Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 9.29.16 – Behold, the future

in Peter by

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

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

THE FUTURE, BY THE NUMBERS

The numbers seem staggering.

Fifty-seven percent of Florida children are on free and reduced lunch; and 11.6 percent of Florida children are obese. And despite a per capita income is $42,737, 16 percent of the state is living in poverty.

With six million more people projected to live in Florida by 2030, it’s easy to understand why the Florida Chamber Foundation is tapping into its resources to plan for the future.

While discussions about Florida’s future can often lead to political debate, Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said that isn’t the goal of the annual Future of Florida Forum. Instead, it’s a chance for all of the stakeholders to brainstorm about how to best position the state for future success.

“We can no longer talk about what’s popular. We have to talk about what’s right,” said Wilson. “We’re all Floridians. No matter where you’re from, this is our Florida.”

As the 2016 forum continues Thursday, attendees will hear from a host of elected officials and community leaders outlining their plans for the future.

The second day kicks off at 8 a.m. with a breakfast featuring CFO Jeff Atwater and Dennis Lockhart, the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of America. The afternoon session begins at 11:30 a.m., and features presentations by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Attendees will also hear from Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; Jim Boxold, the head of the Florida Department of Transportation; and Will Seccombe, president and CEO of VISIT Florida.

ADAM PUTNAM: FLORIDA ‘CAN BE THE JUMPING-OFF POINT FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM’ via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Some of the most talented people in the world are going to end up in Florida at some point in their lives. Agriculture Commissioner Putnam just wants that to be sooner, rather than later. “I want Florida to be more than the prize for a life well lived, of success accumulated someplace else,” said Putnam during the 2016 Future of Florida Forum Wednesday. “We can be the jumping-off point for the American Dream; the place where those dreams incubate, grow, develop, and explode into something bigger.” To do that, the state should continue to focus on long-term investments in water and education, both critical to the future of Florida.

PUTNAM OFFERS UP A CRITIQUE OF FLORIDA’S FUTURE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Pointing to a series of charts produced by the Florida Chamber of Commerce  that showed grim statistics, Putnam joked: “I think we need to order up a round of shots” to “get our head around this.” Among the data presented at the chamber’s Future of Florida Forum: 57 percent of the Florida elementary school kids are on free and reduced lunch, 11 percent are obese, that 70,000 students are homeless, 16 percent of the state is in poverty, and per capita income is only $42,733. The difference between the areas that are improving and those declining “is leadership,” Putnam said. “It’s up to us to chart the course of this state.” Putnam urged the audience of business leaders to remember that “water is Florida’s golden goose” and to “think about water infrastructure the way we think about other infrastructure in our state … You couldn’t print enough money to recruit a company to Flint, Michigan” he warned, “because they failed at the most basic function local government has.” But to sustain Florida’s economic recovery, the state must focus on education. He noted that the state faces a future budget deficit because spending on Medicaid outpaces growth but “if the state were educating its young and preparing them for careers they’re not going to be on Medicaid.”

INVEST IN SERVICE WORKERS, RICHARD FLORIDA TELLS CROWD IN ORLANDO via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel – Cashiers, cleaners, servers and other workers in Florida’s gigantic service sector are a key to the state’s economic future, several experts said at the annual forum of Florida Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Florida … “Companies that invest in service workers, pay them more, get them involved in quality, see them as a source of customer engagement… have more productivity, higher profits,” said Richard Florida, author and urban studies theorist. Florida was a keynote speaker at the Future of Florida Forum.

Florida also took a swipe at the Republican presidential nominee, saying that creative entrepreneurs gravitate to “Places that are open to immigrants — sorry, Donald Trump.” Richard Florida didn’t offer any concrete suggestions for how to invest in service workers, such as the national “Fight for 15” wage effort that has raised minimum wage to $15 in some major cities. But he said Florida and specifically Orlando are an epicenter of service jobs and could benefit from better treatment of service workers. “It’s important that we upgrade the service economy if we want to build a fully sustainable economy,” he said. “There’s no better place to make the retail sector part of the creative economy.”

