Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 9.26.17 – Pepi vs. Annette; Mother Nature vs. Puerto Rico; Donald Trump vs. NFL Day 2; Rick Scott vs. Democrats

in Peter by

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

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

It’s Special Election Day in the race to succeed ex-Sen. Frank Artiles for Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 40 seat.

At some point tonight, either Republican Jose Felix Diaz, Democrat Annette Taddeo or no-party candidate Christian “He Man” Schlaerth will be celebrating victory.

No doubt some voters will be voting ABF: Anybody but Frank.

Artiles, you may recall, stepped down in April rather than face a hearing that could have resulted in his expulsion.

The Cuban-American Republican made national news, embarrassing his colleagues and constituents, after he accosted two black lawmakers with racially-charged language at a private club in Tallahassee in a dispute over legislation.

That was then; this is now.

Diaz, the former state Representative and odds-makers’ favorite, goes into Tuesday with a total raised of nearly $1.5 million in his campaign account, state finance records show, and an endorsement from the Miami Herald.

Taddeo, who most notably ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2014 under Charlie Crist, posted a total of over $334,000, and gets to boast an endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden, who recorded a get-out-the-vote call for her.

Schlaerth has raised $539 and shows $3,219 in loans.

Matt Isbell, a Democratic data consultant, sees turnout as the path for Taddeo in a district that, as of Sept. 5, had 100,705 registered Democrats, 93,185 registered Republicans, and 94,206 no-party voters.

The Herald noted in July: “As the primary turnout showed, ensuring voter enthusiasm in the district for the Sept. 26 general election is going to be a challenge—and margins will matter.”

“Democrats needs a strong election day surge, just like what they had in St. Petersburg, to propel Taddeo over the top,” Isbell said.

GOP lead shrinks headed into Election Day” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Headed into Election Day, 11,827 Republican voters have cast ballots early in person or by mail, which is 491 more than the 11,336 ballots returned so far by registered Democratic voters. Those with no party affiliation, or NPA, have cast 5,188 ballots. The district is almost evenly divided … Turnout was never expected to be high, but it’s being held only a couple of weeks after Hurricane Irma walloped the entirety of Miami’s Senate District 40. Some initial forecasts had vote totals of up to 50,000, a number now unlikely to be met.

SD 40 race could be Donald trump test for Democrats” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – Florida Democrats are facing a test to see whether anti-Trump politics will give them a boost ahead of a critical election year and perhaps signal a turnaround after two decades of Republican dominance in the Legislature. They’ve made Trump a focal point in the special election  … Diaz, was a contestant on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” helping to make that connection easier. Ifaddeo wins with less money against the stronger organization of the Republican Party, it could be a sign of better times for Democrats. It would also test an anti-Trump strategy ahead of a 2018 election, when the governor’s seat and all three Cabinet positions are open and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is up for re-election. “It’s an interesting test. Does the Trump thing translate down the ballot in a nontypical election?” said Democratic political strategist Steve Schale. “If Democrats talk about getting back to a majority, you have to win races like this at some point.”

– “Pepi Diaz can fill Frank Artiles big shoes, won’t match his fiery mouth” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist


@AP: Maine Sen. Collins says she opposes GOP health care bill; CBO says it would cause millions to lose coverage

— @Lin_Manual: Hey @realDonaldTrump you can’t wait that long. There will be a lot of American deaths on your watch if you wait that long.

— @MittRomney: Just spoke w/ fmr Gov @luisfortuno51: “PR on brink of humanitarian disaster.” USVI too. DC must put aside controversies, prioritize rescue.

— @MarcoRubio: On my way this morning to #PuertoRicoStrong with @USCG We will do all we can to help #PuertoRicoRelief & rebuild better than ever

— @Jennifer2012: Gracias @marcorubio por toda la ayuda al pueblo de Puerto Rico, estamos más que agradecidos contigo, por ser nuestra voz en el Senado.

— @RepTedDeutch: As we recover in FL we can’t ignore our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. Many still in great peril after Maria. Must take immediate action.

— @CarlosGSmith: After Pulse, the Puerto Rican community was there for us. Time for Orlando to PAY IT FORWARD!

@BonillaJL: The shattered pieces of Puerto Rico have landed squarely on Congress’ lap, and Mariel will look like child’s play if they botch recovery.

