Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.
— Florida Politics’s fourth annual list of the “30 under 30” – thirty rising stars in Florida politics who are 30 years-old or younger – will be published in May. Your suggestions for the next generation of top operatives, lobbyists, staffers and politicians are welcomed. Please email your nominations to Peter@Floridapolitics.
— If you’d like to receive Jacksonville Bold, our new, twice-weekly, Sunburn-y email about Northeast Florida politics, please email me.
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— Quorum — Tampa Bay’s not-too-political happy hour — is this Friday. Quorum features candidates, operatives, media and political enthusiasts of all stripes. The get-together will start with 5 p.m. hors d’oeuvres at its customary location: Cassis American Brasserie on Beach Drive. Sponsors of the first Quorum of 2016 – co-hosted by Michelle Todd and Peter Schorsch – are Alan Suskey, Laura Boehmer, Seth McKeel, David Shepp, Franco Ripple, Anthony Pedicini and Amanda Taylor. RSVP here.
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”
As much as we focus on who will run for which office, it’s been interesting to track who has decided NOT to run.
Ambassador Francis Rooney, worried about what it would be like to run with either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz at the top of the ticket, passed on running for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. Former Senate President Mike Haridopolos abandoned a nascent effort to return to the Floria Legislature. State Representative Clay Ingram did not wait to learn what Greg Evers is doing in 2016 and announced he would not run for the state Senate.
Are these wayfarers, individual political situations, or the first indications of something larger?
Decisions about whether to run or not face two of Florida’s best politicians: Democrat U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican.
It’s almost reached the point where it’s mildly disengenous for Graham to continue to raise money for a campaign no one thinks she will undertake since her Panhandle district has been redrawn out from under her. Meanwhile, Baker, once regarded as America’s Best Mayor, is in danger of missing the window to run in Florida’s battleground 13th Congressional District.
And what’s up with Greg Evers? Wasn’t he supposed to launch his campaign for CD 1 last week? Or was it last month? A box full of political dominoes a are waiting to fall once Evers makes up his mind.
All in all, this will be a revealing week in Florida politics. Monday is the deadline for state and local candidates, parties and political committees to file reports showing their campaign finance activity through March 31. Congressional candidates must file by Friday.
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DONALD TRUMP STILL LEADS, BUT TED CRUZ KEEPS WINNING THE TRICKIER DELEGATE CONTESTS via Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post – If Trump fails to secure the 1,237 delegates needed to win the GOP nomination before the July convention in Cleveland, his missteps in the more obscure delegate contests such as Colorado’s could cost him a victory … Cruz swept all the available delegates in Colorado during a daylong state convention. The win pales in comparison to Trump’s victories in larger, winner-take-all states. Trump still holds a commanding lead in total delegates, and polls show he is far ahead of Cruz in New York … But the proceedings … exposed embarrassing missteps by Trump, part of the reason he has shuffled his campaign team. In the hours before Saturday’s vote, Trump supporters distributed white fliers to convention attendees with the names of candidates to fill 13 statewide delegate slots. But several names were misspelled or assigned the wrong ballot number. The gaffe was exposed just as Republicans were walking onto the arena floor to take seats and prepare to cast ballots. Trump volunteers printed new lists with new names and ballot numbers — but those lists also had mistakes, including the wrong ballot numbers or the names of people who had pledged to vote for Cruz. Trump supporters conceded that their team was coming up short. “I’ve been in politics exactly 37 days,” said Pamela Gentry, a real estate agent and contractor from Westcliffe, Colorado, who was loudly drawing attention to a Trump campaign booth just off the arena floor.
CRUZ ADDS 21 DELEGATES WITH COLORADO SWEEP via Nicholas Riccardi of The Associated Press – Of Cruz‘s delegates, only 17 were formally pledged to him, and in theory the other four could change their vote in Cleveland. But they were all included on the senator’s slates and are largely state party officials who said they were barred from signing a formal pledge for Cruz but have promised to back him in balloting at the convention. The result shows how Cruz’s superior organization has helped him as he tries to catch up with front-runner Donald Trump. While Cruz’s campaign spent months recruiting slates of delegates and securing pledges, Trump only this week hired a Colorado state director. Two candidates Trump’s campaign told backers to support in one district were not even on the ballot.
BOSTON GLOBE PRINTS FAKE FRONT PAGE SATIRIZING TRUMP via The Associated Press – The editorial board of The Boston Globe is using a satirical front page to express its uneasiness with a potential Trump presidency. The newspaper has printed a satirical front page for its Sunday “Ideas” section. The page is dated April 9, 2017, and features a large photo of Trump below dominant headline that reads “Deportations to Begin.” The accompanying story has Trump calling on Congress to fund a deportation program amid protests … Some jokes are included, such as a mention of Yellowstone National Park being renamed for Trump. In an editorial, the Globe calls the satire “an exercise in taking a man at his word.”