SPOTTED AT #FUTUREOFFL: Joe Clements and Matt Farrar, the co-founders of Strategic Digital Services; Neal Dunn; Majority Leader Bill Galvano; Rep. Debbie Mayfield; Chief of Staff Kim McDougal; Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, DEO Executive Director Cissy ProctorKevin Reilly, EOG legislative affairs director; Rep. Cyndi Stevenson,

MORE SPOTTEDS: Robert Argusa of Business Force, Chris Carmody of GrayRobinson, Adam Giery of Strategos Group, Francisco GonzalezChristian Minor, Rep. Keith PerryCory Tilley and Michael WilliamsRon Sachs.

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— Back to the campaign trail —

DAYS UNTIL: First day domestic vote-by-mail ballots can be sent – 5; first day of early voting – 29; Election Day – 39; first Legislative Organization Session – 53; premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 77; start of 2017 Legislative Session – 158.

BILL CLINTON CANCELS NORTH FLORIDA TRIP via the Tallahassee Democrat – Former President Bill Clinton canceled a bus tour across North Florida and a planned stop in Tallahassee to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who died Wednesday. Clinton was scheduled to take part in the two-day tour, including a Friday stop in Tallahassee, to campaign for his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It would have been his third visit to the Capital City this year.

AMID CONTROVERSY, PAM BONDI STAYS OFF THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL WITH DONALD TRUMP via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “You are all here today because you are part of the solution, and you’re about to see the Washington, D.C., train wreck come in for a reckoning,” … Bondi said during an Aug. 3 rally in Daytona Beach. “Independence Day is coming early next year, on a beautiful wintery day when Donald Trump is sworn in as president of the United States.” But Bondi, who also spoke at the GOP convention, has been noticeably missing from Trump’s last several rallies in Florida. She hasn’t been listed on fundraisers, either. Some rallies happened during the workweek but the absences also come as Bondi’s connection to Trump have come under renewed scrutiny. Bondi and Trump deny impropriety in the $25,000 donation he gave, through his foundation, to a political committee Bondi controls. It was news earlier this year then died down only to be revived early this month amid news that Trump paid a $2,500 fine for using his foundation, rather than his own money, to contribute the committee. A political aide said Bondi probably will return to the campaign trail but priority remains her elected duty.

CORRINE BROWN’S LAWYER BLAMES FRAUD ON FUND PRESIDENT via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Brown was “taken advantage of” by the founder of a scholarship fund prosecutors called a slush fund benefiting people around Brown, the congresswoman’s attorney said Wednesday … [referring to] Carla Wiley, president of One Door for Education, a fund that prosecutors said paid just $1,200 in scholarships but collected about $800,000. Brown and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, were indicted in July on fraud charges that center on the 12-term congresswoman’s support for One Door and that organization’s finances.

NEW AD ATTACKS JOHN MICA’S “BLOOD OATH” WITH GUN LOBBY DONATION AFTER PULSE SHOOTING via Larry Griffin of Orlando Rising – In the ad, you’re immediately greeted by a dark night with red and blue flashing lights – the night of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The ad then goes on to attack Mica for accepting a donation “while his community was planning funerals” … “It takes a real leader to stand up to the gun lobby,” the ad’s narrator states. “John Mica is good for the gun lobby, but bad for Florida families” … “He took a blood oath, signaling his intent to continue prioritizing gun makers over his constituents’ safety,” said Jason Lindsay, founder and executive director of Pride Fund. “This is why we decided to roll out our first ad of the 2016 election to expose Congressman Mica’s true allegiance, and support his opponent Stephanie Murphy.” Citing Murphy’s history as an educator, businesswoman and national security specialist, Lindsay says Murphy has what it takes to make tough decisions and stand up for those in need.”

DC DEMS BRING PRO-CRIST AD BUY TO $2 MILLION, SIGNALING OPPORTUNITY OR ‘TROUBLE’ via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — National Democrats just dropped an additional $462,000 in TV ad time to help former Gov. Charlie Crist unseat Republican Rep. David Jolly in what looks like a lopsided air war in the Tampa Bay area. With the new ad buy from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the forces backing Crist have reserved $2 million in TV time, while Jolly’s side has only reserved and spent $310,000.

Part of Jolly’s problem: he ran afoul of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is sitting on the sidelines. He was rebuked as a liar by the NRCC for plugging his bill “the STOP Act” on the CBS news program “60 Minutes” earlier this year. The legislation would have barred members of Congress from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Jolly has tried to turn the NRCC’s displeasure to his advantage in the swing district, where he aired an ad to define himself as an independent Republican. Still, Jolly backers hope that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supported him in 2014, will step up again.