— @DaneEagle: TY Lt Gov @LopezCantera & Speaker pro tempore @RepJNunez for coming to Lee EOC to discuss Irma response & recovery. Great state leadership!

— @BlaiseIngoglia: Remember: people were already boycotting the @NFL and ratings were down prior to the Alabama speech.

@SShawFL: Protest does not = disrespect.

— @RepJimBoyd: Excited to deliver important announcement w/ @FLGovScott & @richardcorcoran (today) in Bradenton re: FL’s opioid crisis.

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Bill Nelson among Senate Democrats seeking DACA extension” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Sen. Nelson is among nearly 38 Senate Democrats today asking the Trump administration to extend the renewal deadline for a federal program offering deportation protection to 700,000 immigrants brought to the United States as children. The letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke comes the same day a new Senate GOP proposal was released offering a pathway to citizenship for those receiving protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, who are often referred to as DREAMers. Senate Democrats say that the current Oct. 5 DACA renewal deadline is no longer enough because of the trio of recent hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas. Current DACA status expires March 5, 2018. “The hurricanes took lives, flooded communities, ruined homes and businesses, and displaced thousands,” read the letter to Duke. “These major hurricanes significantly disrupted day to day living and operations in these states and territories.” The letter also notes that an extension will allow more time for those seeking an extension to collect the $495 application fee.

Puerto Ricans hunt for precious Wi-Fi and cell signals” via Danica Coto of The Associated Press – The low murmur at one of two free Wi-Fi hotspots is occasionally interrupted by the cheering of someone getting through the largely jammed network. Most spend hours frowning at their phones, unable to connect. “There’s no communication. We’re in God’s hands,” Yesenia Gomez, a kitchen worker, said as she left a message for her mother in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Dozens of other Puerto Ricans opted to pull over to the side of the road along various highways where cellphone signals were strongest. Others in Puerto Rico and abroad called a local radio station to provide names, numbers, exact addresses and pictures of their loved ones in hopes of reconnecting. But for hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland, there has been only silence from the island. Some in Puerto Rico expressed anger over what they said was a lack of communication from cellphone providers about which towers were working so they could drive in that direction. “They’re not giving us any information,” said Ricardo Castellanos, a business consultant. “We’re in a state of emergency.”

– “’It’s like the end of the world’ inside San Juan’s steaming airport” via Rick Jervis of USA TODAY

– “Puerto Rico evacuates area near crumbling dam, asks for aid” via Dave Graham and Robin Respaut of Reuters

Puerto Rico’s agriculture and farmers decimated by Maria” via Frances Robles and Luis Ferré-Sadurní of The New York Times – Hurricane Maria made landfall  Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. Its force and fury stripped every tree of not just the leaves, but also the bark, leaving a rich agricultural region looking like the result of a postapocalyptic drought. Rows and rows of fields were denuded. Plants simply blew away. In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry, said Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture. The island suffered a loss of $780 million in agriculture yields, according to the department’s preliminary figures. Hurricane Georges in 1998 wiped out about 65 percent of crops and Hurricane Irma, which only grazed the island, took out about $45 million in agriculture production.

A man looks at the horizon early in the morning after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Photo credit: Carlos Giusti

Marco Rubio office rips Gwen Graham ‘stunt’ after she tries to reach him about health care” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times Graham sat down in front of a camera and proceeded to call Sen. Rubio’s office to urge him not to support the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. No one picked up and she left a message. She then called his offices across Florida. Each time, a recorded voice was heard. “Senator @marcorubio, answer your phone,” Graham said on Twitter. Rubio’s spokeswoman shot back, calling it a “stunt” and explaining that Rubio’s staff was helping people apply for FEMA assistance.

“Gwen Graham: Make Florida National Guard available to Puerto Rico” via Florida Politics – Former Congresswoman Graham of Tallahassee, a Democratic candidate for governor, again called on Gov. Scott Monday to “make Florida’s National Guard units not currently assisting in Florida available to help Puerto Rico’s rescue and recovery efforts,” according to a news release. “Volunteering at a Red Cross shelter, I saw firsthand how vital Florida’s National Guardsmen are to providing safety and security through an emergency,” she said. “Governor Scott should immediately authorize available guard units not assisting in Florida’s recovery to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.” Graham first called on the governor to make the Guard available on Friday. Hurricane Maria created a “humanitarian crisis” on the island, said Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, who asked the federal government to provide more search-and-rescue and humanitarian resources. Six Democratic state lawmakers also sent a letter to Scott, asking him to offer more help.