POLITICAL ‘HUNGER GAMES’ ROILS TRUMP’S INNER CIRCLE via Kenneth Vogel, Ben Schreckinger and Eli Stokols of POLITICO – [S]taffers are increasingly dividing themselves into competing factions aligned with … embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who still commands deep loyalty among many of the people he hired; deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner, who has a growing group of supporters; and newly hired strategist Paul Manafort, who was elevated this week and is building his own fiefdom. … The day after Cruz won Wisconsin, Trump met privately with Manafort, then Lewandowski was informed of the new campaign structure in which Manafort has primary authority on many strategic decisions previously handled by Lewandowski or his allies. … Ivanka Trump and her brothers Eric and Don Jr. have been huddling with their father in his office at Trump Tower as he attends to his business holdings … But Trump’s allies worry that the efforts to build a more serious campaign organization may be coming too late. … There are signs of trouble for Trump in the upcoming states … In California, Trump’s aides are still looking for a campaign manager, and in New Jersey, the second-highest ranking staffer left this week. The states hold potentially determinative primary elections June 7, the last day of voting. “There is nothing,” said a person familiar with Trump’s footprint in California. … In Indiana, where early voting began this week … volunteers are complaining about the weak organization. … Lewandowski … remains tasked with overseeing Trump’s campaign events and traveling with the candidate … Manafort has taken over some hiring decisions that had been the purview of a Lewandowski loyalist, Stuart Jolly … Joy Lutes, who is seen as close to both Lewandowski and Glassner, has emerged as a power center in her own right, executing an ongoing round of firings, and reaching out to former campaign staff suspected of leaking to the press. … Manafort … left the unmistakable impression that he was in charge. “I work directly for the boss,” Manafort said bluntly on CNN. “I listen to everybody, but I have one man whose voice is louder than everybody else’s.”
TWEET, TWEET: @maggieNYT: “Folks have often underestimated or misunderstood the durability of @RogerJStoneJr with Trump. Has happened for years.
EPILOGUE — JEB BUSH, MARCO RUBIO PUSHED BOUNDARIES OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE WITH UNLIMITED DONATIONS, SECRECY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – $235 million … Bush and Rubio burned through that much cash before joining the heap of failed 2016 presidential candidates, an astounding figure even in the big-money era. But more important, the Floridians pushed new boundaries of campaign finance, setting examples likely to be copied by other candidates while leaving behind a string of complaints from watchdog groups contending laws were broken. And both Bush and Rubio’s candidacies contributed to a trend in which LLCs, or limited liability corporations, gave considerable sums to their respective super PACs while making it harder for the public to track the source. One cryptically named entity, IGX LLC, gave Rubio $500,000, resulting in an FEC complaint. The former candidates did not respond to requests for comment, but people who worked on their behalf said they followed the law. “To my knowledge, Right to Rise super PAC and the campaign fully complied with all FEC rules and regulations,” said PAC treasurer Charlie Spies. “Conservative Solutions Project looks forward to complying with each and every rule and regulation from the IRS regarding 501(c)(4)s,” said spokesman Jeff Sadosky, referring to the section of the tax code the group falls under. He denies it was set up solely to benefit Rubio.
TURBULENT RACE COULD MEAN CASH CRUNCH FOR REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE via Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times – Confronted with a prolonged presidential nomination fight and two leading candidates whom donors are uneasy about, the Republican National Committee could be contending with a cash crunch that limits its ability to pour resources into battleground states. Sean Spicer, the spokesman for the R.N.C., acknowledged that there are certain money targets the committee may not hit, describing the shortfall as a function of not having a clear nominee, as opposed to an issue with fundraising performance. The R.N.C. reported having just over $15 million in the bank at the end of February. But at the close of the last financial reporting period about $4.5 million of that money was restricted to costs such as payments for its headquarters and legal affairs. In 2008, the party had over $21 million on hand at the same point in the race, and more than $23 million in 2012.
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U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Republican Carlos Beruff will be campaigning in Fort Myers.
VAL DEMINGS ENDORSED BY STENY HOYER IN CD 10 RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Demings has received the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland. “Val Demings is the kind of leader we need to advocate on behalf of Florida’s 10th District. Her long record of delivering results on behalf of her community makes me confident she has the skills needed to serve the people of Orlando,” Hoyer stated in a news release … “She has proven herself to be a focused leader with an unparalleled ability to bring together diverse communities and truly effect change.”
MARK BIRCHER: I WOULDN’T RUN IF I COULDN’T WIN CD 13 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – There’s been nary a word about the only declared Republican in the race, Mark Bircher, the retired Marine Corps Reserve brigadier general, commercial pilot and attorney who finished third in the GOP primary in 2014 … Despite the fact the district is considered to be leaning strongly Democratic after the redistricting, the 62-year-old Bircher thinks he has a chance of winning the primary and general election later this year. “I am not looking at that as a burden,” he says about the reconfigured district. “Because when I talk to the people, they say the same thing – they want good schools, good job opportunities, safe neighborhoods. They want the same thing. If people will listen to my platform, I think for me, it doesn’t matter about the redistricting, or I wouldn’t be trying. Obviously, I think there’s a path for me.”
