Press – The Florida Department of Corrections says hundreds of inmates created a major disturbance at a Holmes County prison … the prison remained on lockdown Thursday after the incident the night before, but the disturbance has been resolved. One prisoner injured another inmate during the incident, but no staff was hurt. The department is assessing damages and has transported prisoners involved elsewhere. There have been news reports that prisoners across the country are planning protests to mark the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot. Eleven staff members and 32 inmates were killed during the five-day riot at the New York prison. The department wouldn’t say if [the] disturbance was related to the expected protests, or if the prison system was anticipating protests [today].

U.S. LAWMAKERS SEEK COMPROMISE ON ZIKA VIRUS FUNDING via Richard Cowan of Reuters – U.S. lawmakers sought … to break a logjam over $1.1 billion in funding to combat the Zika virus, with the Senate possibly considering legislation as soon as next week, even as one congressman toted a jar full of mosquitoes to the House floor to condemn congressional inaction. “Can you imagine the fears and anxieties if the mosquitoes were not in this jar?” Jolly told his colleagues as he brandished the container holding about 100 of the insects in the House of Representatives chamber. “Members of Congress would run down the hall to the physician’s office to be tested,” added Jolly, whose state is the first in the nation with local transmission of the mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Americas. The potential Senate Zika measure could advance as part of a broader legislative effort to temporarily keep federal agencies operating in the 2017 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Republicans and Democrats huddled separately in closed meetings in both the Senate and House to see if they could reach a compromise during a 19-day work session this month, before lawmakers break for a recess in the weeks before the Nov. 8 U.S. election. Lawmakers returned to work this week after a seven-week summer recess. One of the biggest controversies involves Democrats’ opposition to language, backed by Republicans, that they say would prevent Zika funds for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, mainly in Puerto Rico.

WHO’S TO BLAME FOR LACK OF ZIKA FUNDING? 50% OF FLORIDIANS SAY CONGRESS via Florida Politics — A new survey from Public Policy Polling found 50 percent of Floridians said Congress was to blame for the lack of funding to combat Zika. The findings were released just one day after the Senate rejected a $1.1 billion funding proposal. Floridians also appear to agree lawmakers should pass a clean Zika funding bill. The vast majority of respondents, 80 percent, said they supported passing a clean bill to fund efforts to combat the spread of Zika. “Let’s stop these political games. Let’s stop these political riders,” said Sen. Bill Nelson. “Let’s do what the Senate did three months ago when it passed – bipartisan by 69 votes – $ 1.1 billion in emergency funding, and send it down to the House and tell the House to stop playing these games.”

DOROTHY HUKILL DRAFTING BILL THAT COULD RECOGNIZE BITCOIN AS MONEY via Stan Higgins of coindesk.comHukill says that while in the early stages, the draft legislation will seek to balance protections for consumers and startups. The effort carries additional weight given that a Florida judge tossed out charges in a criminal case earlier this year on the grounds that bitcoin doesn’t fit the state’s definition of money transmission. Hukill, a Republican who represents Florida’s eighth district and serves as chair of the Finance & Tax Committee, suggested that the particulars of the bill – the first of its kind in Florida – are still being developed. Hukill told CoinDesk: “I think you have to recognize it at some level, so you can legislate and protect your constituents. Then you have to figure out what you recognize it as and how you regulate it.”

IF YOU READ ONE THING – THE SUMMER OF LOVE, PAIN, TRAGEDY, AND FAITH FOR SCOTT AND SUSIE PLAKON via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsPlakon and his wife Susie are living through a summer of love, pain, tragedy, faith, and struggle as they deal with her deteriorating health and the compounding effects of a horrible car crash. The Republican lawmaker from House District 29 posted an update on Facebook … that details what had been their relatively private torment: Susie Plakon’s descent into the throes of Alzheimer’s disease, and the apparent acceleration of that condition brought on by a July 1 car crash that put them both in the hospital this summer. Still recovering from that crash but at home, Susie Plakon, 55, apparently had a seizure … fell, hit her head, and suffered internal bleeding in the brain. She was taken first to South Seminole Hospital for stabilization, then to Orlando Regional Medical Center for more extensive medical care, he explained on Facebook. “For those friends that are still not aware, Susie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in late 2014,” he wrote. “It was generally mild and progressing very slowly. In fact, just a few days before the accident, she attended a political event and worked at our campaign table. I told a few people at that event about her diagnosis and they were surprised because they did not notice it. Then on July 1, a driver ran a red light and hit us at full speed. In the following days and since then, Susie has been exhibiting a number of later-stage Alzheimer’s symptoms. Since then, she’s needed someone to be with her 24/7. Thank God, we have a number of family members and friends that have been stopping by to spend time with her.” Plakon, whose deep Christian faith has always defined him and his politics, asked for prayer. “Susie is the most loving and kind person I’ve ever known … and I get to be married to her … for 31 years now,” he wrote. “I’m blessed to actually say that I love my wife and amazing mother to our six children more than the day I married her.”

WHAT CHRISTIAN MINOR IS READING — JEFF BRANDES TURNS ATTENTION TO CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM via Florida Politics — Brandes said he hopes to make reforming the system a top priority, but told the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists it could take years before reforms are achieved. “Our prisons are run at a skeleton crew. Guards are on 12 hour shifts, (they’re) tired, they’re angry … and what you don’t want is a (guard to be) tired, angry and watching 140 prisons,” said Brandes. “I think we have a crisis in our prisons.” He plans tackle the issue over next few years, spending this year gathering data so lawmakers can better understand the issues at hand. He also plans to introduce a bill to create a task force to study the issue. In 2018, Brandes said he hopes to run multiple bills to address the state’s prison system.