– “Nancy Pelosi: Deploy military to ease crisis in Puerto Rico” via The Associated Press

State legislators launch response team for Puerto Rico” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Two Republican state House members of Puerto Rican descent are spearheading a bipartisan response team to help the powerless island recover from Hurricane Maria and assist residents who want to evacuate to Florida as the situation becomes more dire. “We are getting in front of this as evacuees are already coming,” said state Rep. Bob Cortes, who announced the establishment of the “FL2PR Response Team” with Rep. Rene Plasencia … “Florida is ground zero and the closest to the island.” Cortes should know … he might have as many as seven relatives evacuate the island. Since Florida has more than 1 million residents of Puerto Rican descent — many of whom came in recent years as the island’s economy cratered — Cortes said it’s not unreasonable to expect that 10 percent might want to bring their loved ones and that could mean an influx of at least 100,000 new residents in the coming months. Central Florida and South Florida will likely see the most refugees. “Since many Puerto Ricans already have family members in Florida, it makes sense that many will be looking to relocate here to rebuild their lives while the island’s infrastructure is literally being rebuilt,” Plasencia said. “This effort represents an opportunity for Floridians to reach out in a very real way to offer a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who are facing such huge challenges from Maria’s impact.”

– “After Maria, what will it take to turn Puerto Rico’s power back on?” via Rachel Becker of The Verge

– “What Hurricane Maria taught me about the people of Puerto Rico” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

 Irma’s blow to Collier County’s beaches: $35 million” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News – At a Tourist Development Council meeting, Gary McAlpin, the county’s director of coastal zone management, said the beaches lost 635,000 cubic yards of sand — the equivalent of 128 million gallons of sand — due to the storm, which initial estimates show will cost $35 million to replenish. The county will seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for sand replacement. “We brought FEMA in early,” McAlpin said. “They know that we have damages on the beaches. They know that they are extensive.” Based on past experience with other storms, he expects FEMA to reimburse the county 75 percent of the money the county spends on the project. “It’s not going to happen overnight,” McAlpin said. “We have to get the permitting in place. We have to get DEP to approve what we’re looking at. Then we will move forward with a beach renourishment.”

Worth the click – “Time lapse shows Irma roaring ashore in Naples” via Fox News 13

The Keys will officially reopen to tourists Sunday, nearly three weeks ahead of schedule” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald – The reopening is largely based on a need to support local businesses that rely heavily on tourism, the region’s No. 1 industry. Last week, the Keys had pegged its reopening to tourists for Oct. 20. despite the fact that multiple hotels had already reopened and some attractions were spared and still online. The decision to reopen, the Keys said, was largely due to the completion of the most immediate infrastructure repairs needed in the region after Hurricane Irma battered the Keys … By Monday, water and power have been restored to nearly every location from Key Largo through Marathon, as well as Stock Island and Key West. Cellular service was working well, but restoration of Comcast cable television and internet was still lagging behind other utilities. Bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway have been inspected and are open for travel. Key West International Airport has resumed commercial service, and Florida Keys Marathon International is welcoming general aviation and charter flights again. Hospitals in the Upper Keys and Key West have also reopened.

“Scott mobilizes 400 guard troops to clear debris in Keys” via the Tampa Bay TimesScott said 400 Guard troops and 40 trucks will help clear away debris in residential areas where Keys residents are blocked from returning to their homes. He said 6,000 roof tarps are also on their way to the Keys. In Marathon, Scott criticized private haulers for not showing up. “The companies that have signed contracts around the state need to do debris removal and show up and do their job,” Scott said. “I‘m always going to side with consumers who want their debris removed, not with the companies that are trying to change the price and get paid more money after a disaster.” Several Florida counties have complained that debris removal firms are cherry-picking their way to areas where contracts call for higher payments. But debris removal officials say the small haulers they hire as subcontractors are going first to counties that pay the most money per cubic yard of waste. Some cities and counties have said it could take more than two months – in other words, after Halloween — to rid Florida’s streets, yards and parking lots of Irma’s waste. That has serious public health and financial implications.