FLORIDA POLL SHOWS A TIE IN ONE OF NATION’S PRICIEST CONGRESSIONAL RACES via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – A poll paid for by former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia … shows the Democrat with a marginal 1-point lead in his rematch against South Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo. The 47-46 percent race between Garcia and Curbelo, however, becomes a 48-40 percent contest in the Democrat’s favor after his pollster, Expedition Strategies, tested negative and positive messages about the two. The poll’s cross tabs and two new ads from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee suggest that Curbelo is vulnerable to attacks that play up his opposition to President Obama – who has a higher job-approval rating than the congressman – that tie Curbelo to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, from whom Curbelo has distanced himself for a year. In all, the opposing sides have spent and reserved $13 million just for TV ads alone in Florida’s 26thCongressional District for the general election, making it one of the top-spending congressional campaigns in the country. The district extends from the Miami-area to Key West. In this election cycle, Garcia has two distinct advantages: Democratic-leaning voters turn out in greater numbers and the seat was recently redrawn to add more Democratic-performing voters. Under the new district lines, President Obama carried the 26th District by almost 12 points and Democrat Charlie Crist beat Gov. Rick Scott there by 7.

DARK MONEY DUEL: SHADOWY NEW GROUP ATTACKS PROGRESSIVE POLITICAL NETWORK via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – On Sept. 14, the website EndCorruption.net was created for the purpose of going after a series of nonprofits organized to boost progressive and Democratic political infrastructure in Florida. Collectively known as the Florida Alliance, the network is funded by large Democratic donors who have quickly drawn concern and ire from traditional Republican-leaning donors and interests groups that have controlled the Florida Legislature for years. Much of the Alliance network, which is only loosely affiliated, is organized as a 501c(4), social welfare organizations that do not need to disclose its donors. Its emergence onto the scene in recent years has opened up new battlefields across Florida’s legislative landscape – and Republican know it. The branding behind the new push against the Alliance is “Citizens Against Corruption,” and much of its early activity — a website, a web ad and tweets — is aimed at Chris Findlater, a wealthy Democratic donor who has helped create similar progressive alliances in other states. “Citizens Against Corruption will not shy away from exposing the individuals who finance these shadowy operations, individuals like: Chris Findlater,” reads the group’s website. The Alliance’s most prominent organizations are groups with names like Win Florida, Florida Watch Action and Florida Strong, an opposition research arm that has gone after several Republicans, including House Majority Leader Dana Young … who is running for state Senate; and state Sens. Anitere Flores and Miguel Díaz de la Portilla, both Miami lawmakers in tough re-election fights.

DLP DROPS ‘CONSERVATIVE’ FROM POLITICAL COMMITTEE NAME via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald — Miami Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla changed the name of his political committee last month to remove mention of “conservative values” and replace it with something he said would better reflect his focus for the future. Diaz de la Portilla updated the name of his committee on Aug. 2 to the “Foundation for Human Values” from the previous “Foundation for Conservative Values,” state records show. The subtle name change comes as Diaz de la Portilla faces a contentious battle for re-election this fall in a newly redrawn, Miami-based district that leans Democratic. State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez is challenging him for what’s now the District 37 seat.

JEFF BRANDES WILL NOT RUN FOR ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR IN 2017 via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Brandes … has been rumored to be one of several Republicans, including former mayor Rick Baker, mulling a race against [RickKriseman, whose administration has been buffeted recently by a sewage crisis after nearly 200 million gallons have been dumped or spilled into local waterways in the past 13 months. Last week, Brandes said he had asked Kriseman if he needed state help after last August’s initial spills, but the mayor had been focused on a ferry project linking St. Petersburg with Tampa. Brandes told the Tampa Bay Times that he wasn’t interested in running for mayor. He can serve in the state Senate until 2022 and has plenty of goals left to accomplish, he said. The St. Petersburg mayoral election will be in November 2017. “I’m not running for mayor in 2017,” Brandes said.