SANDY MURMAN OUT OF SENATE RACE via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – [Hillsborough] County Commissioner Murman … says she won’t challenge [Dana] Young in a state Senate District 18 Republican primary, but Democrats apparently are determined to find an opponent. “I do not plan on running for the state Senate. Thanks for asking,” Murman said in a text message … For weeks, she’s considered and investigated the race, but beating Young wouldn’t be easy. As of the end of February, Young had raised $264,520 in her campaign account and $553,230 in her Friends of Dana Young PAC, and was sitting on most of it. On the Democratic side, chances for a strong candidate looked bleak when state Rep. Janet Cruz … waved off the race, citing the cost and the need to run for re-election in two years, and then prominent lawyer and donor Tom Scarritt did the same, citing his case load. But the Republican presidential problems are apparently putting energy into Democrats’ candidate recruiting, and commercial litigator Bob Buesing with the Trenam law firm is considering the race.
WITH 80K+ FIRST-MONTH HAUL, REBECCA SMITH ALREADY TURNING HEADS IN HD 60 RACE via Florida Politics – That impressive figure is almost $25,000 more than what [Dana] Youngraised in her first month of campaigning when she won the battleground seat in 2010. Smith’s first report includes more than 150 individual contributors. “I am honored, humbled and deeply grateful for the strong, bipartisan outpouring of financial support from so many people throughout our community,” Smith said. “This year, voters in District 60 have an important decision to make and our campaign is committed to raising the resources necessary to carry our message directly to the residents of our district.” Smith, the founder of A.D. Morgan Corp. and a member of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, is running in the Republican primary against engineer and one-time Tampa City Council candidate Jackie Toledo.
IN HD 69, KATHLEEN PETERS DRAWS A DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER via Florida Politics – Jennifer Webb … is currently the only candidate running against Peters. Hypnotist Robert Saviola had filed … as a Libertarian in 2015, but ended his campaign in January. Webb’s Facebook page says she is the Director of Community Partnerships at the University of South Florida. Webb has a campaign website posted at JenniferWebb.org. Webb’s candidacy likely poses little threat to Peter’s chances at a third term, despite HD69 having a nearly even split in voter registrations for Republicans and Democrats.
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RICK SCOTT RESPONDS TO COFFEE SHOP SHOWDOWN via Jason Dearen and Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Instead of ignoring the exchange that had been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube, Scott’s political committee Friday posted its own video that called activist Cara Jennings a “latte liberal” who once refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at a public meeting. Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” committee fired back in its own video that espouses Scott’s job creation in Gainesville, where the confrontation occurred. The video displays a satellite map of the Gainesville neighborhood where the incident happened to allege that thousands of new jobs were created there. “Almost everybody,” the narrator responds to Jennings jobs question. “Except those who are sitting around coffee shops demanding public assistance, surfing the Internet and cursing at customers who come in.”
VIRAL VIDEO OF WOMAN BERATING SCOTT KICKS OFF DEBATE ABOUT HIS POLICIES via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Last month, it was viral video of Scott dodging questions on MSNBC that had people talking. This week, he went viral again when a video was posted on YouTube of a woman berating the governor while he stood in line for Starbucks. In both viral videos, Scott’s answers didn’t satisfy the person questioning him. Between calling the governor names we can’t print in the paper, [Cara] Jennings’ criticisms fell into two topics: Medicaid expansion and abortion rights … Let’s pause here to recap the facts … Scott flip-flopped on Medicaid expansion twice. He was against it. Then he was for it. Now he is against it again. There are real implications for 567,000 uninsured Floridians who remain in the coverage gap because they make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsidies to purchase an insurance policy on the health care exchange. Scott deserves the credit or the blame, depending on your opinion of Medicaid expansion. He is the governor and he could make it happen if he wanted to … You decide for yourself if you think Scott’s policies are right or wrong. Same for deciding whether you think Jennings’ tactics were appropriate. My only goal is to shed light on the facts and hold the governor accountable for his actions or inactions. As you know by now, that is difficult with Scott who too often responds “jobs” to each and every question. I wonder what would happen if the governor just paused and gave a thoughtful, authentic answer to his questioners and critics when he has the chance.