Scott may have broken the law by deleting pleas for help from nursing home where 11 died” via Christal Hayes of NewsweekScott had given out his personal cellphone number to emergency responders and officials at the Hollywood Hills facility before the massive storm hit. In the midst of the crisis, officials left four voicemails on that phone—messages the Republican governor later deleted in possible violation of state “Sunshine Law.” “The whole point of our records laws is to allow us to oversee our governor and hold him accountable,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “We don’t have this oversight and accountability because the records have been destroyed.” But critics said Scott should have followed the broader guideline that voice messages must be kept until “obsolete, superseded or administrative value is lost”—something that might not apply in this scenario, as a criminal investigation is still underway.

Senator questions why Scott deleted nursing home voicemails” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Sen. Gary Farmer … who represents the district that includes the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills where the deaths occurred, says erasing the voicemails could be a violation of state public records laws. “Clearly, there is significant content and purpose behind those voicemails,” said Farmer, a trial attorney. “They go to a matter that is in controversy right now, which is who did what when and why with regard to the emergency situation at this nursing home.” Scott gave his personal cellphone number to nursing homes and assisted living facilities as Irma approached, but the four messages they left the governor weren’t kept. Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone pointed to state rules on handling of public records, which note that “transitory” information, such as scheduling for meetings and “most telephone messages,” can be deleted after their short-term value is lost. “The voicemails were not retained because the information from each voicemail was collected by the governor’s staff and given to the proper agency for handling. Every call was returned,” Schenone wrote in an email Monday. “The Governor receives hundreds of voicemails and once acted upon, they are deleted so the voicemail box does not become full, as is the standard practice with anyone operating a cellphone. This practice follows Florida law, and the state’s record retention policies.”

Irma caused delays in courts” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel – In the Florida Keys … the courthouse is still closed. A judge conducted first appearances last week at a mess hall table at the jail in Marathon. In Orange County, four courtrooms were closed because of water damage and people set to report for jury service Sept. 14, after the courthouse reopened, were excused. And in Seminole County, attorneys came before judges and, one after another, asked for more time. One lawyer appearing before Judge Debra Nelson described missing important communication from a prosecutor while sifting through a backup of emails. Another said she was waiting on assessments conducted on her client before Irma. And another had just received notice of the hearing that same morning because he hadn’t been able to get to his office. “Because of the hurricane,” Nelson finished one lawyer’s sentence.

Jameis Winston gets in the Irma relief game” via Dara Kam and Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Winston will hand off 400 Publix gift cards, worth $25 each, to Tampa Bay area victims of Hurricane Irma … part of a relief effort with Feeding Tampa Bay and the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc. Feeding Tampa Bay will provide 35 pounds of food to each family at a late afternoon event at the CDC office on Hillsborough Avenue. The food goods are being offered after Irma knocked out power throughout the Tampa Bay area. The CDC is targeting “areas of greatest need,” including residents of low-income communities and families with children and seniors, Ernest Coney, CEO and president of CDC of Tampa, Inc., said. “The generosity of Jameis Winston, Feeding America and other local partners, allows us to continue to lift spirits and help families to get back on their feet,” Coney said.

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White House defends Trump’s NFL fixation as Puerto Rico seeks help” via Matthew Nussbaum and Colin Wilhelm of POLITICO – The White House on Monday defended President Trump’s muted response to the devastation Hurricane Maria left behind in Puerto Rico, brushing off criticism that he’s been more interested in kneeling NFL players than a U.S. territory suffering from a humanitarian crisis. Trump last tweeted about the storm on Sept. 20, writing, “Governor @RicardoRossello- We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe! #PRStrong.” … “It really doesn’t take that long to type out 140 characters, and this president is very capable of doing more than one thing at a time and more than one thing in a day,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday, arguing that Trump’s Twitter feed should not be taken as an indication of his priorities. “We’ve done unprecedented movement in terms of federal funding to provide for the people of Puerto Rico and others that have been impacted [by] these storms — we’ll continue to do so,” Sanders said, noting that FEMA Administrator Brock Long and homeland security adviser Tom Bossert had traveled to the island to assess the damage and the response efforts.