DO-OVER DEM PRIMARY IN SENATE DISTRICT 30? JUDGE SENDS DISPUTE TO TALLAHASSEE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — A lawsuit that seeks to throw out state Rep. Bobby Powell‘s Aug. 30 Democratic primary win in Senate District 30 should be decided in Tallahassee because of its statewide implications, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Tom Barkdull said … West Palm Beach Democrat Rubin Anderson filed the suit, citing a recent Florida Supreme Court ruling that ordered Miami Gardens to throw out its Aug. 30 mayoral election and conduct a new one. Anderson filed to run against Powell and trial lawyer Michael Steinger, but was disqualified in July after his bank did not honor his campaign’s $1,781.82 check to cover the candidate qualifying fee. Florida law gives a candidate until the end of the qualifying period to rectify such a situation, but Anderson had no remedy because his check was returned after qualifying closed. But the section of state law that thwarted Anderson was declared unconstitutional this month by the Florida Supreme Court. The court ordered a new mayoral election in Miami Gardens after candidate James Wright’s qualifying check was rejected because of a bank error. The Supreme Court’s action means an older law is now in effect that gives candidates 48 hours to fix a problem with a qualifying check, even if the qualifying deadline has passed. Anderson wants the court to order a new primary with his name on the ballot along with Powell’s and Steinger’s. Powell won the Aug. 30 primary with 67.3 percent and has been preparing for a Nov. 8 general election against Republican Ron Berman.

SPOTTED at Monday’s fundraiser for Rep. Kathleen PetersJack LatvalaBrian AungstFrank HibbardDoreen CaudellMike MikurakBob MinningSuzy SoferLauralee WestineErica AtallaRobert Beck and Bryan Cherry of Adams St. Advocates, and Leroy Sullivan.

FLORIDA FARM BUREAU-PINELLAS ENDORSES FOUR REPUBLICANS FOR STATE HOUSE via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics — Reps. Chris Latvala, HD 67 and Larry Ahern, HD 66, received contribution checks from Farm Bureau — as did Pinellas board members Leslie Waters and Fred Petty during the group’s annual dinner earlier this month. Waters is mayor of Seminole and Petty is the former Pinellas County tax collector. Kathleen Peters, HD 69 and Chris Sprowls, HD 65, also received campaign contributions. “These state legislators have always been supportive of legislative agriculture issues, and we on the Farm Bureau Board-Pinellas appreciate that,” Waters said.

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DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS DENIES TRYING TO SHUT DOWN BRIDGES OF AMERICA CENTER via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics — According to the FDOC, the Bridges of America’s alarm, while rooted in good intent, is misguided. FDOC Communications Director Michelle Glady said the explanation was simple: Bridges of America’s contract with them expired, as contracts do, and the FDOC put out a request for proposals (RFP) to get a new contractor to help with their inmate transition programs. The problem was, Bridges of America didn’t like some of the changes in the new proposal, which reflect the FDOC’s new priorities with the program. “They’re welcome to bid on proposal,” Glady said. “If they did, it may change things for them. That would be the decision they have to make. They’re a business. They’re currently protesting it – that has to be resolved before we move forward with this process.”

Glady said they were absolutely not trying to shut anything down or put prisoners on the streets, however, even though the new model wouldn’t involve the transition beds that Bridges of America utilizes. “It’s not a radically different model or a big cost saving,” she said. “We don’t want to shut anyone down, that’s a total misconception. The RFP just looks different from the current contract Bridges has.” FDOC Press Secretary Alberto Moscoso says under the FDOC’s new program, things will apparently improve. Right now, they pay 60 percent of their substance abuse treatment dollars on the least-likely, and smallest, population to return to prison. That’s $15.5 million for approximately 688 beds, he wrote. But they spend only $10.9 million for 2,500 in-prison treatment beds, which also has a much higher rate of completion for a quarter of the cost, he wrote. “FDC can treat 4 times as many individuals for the same amount of money,” Moscoso said.

CITIZENS INSURANCE JUGGLES INCENTIVES IN MANAGED REPAIR PROGRAM via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Under new incentives, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. would pay for initial repairs to non-weather-related water damage — removing any water and drying out the property. These costs would not be subject to the policyholders’ deductibles. Citizens would pay up to $3,000 or 1 percent of the policy coverage … customers would be asked to accept a Citizens-approved contractor to make permanent repairs. These costs would be subject to any deductibles.