— “Cara Jennings can’t get in to see Rick Scott … anybody surprised?” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News
HOW SCOTT’S STARBUCKS SCUFFLE IS PLAYING — Chicago Tribune, Ugly manners: When life imitates the Internet – “On one hand, this could be seen as a glorious example of speaking truth to power — or gobbledygook to power, depending on your point of view — and a celebration of America’s long tradition of free speech. That’s probably partly true. On the other hand, at least to me, it looks like yet another example of a culture in which people don’t know how to behave in public spaces, and where life increasingly imitates the Internet.” News-press.com, Confrontation with Gov. Scott foolish – “Of course we have a right to shout at public officials. Scott chose to leave Starbucks, not to send one of his FDLE guys to arrest her for disorderly conduct. It’s not the content of what she said, it’s her conduct that was entirely inexcusable.” U.S. News & World Report, The End of Civility? – “We live in dangerous times and explosive scenes like this are generally to be avoided … Under different circumstances involving a different politician It could have easily ended badly with the woman tazed and in restraints.” Providence Journal, The magic word that caused the Rick Scott Starbucks video to go viral – “What did you expect? Civility? In 2016? … It would have been like Lord Voldemort popping into his favorite pub and finding Harry Potter at the bar … it was her use of a magic word that elevated the confrontation to national news. She called the governor an a**hole.” 2Paragraphs.com, Florida Gov. Rick Scott — Why He Smiles During Starbucks Rant – “The woman in the video was clearly accosting the governor — and if she’s a model for constructive debate and problem-solving, we’re doomed.” Creative Loafing Tampa, Rick Scott PAC dignifies activist’s Starbucks rant with a response – “Rather than ignore it and let it go, like Scott seemed to do when he quietly walked out of the coffee shop, sans coffee, his Let’s Get to Work PAC used footage from the video to throw it back at her.” Gawker, Rick Scott, Universe’s Biggest Jerk, Releases Attack Ad Against Woman Who Confronted Him in Starbucks – “You’d think that Scott, being exalted royalty on his home planet Zorblart, could handle being called a few names, but apparently not.” Raw Story, Florida governor launches bullying attack on woman who criticized him at Starbucks – “Scott himself also attacked Jennings … ‘People with radical views tend to not like civil debate. A self-proclaimed anarchist rudely yelled and cursed at the Governor … It’s a free country, but it’s not at all surprising that an anarchist prefers shouting over conversation.’” WSAU, Are viral videos being staged by liberal activists? – “The people you’re seeing in these videos didn’t just happen to be on the scene by accident. In my view, they’re liberal activists engaging in ambush techniques to gain attention and hoping to camouflage their real motives and intent.”
GOVERNOR PUTS CONDITIONS ON USE OF STATE MONEY AT CITRUS DEPARTMENT via Kevin Bouffard of the Lakeland Ledger – Florida Department of Citrus officials have learned the $7.65 million of state general revenue it will get in the new 2016-17 budget comes with strings attached … Scott set several conditions for the Citrus Department’s use of that state money in a letter he sent Tuesday. Among them is an extraordinary request that his office review any contracts using general revenue dollars “to ensure transparency and competitive procurements,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Ledger. Scott also appeared to endorse a significant downsizing of the Citrus Department along the lines suggested in a Feb. 15 letter from a dozen of the state’s largest growers. It called for a roughly 70 percent reduction, including elimination of its core marketing programs, in the department’s 2016-17 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Both the governor’s and the growers’ letters were addressed to the Florida Citrus Commission, the department’s governing body. Scott appoints all nine commissioners.
SCOTT SELECTS LT. COL. GLENN SUTPHIN AS INTERIM HEAD OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Sutphin has served as the chief of staff and legislative affairs director for the Department of Military Affairs since 1999. He served in the Florida National Guard as U.S. Army Officer and a Field Artillery Office for more than 30 years. While he was a guardsman, Sutphin served as the Desoto County Development Director. “Glenn has done a great job at the Department of Military Affairs advocating for all of Florida’s National Guardsmen for almost 20 years,” said Scott in a statement. “He served alongside the brave men and women of our state in the Florida National Guard and has dedicated his career to not only making sure all Floridians are safe, but also making Florida the most veteran friendly state in the nation.”
FIRST LADY APOLOGIZES AFTER A SCHOOL BOOK READING OFFENDS SOME EARS via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida first lady Ann Scott wound up apologizing for language contained in the classic novel A Land Remembered after she read a passage to two fifth grade classes in a Hillsborough County school. The book she read was a critically acclaimed novel about Florida pioneers by the late Patrick D. Smith … the opening pages include some language that might not be considered suitable for young ears. Words like “prostitute.” And “son-of-a-b—-.” Someone alerted the media. It’s not clear who complained, and school district spokeswoman Tanya Arja said neither her office, nor the school, heard from any parents.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a ceremonial bill signing at 10 a.m. at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, 3228 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach. He will ceremonially sign SB 7012, which protects families of fallen law enforcement officers and first responders, during the event.