— “Trump’s NFL attacks set record on Breitbart” via Jason Schwartz of POLITICO

“Matt Gaetz on NFL protests: ‘Change the channel’—then donate” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – U.S. Rep. Gaetz is using NFL players’ protests during the National Anthem to raise funds for his re-election next year. Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, sent an email to supporters Monday titled, “Stand Up For The Flag,” with a “Donate” button at the bottom. “The American Flag is under attack, and this time, it’s not from enemies abroad, but by players in the NFL,” he wrote. President Trump‘s criticism of players who protest during the national anthem sparked a mass increase in such activism this weekend, with more than 200 NFL players sitting or kneeling, others raising their fists and whole teams standing with locked arms to display unity. Gaetz, a freshman congressman who has allied himself with Trump, called it “divisive and outrageous.” His heavily conservative district, home to five military installations and a large population of veterans, has gone Republican since 1994.

Jack Latvala says he sides with Trump’s criticism of NFL players” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – After Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to stand for the national anthem in protest of Trump’s election, Latvala said he would personally boycott Bucs games until Evans apologized or was cut from the team. He is maintaining that stance after Evans and fellow Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson joined many of their NFL brethren on Sunday by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. … “A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem,” Latvala wrote on his Facebook page. “This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed.”

“Lenny Curry: it’s ‘stupid’ not to stand for the anthem, but Constitution protects such things” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union – Curry’s response to the Jaguars show of defiance Sunday — the first team in the nation to take the field after Trump’s controversial remarks Friday night slamming NFL players who stage protests during the anthem — holds off on criticizing either side directly. The conflict between NFL players and Trump pits some of Curry’s loyalties against one another. Unusually, Curry, who attended the team’s game in London on Sunday, didn’t comment or tweet anything following the Jaguars surprisingly strong 44-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He frequently offers commentary on the team’s performance.


Happening today:

Mark Bircher endorses Berny Jacques in HD 66 primary” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Former congressional candidate and Brigadier Gen. Bircher is giving political newcomer Jacques the green light for his campaign in Florida’s 66th House District. “Berny’s entire life, by word and by deed, embodies the American Dream of an opportunity, not a destination,” Bircher said. “My endorsement for Berny is based on the belief that he fully understands both the powers and the limitations of government’s role in achieving a prosperous and safe community. He is a gifted young leader experienced in both the public and private business sectors of our community. Courage, compassion, capability.” Jacques will face Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee chair Nick DiCeglie for the Republican primary in HD66. Both Jacques and DiCeglie are running to replace Rep. Larry Ahern, who faces term limits.

– “Aaron Bean gears up for Tuesday night Jacksonville fundraiser” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

– “Four Seminole County mayors endorse David Smith for HD 28” via Florida Politics

– “Anna Eskamani adds two more influential endorsements” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising

– “Libertarian candidate Alison Foxall to qualify by petition for HD 72 seat” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

– “Aakash Patel showing tremendous fundraising prowess in County Commission bid” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Deadline to run for Miami mayor passes with little opposition for Francis Suarez” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Now that Saturday’s deadline to make the Nov. 7 ballot has come and gone, Suarez’s biggest opponent may be himself. His well-oiled campaign machine faces opposition from a light field comprised of a Socialist Workers Party member, two perennial candidates and a little-known businessman running his first campaign — all with a combined $46.14 to their names. Though his political slogan leaves no room for hedging, he is careful not to anoint himself. In Miami, few know better than Suarez — who saw his father’s 1997 election as mayor overturned by the courts — that anything can happen. But his victory feels nearly inevitable. “He’s been building up to this for years,” said lame-duck Mayor Tomás Regalado, who would have faced a challenge from Suarez in 2013 had the commissioner’s upstart campaign not fallen apart after an amateur absentee ballot drive ran afoul of the law. “He really believes that he will be the next mayor and that may very well happen.”

With corruption probe looming, Michael Grieco drops Miami Beach re-election bid” via Joey Flechas and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald – … a sudden end to a campaign dogged by a criminal investigation into his ties to a political committee that raised campaign cash from a group of moneyed Beach interests in possible violation of campaign finance laws. The withdrawal, announced at City Hall at the start of Monday’s City Commission meeting, marks the end of a turbulent election year for the commissioner and raises questions about the status of the public-corruption probe into Grieco’s relationship to People for Better Leaders, a committee that raised $200,000 from a group of Beach interests that included well-heeled city vendors, developers and lobbyists. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office launched an investigation into Grieco and the committee in late June following a series of Miami Herald articles outlining his connections to the group. At first, Grieco stridently denied any connections to People for Better Leaders. “You can look right into my soul,” he told reporters. But the Herald showed that his handwriting appeared on documents the PAC filed with state election authorities.