When they first unveiled the managed repair program in March, Citizens staff planned to offer breaks on premiums and deductibles to encourage policyholders to participate. Further research, including consultation with private insurers, suggested that wouldn’t work, said John Rollins, chief risk officer for the state-run insurer. “The market research indicated that these were not terribly effective incentives,” he said. “There was one big take-away,” he said. “In order for the program to succeed and truly intercept the problems with AOBs and litigation, and lower the costs, it needed to be very consumer-friendly and change direction a little, and give the consumer the option to participate. Not only at the time of the policy being written, but at and after the time of loss.” AOB stands for assignment of benefits contracts, through which policyholders sign away claims to contractors or other third parties in exchange for quicker repairs.

According to Citizens and other critics, these contracts can result in more expensive repairs, costly litigation and even fraud. The problem has centered on claims involving internal water leaks, but is beginning to involve storm damage, now that Florida has suffered its first hurricane landfall since 2005, Citizens staff told company directors during the board’s quarterly meeting this week. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation on Sept. 18 approved a 6.4 percent average statewide premium increase on Citizens’ policies, chiefly because of AOBs and litigation attending insurance claims.

CITIZENS FEARS BEING LEFT IN LURCH DURING WORKERS’ COMP FIGHT via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Fears that it might emerged during the quarterly board meeting this week of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which wants the Legislature to clamp down on the assignment of benefits agreements blamed for driving up its own premiums. “Workers’ compensation is such a huge issue, it’s going to take up a lot of the agenda,” said Barry Gilway, president of the state-owned property insurer of last resort. “It’s going to chew up a lot of legislative focus. It’s going to be harder to get our issues acted upon in an environment where we can take the economy down.” Gilway referred to the potential for job losses as businesses absorb the 14.5 percent workers’ compensation premium increase approved Tuesday by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The increase applies to new and renewal policies; existing policies would absorb the shock as they come up for renewal during the next year. The pain will extend throughout Florida’s economy. “Everybody who earns a wage in this state has an employer who’s paying this,” Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida …  House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran said Citizens need not worry. “No one in the Legislature fails to fully comprehend the issues facing Citizens,” he said via email.

FLORIDA POT INDUSTRY INCHING ALONG, EYEING NOVEMBER via Omar Sacirbey of Marijuana Business Daily — Florida’s fledgling CBD market just launched but is proceeding at a snail’s pace, with the handful of licensed businesses hoping voters will approve a full-fledged medical marijuana program this fall. For now, the current crop of CBD operators are hedging their bets on expanding their businesses ahead of the Nov. 8 election. “People are gearing up to pull the trigger on expansion plans after the November vote,” Jeff Sharkey, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, said. But, he added: “Nobody wants to spend money on infrastructure until we know for sure what happens.” If Florida voters approve Amendment 2 — as the MMJ initiative is called — the state could quickly become the second-largest medical market in the country after California, given its population of 20 million. Many are retirees. “If that passes, that will fundamentally change the market, and they want to be ready,” Sharkey said, referring to existing business owners. The state’s first dispensary opened in July. But the CBD market — established through a 2014 state law — has barely grown. The industry’s future rests in the hands of Florida voters. They will vote on a measure that would create a new medical marijuana program — one far less restrictive than the existing program. Under the current program, dispensaries can sell only vape oils, capsules and tinctures. At the same time, only terminally ill patients who have one year or less to live are eligible for THC-dominant products. Patients suffering from cancer, seizures, or epilepsy are eligible only for CBD-dominant products.

‘DOC STAMP’ TAX ON FREDDIE MAC, FANNIE MAE DEALS IS ILLEGAL, SUIT SAYS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Richard A. Castorri filed suit last week in Leon County Circuit civil court against the Department of Revenue (DOR), court dockets show. He bought a house in Leon County from Fannie Mae in 2014, his suit says. A Documentary stamp, or doc stamp, tax is levied on the sale of real estate. The state collected nearly $2.1 billion in doc stamp revenue in 2015-16, DOR records show. Ten years earlier, during the real estate bubble before the Great Recession, it took in about twice that. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the nicknames for U.S. government-controlled companies that, among other things, buy residential mortgages and re-sell them to investors. They also sell homes they take over after foreclosures. Castorri’s complaint alleges “real property transfers” involving the two companies “are completely exempt from all state taxation under federal and Florida law.” The state’s land and water conservation program approved by voters as Amendment 1 in 2014 depends on doc stamp revenue, however. The measure requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of doc stamp tax revenue to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years. This year, that number is expected to total more than $740 million. Castorri’s suit points to the charters of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which say all of their business activities, including home sales, “shall be exempt from all taxation … by any state, county, municipality or local taxing authority.”