GOVERNOR FLOODED BY CALLS, EMAILS IN HEATED BATTLE OVER ALIMONY BILL via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Sweeping changes to Florida’s alimony and child custody laws sparked some of the most emotional testimony heard by state lawmakers this year. Opponents warned the legislation was unfair to older women, who could lose needed alimony payments and be forced back into a tough job market armed with outdated skills. Children also would lose out, they warned. But proponents of the measure said the changes are needed, and they cleared the mostly male and Republican-dominated House and Senate with ease. Ending permanent alimony while guiding judges to support equal time-sharing in child custody simply reflect the changing contours of Florida families, supporters said. Now the contentious legislation is before Scott, who has become the target of intense lobbying from both sides. By last week, Scott’s office had been flooded with more than 8,700 emails and phone calls urging him to sign the bill (SB 668), while almost 2,500 responses are calling for him to veto it. The governor, who hasn’t offered any public insight into his view of the bill, has until April 19 to act on the measure.
LIKE THIS YEAR, 2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION WILL START IN JANUARY via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott signed a bill that moves the 2018 session’s start to Jan. 9. The Florida Constitution allows the Legislature to start session early in even-numbered years. Otherwise, session begins on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. (The 2017 session will start March 7.) Lawmakers were divided in moving the session date up for 2018. SB 7076 passed the Senate by a 27-11 vote and the House by an 89-28 vote. During Senate debate, some senators questioned the cost and need for having an earlier session. Senate President Andy Gardiner responded at the time: “When you’re on spring break with your kids this year, you’ll understand the significance of it.” Scott also signed 16 other bills into law … including one that helps the families of law enforcement and first responders who are killed on the job.
NEW LAWS PROVIDE CONSUMER PROTECTION via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Lakeland Ledger – Here are some of the key measures: Life insurance … Life insurers will face stricter requirements for finding beneficiaries of deceased policyholders. Medical bills … consumers will be better protected from being blind-sided by hefty out-of-network medical bills if they are being treated in an emergency or if “the insured does not have the ability and opportunity to choose a participating provider at the facility who is available to treat the insured.” Citizens … Floridians who are covered by Citizens Property Insurance will have more protections when they being offered “take-out” policies that would move them out of the government-backed insurer to a private company. Gas pump skimmers … The bill (SB 912), a priority of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, will require enhanced security measures on retail gas pumps that have credit card scanners. Hospital transparency … The bill (HB 1175) requires hospitals to post searchable information on their websites of the average cost of certain services.
FLORIDA’S CONSERVATIVE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS GOT A BOOST FROM A LIKE-MINDED LEGISLATURE via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Through both policy and taxpayer funding during the 2016 session, the Republican-led Legislature subtly gave a leg up to politically conservative school board members in Florida who want greater influence on statewide education policy. The Legislature’s actions show how partisan politics continue to influence education in the Sunshine State, but party ideology is not supposed to infiltrate local school boards. The Constitution requires school boards to be nonpartisan, so critics are especially concerned by Republican leaders’ eagerness to intervene — and to diminish the influence of those with viewpoints contrary to their own. This session, Republican lawmakers first sought to retaliate — through a proposed law — against the Florida School Boards Association because it previously challenged a Legislature-approved, voucher-like program in court. Republicans backed off that in the face of criticism in the final days of session, but they still passed — as part of the massive “school choice” bill — a provision that will let the 356 individual school board members in the state direct their dues to a new advocacy organization that seeks to rival the FSBA.
JEFF BRANDES SAY HIS NEXT FOCUS WILL BE ON REFORMING FLORIDA PRISON SYSTEM via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – A mentally ill inmate who was in protective custody was found dead at the Columbia Correctional Institution … a day after a corrections officer was hospitalized in an attack. It’s yet another black mark on Florida’s prison system, one that many say is overcrowded and underfunded. The Department of Corrections, though, insists those issues had nothing to do with the attack. Brandes says it’s time for a change in how the Legislature deals – or hasn’t dealt – with the issue. He vows to put his energy into taking a fresh look at the problem. “We have a prison system with 100,000 prisoners in it,” he told the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon with the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation at Maestro’s restaurant in Tampa. “We have a problem with our prison system in crisis. Our prisoners are in crisis,” he said solemnly, adding that it was crucial for lawmakers and citizens to think about “separating those who we’re scared of, from those we’re mad at.”
MEDICAL MARIJUANA IS IN A STATE OF FLUX via Dan Sweeney and Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – It’s coming — but only if you’re dying. Or it’s already here — but only noneuphoric varieties, and only for epilepsy and cancer. Or it could be here — but only if voters in November approve a constitutional amendment that would allow it for several specified illnesses. The uncertainty has cities passing ordinances regulating marijuana dispensaries that don’t exist and the nascent medical marijuana industry battling for expansion. And it has advocates gearing up for a fight, even though they are unsure whether they’ll face the strong opposition that defeated the amendment in 2014. Drug Free America has promised a grass-roots campaign as it did in 2014, when the Florida Sheriffs Association joined the anti-drug organization in opposing the amendment. Drug Free Florida complemented that effort with a multimillion-dollar advertising push backed by billionaire conservative donor Sheldon Adelson. But this year, the first cracks of that coalition already have started to appear. Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre voiced support for the amendment based on his mother’s experience with chemotherapy. The Sheriffs Association has not yet taken a position.