Tweet, tweet:


Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will make major announcements regarding Florida’s fight against opioid abuse beginning 9:30 a.m. at the Bradenton Police Department, 110th St. W. in Bradenton. Later, the governor will hold a press availability beginning 3 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, 3228 Gun Club Road, In West Palm Beach.

“Constitutional commission panel recommends extending deadlines” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The new deadline for the public to submit amendments for the state’s Constitution would be Oct. 6, under a recommendation OK’d Monday by the Constitution Revision Commission’s (CRC) Committee on Rules. The previous deadline to turn in proposals had been last Friday, but commissioners wanted to give more time after Hurricane Irma blew through the state the week before. The rules committee also voted to recommend to the full commission that commissioners’ deadline to submit their own proposals to staff for drafting be extended to Oct. 17, with a final filing deadline of Oct. 31.

CRC panels meet – The CRC Executive Committee meets at 8 a.m., Room 401 of the Senate Office Building in the Capitol. The Bonding and Investments Committee meets at 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building in the Capitol.

Inmate seeks resentencing as execution looms” via the News Service of Florida – With his execution scheduled for Oct. 5, attorneys for Death Row inmate Cary Michael Lambrix filed a brief in the Florida Supreme Court arguing that his death sentence should be tossed out. Gov. Scott on Sept. 1 scheduled the execution of Lambrix, who was convicted of killing Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore in 1983 after escaping from a work-release program … Lambrix’s attorneys contend that he should be resentenced because a jury did not unanimously recommend that he should receive the death penalty. Jury unanimity has become a major issue since a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries. A subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty. But the Florida Supreme Court made the unanimity standard apply only to cases dating back to 2002.

UF files criminal complaints against nine football players” via Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun –Nine suspended University of Florida football players likely face third-degree felony charges after sworn complaints were filed against them by the University of Florida Police Department, stemming from its investigation into credit card fraud. True freshman offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort is facing 30 possible felony charges, while defensive end Jordan Smith is facing five. The seven other players — wide receiver Antonio Callaway, running back Jordan Scarlett, defensive end Keivonnis Davis, linebacker James Houston, wide receiver Rick Wells, linebacker Ventrell Miller and defensive tackle Richerd Desir-Jones — are all facing two possible third-degree felony charges. The criminal complaints allege that all nine players committed fraud under $20,000 and used another person’s credit card without consent. The players are accused of using a stolen credit card number to transfer funds to their UF Bookstore debit accounts, then using the funds to buy various items, mostly electronics. Smith and Telfort made multiple transfers, while the other seven made a single transfer.

— HUH? —

Whatever happened to the Zika epidemic?” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s been quiet on the outbreak front … as Zika cases have dropped dramatically this year. The state Health Department counts only 180 Zika infections in Florida so far in 2017, on track to come in well below the 1,456 cases reported all of last year. The vast majority are travel-related cases brought to Florida by people who came from somewhere else, like Zika hotbed areas in Central and South America or the Caribbean, already infected with the virus. The rest, about 40, were cases where officials could not determine exactly where the patients contracted the virus or instances where people acquired it locally last year but weren’t tested until 2017. Officials say they have determined one thing for sure: This year, there are no reported areas in Florida with active, ongoing local transmission of Zika, which means no known instances of mosquitoes carrying the virus. Another piece of good news is that the number of pregnant women with the virus appears to be declining. With only 101 cases reported so far this year, it would be difficult to match last year’s total of 299 cases.


Former President George W. Bush to address annual Naples conference” via Dave Osborne of the Naples Daily NewsBush is the keynote speaker of the Global Financial Leadership Conference from Nov. 13-15 at The Ritz-Carlton resort along the beach. His brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also is expected to address the leadership gathering that draws up to 350 of the Chicago-based CME Group’s top clients from throughout the world.