CHRISTIAN SCHOOL SUES OVER STATE’S BAN ON PRAYER OVER PA SYSTEMS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Cambridge Christian School filed its suit against the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) in federal court. The lawsuit says the association violated the school’s constitutional right to religious speech. The school says the FHSAA “refused to allow the school to offer a prayer over the loudspeaker before the Division 2A state championship football game in December 2015,” according to a press release. But the head of the association said both teams were allowed to pray together on the field before the game — just not over the loudspeakers. The FHSAA oversees 32 male and female high-school sports played by 285,000 Florida students. Jacksonville’s University Christian played Cambridge Christian for the Division championship in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium; the Tampa team lost. The refusal to allow the pregame prayer caused Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to take to Twitter, calling the decision “absurd,” “cockamamie,” and saying it was “ridiculous that two private Christian schools were denied the right to pray before the game.” Tim Euler, head of Cambridge Christian, said in a statement this week that “prohibiting pregame prayer sends the wrong message to students.”

COURT SAYS LOCAL GOV’T CAN’T REGULATE VACATION SCOOTERS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – An appellate court …  struck down local ordinances in Bay County and Panama City Beach imposing safety and insurance requirements on businesses that rent motor-scooters or mopeds, usually to tourists. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said “local governments’ ability to legislate in this area has been preempted by Florida law.” Its opinion reversed a trial judge’s ruling. Classy Cycles, doing business as California Cycles, filed suit last year against the city and county. The company was represented by Tallahassee attorney Paul M. Hawkes, a former chief judge of the 1st District Court. The governments admittedly were trying to deal with “untrained and unruly tourists (driving) in a haphazard manner in a beach resort area,” the opinion said. But the scooter rental company objected to local laws requiring businesses to make their customers wear “florescent green highway safety vests,” according to the opinion. In fact, customers were not allowed to leave with a scooter if they didn’t have a vest on. Local laws also made the businesses carry liability insurance in case customers got hurt on the bikes. The rental firm also wanted damages for lost revenue “because it alleged it … could not fully operate because the required insurance could not be obtained,” the opinion said. The judges concluded local governments couldn’t regulate those types of motor vehicles because state law didn’t give them power to do so.

WHEW — BAY AREA ZIKA INVESTIGATION CLOSED WITH NO FURTHER CASES FOUND via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida Department of Health officials … have closed the active investigation into the region’s first locally transmitted case of the virus that has been linked to birth defects. The patient was a Tampa Fire Rescue firefighter who lived in Pinellas, triggering a scramble by health departments on both sides of the bay to contain a potential outbreak. Since she had not traveled to areas where Zika is widespread, the infection was believed to be the result of a mosquito bite. But testing of 70 people who had contact with the woman — including her immediate family and at least 25 co-workers — returned negative. That meant neither Pinellas nor Hillsborough met health department criteria to be classified as areas where active transmission is taking place, as occurred in Miami Beach and Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. The investigation, which was announced as a Pinellas case by Gov. Scott, took 35 days to conclude. Epidemiologists from both the Pinellas and Hillsborough health departments worked together and coordinated with county government mosquito spraying offices to spray and trap around the firefighter’s home and workplace. “Upon testing 70 close contacts and individuals from the community, we have found no additional positive cases,” said department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri. “We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to prevent the spread of Zika in Pinellas and other counties throughout Florida.” Trapped mosquitoes were tested at state Department of Agriculture labs. No mosquitoes caught in both Hillsborough or Pinellas tested positive for Zika, officials there said.

IT’S ALMOST OFFICIAL: ORLANDO TO HOST ACC FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — In what appears to be the worst-kept secret in college football, Orlando will likely soon be announced as the host of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game. The ACC recently pulled its football game, along with other championship sporting events, out of North Carolina because of a controversial state law considered discriminatory to the LGBT community.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a real up-and-comer in Florida politics (wink, wink) Steve Schale. Also celebrating today are David Bishop and Brian Graham.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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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