DOH TO START ON RULES FOR MEDICAL POT ID CARDS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use is expected to begin the process of establishing a system for issuing registration cards for medical marijuana patients and their legal representatives. It is also expected to establish fees to implement the system. At a minimum, cards must include the name, address and date of birth of the patient or legal representative. They also must have a full-face, color photo of the cardholder, similar to that of a passport photo. Further, the cards must identify whether the cardholder is the patient or a legal representative, have a unique numeric identifier that matches the person in the department’s Compassionate Use registry and provide an expiration date. The registration cards were included in a bill (HB 307) aimed at expanding the use of medical marijuana this legislative session.
COURT FIGHT OVER BROWARD HEALTH BOARD HIGHLIGHTS CONTRACTS, CAMPAIGN CASH via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – New details are emerging on the embattled Broward Health board’s political ties to contractors and its involvement in doctors’ contracts, as one former commissioner’s constitutional power struggle with one-time ally Scott spills into a Broward County courtroom … Providers who do business with Broward Health and their families — along with the advertising agency that had pushed for a $71 million no-bid contract — collectively gave nearly $70,000 in campaign donations to the commissioner’s wife, a judge … The ad agency also hosted a fundraiser for her. A judge is scheduled to hold a hearing on the governor’s executive order last month to suspend two of his hand-picked Broward Health commissioners after Scott’s inspector general alleged that the commissioners, David Di Pietro and Darryl Wright, were interfering with an ongoing state probe into a number of recently approved contracts. Di Pietro, a rising star in Broward County Republican circles and husband of County Judge Nina Weatherly Di Pietro, immediately challenged Scott’s move, calling into question the governor’s legal authority to remove him from board, which oversees five hospitals, three outpatient centers and three urgent care facilities.
TRIAL CHALLENGING FLORIDA’S EDUCATION FRAMEWORK WRAPS UP IN TALLAHASSEE via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Numerous witnesses, including state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, testified in Leon County Circuit Court during the trial, which began in mid-March. Judge George Reynolds III isn’t expected to rule in the case for several weeks, as attorneys for both the state and Citizens for Strong Schools have until April 25 to file final written arguments in the case. Citizens for Strong Schools filed the lawsuit in 2009. The group wants Reynolds to declare that the Florida Department of Education — and by extension, the Florida Legislature — has failed to fulfill its constitutionally mandated “paramount duty” to provide a “high quality” education for all public school students, particularly low-income and minority students. “This is not an insignificant matter,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Jodi Siegel said during closing arguments. Siegel argued that the state has inadequately funded schools and set up a system of accountability and choice that doesn’t give all students a level playing field at achieving the same high-quality education.
WHEN CHARTER SCHOOLS CLOSE, TAXPAYER-FUNDED PROPERTY OFTEN GOES MISSING via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – School districts are required to inventory charter school property before and after a school closes. Districts can then use the returned property at other traditional or charter schools in the county. But, according to a new State Auditor General report, Broward County failed to make closing checklists for five out of 22 schools that shut down from 2012 to 2015. And for 11 of 17 schools with checklists, items on the checklist either weren’t returned or weren’t documented. Neither the state nor the district would estimate the potential loss to taxpayers. Nine charter schools in Miami-Dade have closed since 2012, including Balere Language Academy in Miami, which faced allegations it threw rowdy after-hours parties in the cafeteria. The school reported that $2,500 worth of computers, a $1,000 Smartboard and two Smartboard projectors valued at $700 had been stolen. Palm Beach County has closed 12 charter schools in the last three years. While the schools often owe money when they close, they generally haven’t been removing property, said Jim Pegg, the district’s charter school director. He said the schools send annual inventories of equipment, and district officials visit all schools at least once a year, often unannounced.
OPEN ROADS: FLORIDA PREPARING FOR SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Tucked into the omnibus transportation passed by the Florida Legislature in March was language that paves the way for autonomous vehicles to begin operating on Florida’s roads. Among other things, the annual Department of Transportation bill removed language from state statutes requiring operators of autonomous vehicles to be designated as drivers for testing purposes. It also removed provisions that required a person be in the vehicle while it was being tested. Scottsigned the bill April 4. It goes into effect July 1. Think self-driving cars on the open road, not just in the city environment; or trucking companies giving it a try in their platoons. “Florida has set up the perfect environment for this to occur,” said Gilhooley. “Florida has always recognized the advantage of technology aiding transportation.” Sen. Brandes … led the effort to get Florida’s transportation networks ready for self-driving cars. He’s been an outspoken supporter of the technology; and in 2012, he pushed the legislation encouraging testing and study of automated vehicles in Florida … “over the last few years Florida has been very thoughtful,” about how it approaches the emerging technology. It was one of the first states to consider autonomous vehicles. “We think it’s exciting that Florida is leading. We’re showing real leadership here,” said Brandes. While there might not be a self-driving car in every driveway anytime soon, efforts are underway to make sure the country’s roadways are ready. Federal transportation officials announced they would begin working on guidance for deploying vehicles. Officials have said those guidelines could be completed by January.