OKALOOSA LOSES LEGISLATIVE INFLUENCE IN TALLAHASSEE via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News – Okaloosa County is no longer the center of state legislative influence in Northwest Florida. When the Legislature convenes in March 2017, state Rep. Mel Ponder of Destin will, unless he’s beaten by a write-in, be the only county resident among the state’s 160 lawmakers. Current, former and future lawmakers insist that the location of a Northwest Florida legislator’s home matters little once they arrive in Tallahassee. “Northwest Florida legislators have a history of working together across county lines,” said Don Gaetz, one of the Okaloosa residents leaving the Senate in November. “We have to because there are so few of us in the Central time zone.”

ST. PETE WILL NEVER KNOW EXTENT OF SEWAGE DUMP INTO TAMPA BAY via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – The city’s public works administrator told City Council … that the city will never know the exact amount of partially-treated sewage that has been dumped into Tampa Bay for the past eight days. Claude Tankersley said a stuck flow meter on discharge pipes made it impossible to determine how many millions of gallons have befouled the bay since Aug. 31. And the city will never know, he confirmed … Earlier this week, the city notified the state’s Department of Environmental Protection that it more than 20 million gallons of wastewater had been dumped and the amount was increasing. On Thursday, Tankersley said that the sewage pumping from the Albert Whitted sewer plant was ongoing. He couldn’t say when it would stop. The city’s 56-million-gallon system was still near capacity, he said. Council members vented their frustration at the third dump into the bay since August 2015. At least 60 million gallons have been spilled or dumped since last year. Council chairwoman Amy Foster said the frequent dumping felt like Groundhog Day to her. “It’s unacceptable to dump into the bay,” she said. “It’s absolutely unacceptable to dump eight straight days.” Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city has budgeted $219 million in the next five years to fix leaky pipes and increase capacity. Officials said the system should be much improved within two years.

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LUKE RUSSERT TALKS POLITICS, MEDIA AT FAPL ANNUAL CONFERENCE via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Russert, the son of the late Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert, was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists annual conference. The 31-year-old spent more than hour talking about the state of the media and politics, offering insight into how the system has changed in recent years. He also used his appearance to talk about the presidential race …  pointing to social media and new media platforms when talking about Donald Trump’s rise. His antics drive viewers and readers to websites and cable news, boosting clicks and ad revenue for media companies. “It’s a fundamental altering of how America does business,” he said. Russert, who left NBC News in July, hinted at a return to journalism, thanking lobbyists for “all your scoops” they’ll be giving him in the future.“I’m one of the few people in the country that will actually say this: I love lobbyists,” he said with a laugh. “The reason why is you guys leak like a sieve. If you need any information about anything, you call a lobbyist. Need a great blind quote that slams somebody, you call a lobbyist. You need someone give you the family jewels, you always call a lobbyist.”

HAPPENING TODAY – LOBBYISTS WRAPS UP ANNUAL CONFERENCE — The 12th annual FAPL conference wraps up Friday at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive in Tampa. The final day kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with an “Ask Me Anything” with FAPL board members. Other highlights of the day include a session with Andy Gonzalez from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, who is expected to talk about the elections. At 11 a.m., Rep. Darryl Rouson is scheduled to discuss “Florida House Secrets.”

FLORIDA TECHNOLOGY COUNCIL WELCOMES IMAGESOFT – ImageSoft provides end-to-end digital technology solutions for governmental organizations, educational institutions, and insurance, health care and manufacturing companies. The FTC is the only association in Florida focused exclusively on the needs and priorities of the state’s technology sector. FTC’s mission is to provide a trusted voice for Florida-based lawmakers, regulators, chief information officers, procurement officials and staff as they seek information from the technology sector. “We are pleased to welcome ImageSoft to the Florida Technology Council,” said FTC Chair Cyndy Loomis. “Our member companies bring valuable insight and industry experience as we seek to ensure that legislation supports our policy goals to keep Florida a leader in technology research, development and deployment.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: KYLE SIMON JOINS HOME CARE ASSOCIATION OF FLORIDA – Home Care Association of Florida is a statewide trade association representing the home care industry; Simon will become its Director of Government Affairs and Communications. Simon brings more than six years of health care policy experience and since 2012 he served as an adjunct faculty member at Valencia College. Simon holds master’s and bachelor degrees in political science from Florida State University.

ANDREW’S DOWNTOWN, A TALLAHASSEE INSTITUTION, CHANGES OWNERS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The downtown restaurant that first brought corned beef sandwiches to Tallahassee will live on under new ownership. Andrew’s is changing hands from original owner Andy Reiss to general manager Jack Penrod. The passing of the baton includes the metamorphosis of its downstairs sister eatery, Andrew’s 228 Restaurant, into Brix & Bones, a wine bar and steakhouse. Andrew’s has long been the default lunch spot for the city’s political set, and crowds swell during the yearly legislative session, jamming the sidewalk dining area. “It’s still kind of surreal; it really hasn’t sunk in,” Penrod said during a break from Thursday’s dinner service. “But it is a dream realized … Andy was – and is – a great mentor and I’m up to the task.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to my friend, former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, Sen. Jeff Clemens, Rep. Ed Narain, former Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, and Jeff Danner. Celebrating this weekend is the great Katie Ballard.

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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