“Personnel note: Christian Minor to lead juvenile justice group” via Florida PoliticsMinor has been selected as the new Executive Director for the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), a Monday press release announced. He begins Oct. 23. Minor has been Legislative Affairs Director for Bridges International, “the largest provider of non-profit inmate reentry in the state of Florida,” the release said. “Our juvenile justice system plays an incredibly important role in Florida, one that mostly goes unnoticed, but I am ready to tell the story of how important it is to continue to invest in public safety, use tax dollars wisely, and help children change their lives by holding them accountable with respect and dignity,” Minor said in a statement.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jason Alison, Jonathan Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Convent Properties

Michael Corcoran, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Palm Beach Aggregates, Valet Living

Leslie Dughi, Richard Fidel, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Security First Insurance Company, Vault Risk Management Services

Gary Guzzo, Floridian Partners: Great Southern Wood Preserving

Thomas Maloney: Marriott International

Rheb Harbison, GrayRobinson: Florida Nurses Association

Joseph McCann, Pittman Law Group: City of Gretna, Florida Health Care Association

Daniel Russell, Jones Walker: SEACOR Holdings

— ALOE —

Fresh Florida lobster won’t be easy to find after Irma” via Carlos Frias of the Miami Herald – Many marinas and harbors in the middle Keys are closed. Boats that normally would carry lobster trappers and fishermen into the Keys’ fruitful waters were forbidden by the U.S. Coast Guard from sailing for more than a week. The middle keys are a minefield of boat wreckage and underwater power lines that stand to make hidden booby traps for any would-be fisherman. More than two weeks after Hurricane Irma, the Keys’ $150 million commercial fishing and trapping industry is at a standstill. And the result could affect every link in the chain, from the fisherman to the restaurant and grocery store consumer. If you find Florida spiny lobster at your local market, it will undoubtedly be frozen. “The fishing industry in the Keys is frozen, paralyzed. We’re literally in a state of shock,” said Luis Garcia, owner of Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Fish Market in Miami, who also owns a pair of commercial fishing boats with his brother to feed the business. “We’re in a weird place of picking up the pieces and seeing where we are as an industry.”

Gas prices start to drop in Florida after Harvey and Irma” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – After reaching a three year high in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, gas prices are starting to drop across the Sunshine State according to a new study from AAA. On Monday, AAA released the study showing gas prices averaged $2.67 per gallon across Florida on Sunday. That’s higher than the national average, which stood at $2.58 per gallon on Sunday, but a drop from $2.71 per gallon which was the average in Florida at the start of last week. On Sept. 14, gas prices reached a three year high in Florida when the average gallon was sold for $2.73. Noting that gas prices averaged $2.15 at this time last year, Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said the recent hurricanes impacted supply and demand in the Sunshine State. South Florida saw the highest gas prices in the state. Northwest Florida had the least expensive gas in the state.

What Michelle Todd is reading –Cinderella Castle contest: A dream come true for Disney fanatics” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – A contest that allows Disney fans to live their dream has garnered more attention than officials at Give Kids The World ever imagined. The nonprofit that grants children with life-threatening illnesses their wish to vacation in Central Florida launched a contest that offers the winner a night’s stay in Walt Disney World Resort’s Cinderella Castle. And while they can’t release numbers, interest has been phenomenal, according to Janet Ray, spokesperson for the Kissimmee nonprofit. “We just launched a week ago and the interest has caught us off guard,” Ray said. “It is far exceeding our expectations and is picking up more momentum from Disney fans than we ever expected.” One random winner can bring five guests to spend the night in the Magic Kingdom’s castle suite. The prize includes two-day Walt Disney World park passes, breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and transportation to and from Orlando. The Spend a Magical Night in Cinderella Castle contest began at the Sept. 16 GKTW annual gala, where attendees were given 50 free entries then it opened to the public Sept. 19. It will run through Oct. 13.

Florida State-Miami game time announced” via Wayne McGahee of the Tallahassee Democrat – The ACC has announced that No. 25 Florida State will take on No. 14 Miami at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 7. The game will be broadcast on ABC or ESPN. It’s the first non-primetime game between the two teams since 2011. The game was originally scheduled to be played on Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. and broadcast on ABC. The Hurricanes are 2-0 on the season after beating Bethune-Cookman and Toledo. The Seminoles are 0-2 after losses to Alabama and North Carolina State. This week Miami plays at Duke on Friday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. The Seminoles play Wake Forest at 3:30 p.m. Jimbo Fisher has never lost to Miami as FSU’s head coach.

Happy birthday to Cynthia Henderson, Clay Ingram‘s better half Leslie, Tanya Jackson, and Lori Weems.

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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