STATE’S HIGHEST COURT TALKS TV TAX via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Should satellite-television service be taxed at a higher rate than cable? The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides … Satellite TV companies, including DirecTV, want the court to uphold the 1st District Court of Appeal’s 2-1 decision last year, which said that taxing the two services differently is unconstitutional. The state’s Revenue Department and Florida’s cable TV industry want it overturned. At issue is the state’s communications services tax (CST), which charges “direct-to-home satellite service” at a total rate of 11.44 percent. Cable TV, however, is taxed at 7.44 percent. (The state reduced the CST effective July 1, 2015.) The lower court’s majority ruling held that different tax rates violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause because they tend to benefit in-state cable companies over out-of-state satellite companies. In questions, however, Justice Barbara Pariente noted that “in the end, we’re really talking about the customer that either gets screwed or helped, depending on what goes on here.”
STATE PARK NAME CHANGE SHOCKS JOHN U LLOYD’S WIDOW via Anne Geggis of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – No one told John U. Lloyd‘s widow that her husband’s name was going to be removed from the beachside state park in Hollywood. Terry Lloyd Kettering found out when she read it in Thursday’s paper and said she was shocked, hurt and saddened. “Everybody thought this was going to be something that lasted forever,” said Kettering, who will be 90 next month. Her husband was the Broward County attorney from 1941 until his death in 1975. Sen. Chris Smith … who co-sponsored the bill changing the state park’s name, said his investigation did not turn up much about the former attorney. State archives note he orchestrated the county’s purchase of the parcels and not much more, Smith said. “He did his job, but you don’t get a park named after you for doing your job,” Smith said. “But it’s never been about Lloyd. It’s about people who went the extra mile, risked their lives, to get things done.” But what upsets family friend Dona Ulrich … is that Kettering was never told about the impending name change. “It seems like someone should have contacted someone from John’s past,” Ulrich said.
FLORIDA ZIKA VIRUS UPDATE via FloridaHealth.gov – As of Friday, two new cases were reported one in Palm Beach County and one in Broward County. Of the cases confirmed in Florida, seven cases are still exhibiting symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. There are 84 total cases in Florida; by county (number of cases): Miami Dade (33), Broward (13), Orange (5), Alachua (4), Osceola (4), Hillsborough (3), Lee (3), Palm Beach (4), Polk (3), Brevard (2) and a single case each in Clay, Collier, Santa Rosa, Seminole and St. John’s and five cases involving pregnant women. All cases are travel-associated. There have been no locally-acquired cases of Zika in Florida, which has the capacity to test 6,836 people for active Zika virus and 1,603 for Zika antibodies. The DOH recommends women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant postpone travel to Zika affected areas. Zika illness is generally mild with a rash, fever and joint pain. CDC researchers are examining a possible link between the virus and harm to unborn babies exposed during pregnancy. The department also urges Floridians to drain standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes. Residents and visitors also need to use repellents when participating in outdoor activities.
POLL: SOME KEY GAPS IN AMERICANS’ KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ZIKA VIRUS via Lauran Neergaard and Emily Swanson of The Associated Press – Americans don’t know a lot about the Zika virus that is linked to birth defects and creeping steadily closer to the U.S., according to a new poll that found about 4 in 10 say they’ve heard little to nothing about the mosquito-borne threat. Even among people who’ve been following the Zika saga at least a little, many aren’t sure whether there’s a vaccine or treatment — not yet — or if there’s any way the virus can spread other than through mosquito bites. Still, with mosquito season fast approaching, more than half of the population supports a variety of efforts to control summer swarms — from spraying pesticides to releasing genetically modified mosquitoes, says the poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The government is considering a field trial in the Florida Keys of male mosquitoes, which don’t bite, that are genetically altered so that when they mate with wild females, the offspring quickly die. The poll found 56 percent of people would support introducing such mosquitoes into areas affected by Zika.
RUBIO ENDORSES BARACK OBAMA’S $1.9B REQUEST TO FIGHT ZIKA via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald – “While I’m supportive of fully funding the president’s initiative on this,” Rubio said, “I want to make sure that the money, when appropriated, will be appropriately spent on what we’re trying to address.” With Florida leading the nation in Zika cases … Rubio spent the morning meeting with state and local officials, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and public health experts, to gauge the needs for combating the virus, which is primarily transmitted by mosquito bites. Rubio stressed calm. “There’s no crisis,” he said. “This is an issue that we’re going to confront.”
PATRICK MURPHY SAYS CONGRESS NEEDS TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE ON ZIKA FUNDING via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Officials say an outbreak of the Zika virus in Florida is still a very real possibility. Last week … Murphy met with doctors at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter to learn what they’re doing to attempt to combat the virus. “We cannot expect a cure overnight,” Murphy wrote … “A vaccine could take as long as two years or more, which is why we should commit the resources now and play offense instead of defense if it begins spreading through Florida and the rest of the continental United States. Not only does Zika pose a threat to public health, but also as we have seen in Brazil, it is having a major detrimental impact on tourism. A similar situation would be devastating to Florida’s economy. We also cannot ignore the reality of climate change and the increasing prevalence of tropical diseases in places where they have not been before. The work done at institutes like Scripps is already forward-looking, and Congress must commit to consistent, adequate funding to remain ahead of emerging threats.”
***Situated in the heart of Downtown Tallahassee, 101 Restaurant combines southern hospitality with big city style. Through Executive Chef Jason Bruner, 101 Restaurant adopted the Farm-to-Table approach where they use products from farmers and fishermen found within a 100-mile radius of their downtown restaurant. These locations include Quincy, Thomasville, Apalachicola, Panama City and many others. The goal at 101 Restaurant is to give guests a fine dining experience in a luxurious, casual environment. Plus, if you stop by any day from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., you can enjoy their Double Happy Hour! Call them today to make your reservation! (850) 391-1309.***
PERSONNEL NOTE — IVETTE ARANGO O’DOSKI TO BUCHANAN INGERSOLL ROONEY — The Miami-based attorney who also lives in Tallahassee (she’s married to Advantage Consulting Team’s co-founder Rhett O’Doski) became part of the BIR team on April 1. She will staff the Miami office. Her hire opens the door for the firm’s entry into the lucrative South Florida governmental relations market. In 2014, Gov. Scott appointed her as a “consumer member” of the state’s Board of Architecture and Interior Design. She most recently was VP of corporate, governmental and community relations for the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s public-private economic development organization. Before that, Ivette was state legislative affairs coordinator for Miami-Dade County and worked in private legal practice. A Spanish-speaking Cuban American, she got her law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 2000.
PERSONNEL NOTE — KAREN SKYERS TO BECKER POLIAKOFF — Skyers has been hired by Ft. Lauderdale-based law and lobbying firm firm Becker & Poliakoff. Skyers is a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, who faces term limits in 2016. Before joining B&P, Skyers had worked as a government consultant for Southern Strategy Group and served for years in state government. The FAMU law graduate, who is also fluent in Spanish, was an associate attorney for the state’s Thirteenth Judicial District from 2013 until 2015 and maintains her own legal practice, Skyers Law, P.A. The Democratic-leaning firm is a powerhouse in Miami-Dade and Broward and has long ties to Sen. Joyner, particularly through her decades-long friend Yolanda Cash Jackson.
PERSONNEL NOTE — JENNIFER WILSON TO ADAMS & REESE — The former legislative aide to Sens. Tom Lee and Jack Latvala, and former state Rep. Victor Crist is joining the mega-firm on April 18th after she finishes up an LLM at Stetson Law. “Adams and Reese is one of the top-ranked law firms in the country, and I am thrilled to be joining their exceptional team of lawyers and government relations professionals,” Wilson emailed FloridaPolitics.com. “After ten years as a legislative aide–three of which were also spent earning my JD and LLM–I am really excited to hit the ground running on the critical issues affecting our state, and to position our clients and the community for success in the years ahead.”
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS: Brian Bautista, Impact GR: Prioria Robotics
5TH TIME’S THE CHARM! SPACEX LANDS ROCKET ON OCEAN BARGE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The rocket landed just a few feet off dead center on what SpaceX calls its drone ship, named “Of Course I Still Love You,” an ironic reference to the past several landing attempts that ended in flaming explosions. The rocket lifted off at 4:42 p.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to blast the SpaceX Dragon capsule into space, for the company’s first successful space station resupply launch in a year. The launch, too, was a bit of a major milestone for SpaceX, because it marks the company’s return to the space station since the last resupply mission rocket blew up shortly after liftoff in June. This Dragon spacecraft is carrying, among numerous science and technology experiments, a new kind of human space habitat created by Bigelow Aerospace. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will be attached to the space station and opened up like Jiffy Pop popcorn maker, to see if its technology could help provide living space for astronauts going on long deep-space missions.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our good friend, Chris Carmody of GrayRobinson. Also celebrating today is Betsy Collins, Dr. Lance DeHaven-Smith and St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Steinocher.