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Sunburn for Feb. 17 – A pivotal day in the 2016 Legislative Session

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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.

With just three weeks left in the 2016 Legislative Session, there was a flurry activity by lawmakers in Tallahassee following the President Day’s holiday weekend.

Among the developments included Senator Joe Negron’s statement that he believes he has the votes to pass his amendment that would allow six counties who have who have already conducted voter-approved referenda to operate slot machines at their parimutuels. The tax rate on those slot machines would be reduced from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Department of Health Secretary Dr. John Armstrong narrowly was confirmed in the Senate Health Policy Committee on a 5-4 vote.

A bill to bar cities and counties from installing cameras at intersections to catch red light runners, narrowly passed its final committee stop and is now heading to the full House.

A plan to let some gun-owners carry concealed weapons in Florida airport terminals was approved by its first Senate committee, but still lacks a companion bill in the Senate.

And Jacksonville Republican Lake Ray‘s controversial “Prevention of Acts of War” bill that would allow the FLDE to screen refugees coming from war-torn nations like Syria passed in the House  Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. The ACLU of Florida issued a blistering statement after its passage, calling the measure “fear-mongering” and “dangerous.”This bill immorally scapegoats the very people fleeing from violence, civil war and terrorism,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU of Florida Director of Public Policy.

You can expect another busy day in the Capitol — maybe even of the most pivotal days of Session. But as one top-tier lobbyist warned last night, “the game you’re watching isn’t the game being played.” But before we get to all that, let’s discuss the possible death of a superhero…

FIRST ON FLORIDA POLITICS — STATE GROWERS CALL FOR DRAMATIC OVERHAUL OF FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CITRUS — With the state’s citrus industry in free-fall, Florida’s leading growers are calling for the Department of Citrus to “be scaled back considerably,” saying they “do not believe current marketing programs are generating an economic return.”

A dozen growers, including Florida Citrus Hall of Famer Ben Hill Griffin III, signed and sent a letter Monday to Florida Citrus Commission chairman Ellis Hunt Jr., with copies to Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli – scion of a prominent citrus family – and others.

… The letter’s signers “believe the activities of the Citrus Commission and the Department of Citrus should be scaled back considerably,” they said. “(B)ecause of the dramatic crop declines, we believe the Department does not have adequate resources to ‘move the needle’ (and) we do not believe the current marketing programs are generating an economic return for Florida growers.

“… While robust marketing programs are not needed to support the marketplace today (nor can we afford them in any event), the industry will undoubtedly need aggressive marketing programs one day in the future after we recover from greening and return to historical production levels,” the letter continues.

“It is therefore imperative that the industry preserve the Department of Citrus and the Commission,” but with a “greatly streamlined budget.”

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DRIVING THE DAY — JOE NEGRON IS CONFIDENT HE HAS ‘COBBLED ENOUGH VOTES TOGETHER’ TO PASS AMENDMENT TO EXPAND SLOTS TO SEVERAL COUNTIES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The amendment, before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee … would authorize the governor to re-negotiate a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe to allow for the expanded games in Brevard, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach and Washington counties, in return for a lower revenue-share than the $3 billion the tribe has guaranteed. The amendment, if approved, would be attached to SB 7074 to ratify the rest of the gaming compact with the tribe and accompany a second bill, SB 7072, that would authorize the expansion of slot machines in the six counties, and a handful of other communities that conduct future referenda on slots within a certain time frame, Negron said. He said he will also amend the compact bill, SB 7074, to allow for regulated daily Fantasy Sports betting in Florida without interfering with the tribe’s revenue share. He is offering an amendment that will attach his bill to regulate Fantasy Sports to SB 7072, [the] companion bill that revises regulations of the pari-mutuel industry.

>>>Look for Sen. Kelli Stargell to submit her own amendment — some insiders say on behalf of the Seminole Tribe, others say because committee chair Sen. Rob Bradley has asked her to — that pushes back on Negron’s amendment.

DURING SEMINOLE COMPACT DEBATE, LAWMAKER UNCOVERS OBSCURE SWEETHEART DEAL FOR THOROUGHBRED BREEDERS GROUP via Florida Politics – Publicly, one of the chief opponents of decoupling — which removes live race requirements for facilities to host slots and card rooms at pari-mutuels — is the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners Association (FTBOA).  However, in the backrooms of Tallahassee, the FTBOA and its lobbyists appear to be attempting to pull one over on well-intentioned legislators and, in the process, creating a secret loophole for the special treatment of a little-known pari-mutuel permit it owns in Marion County. … Through this discovery, it appears an implicit goal of the FTBOA executive board is to reinvent itself as a “not for profit” gaming company, eligible for exemption under the proposal. Although the FTBOA leadership publicly objects to decoupling — citing negative economic impact on their members — the board has quietly assembled lobbyists to work on a deal that allows for an exception: decoupling in exchange for the creation of a new casino — a very lucrative proposal for those involved.

MORNING MUST-READ: POARCH CREEK INDIANS OFFERED TO GIVE UP BLACKJACK FOR THEIR OWN GAMBLING COMPACT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which approached Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 for a deal to offer gambling in Florida, essentially offered not to press for a Las Vegas-style casino with blackjack near Pensacola if the state wouldn’t fight their efforts to just open a poker-style cardroom. In return, the Poarch Creeks would pay the state $1 billion over five years, similar to a previous agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

But a Florida-based Creek Indian tribe soon objected, basically calling the Poarch band carpetbaggers and asking Scott to “protect the undeniable rights of the Native American People of Florida.” Those revelations were among more than 100 pages of documents recently released by the Governor’s Office in response to a public-records request from Those files also show that Pete Antonacci, Scott’s then-General Counsel, raised several red flags, including whether the tribe’s one acre of Florida land qualified as “Indian country” under federal Indian gambling law.


GOV. SCOTT’S NEW JOBS CHIEF GETS FAST TRACKED via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald – For the second time in a week, a Senate committee unanimously backed Cissy Proctor to be the new executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. Before the Florida Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism, Proctor stressed she is committed to working with the Legislature. “To be successful we need to focus on our mission, which is to make Florida the best state in the nation to live, work, play and do business,” Proctor said. State Sen. Nancy Detert … acknowledged that the Senate is trying to “fast tracked” Proctor’s appointment so she can feel secure in her job.

SURGEON GENERAL JOHN ARMSTRONG NARROWLY CLEARS FIRST CONFIRMATION HEARING via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Armstrong faced tough questions and ultimately cleared his first confirmation hurdle on a 5-4 vote in the Senate Health Policy Committee … has been under fire for the removal of kids from the Children’s Medical Services program, rising HIV infections particularly in South Florida, the repeal of standards for pediatric heart surgery and cutbacks to county health departments. “I think that he has a lot to answer for,” said Sen. Oscar Braynon … “I think everybody has questions, and it’s not just the Democrats. There’s a lot being heard from the Dade County people.”

‘OPEN CARRY IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN,’ SEN. DIAZ DE LA PORTILLA SAYS via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Diaz de la Portilla had expressed growing reluctance for weeks about holding a hearing on SB 300, saying last week it was “on life support.” It’s among three gun bills he’s killing this session by not granting them hearings in his committee, a powerful prerogative that committee chairman have … he said he won’t hear a bill that would allow concealed weapons to be carried in Florida airport terminals. (It passed its first committee earlier in the day but it won’t be heard in the House, so it was essentially dead anyway.) “On all of these gun bills, I don’t believe any of them are necessary,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “They could result in unintended consequences. I think we need to prioritize in our committee, as far as what we hear. We can’t hear every bill that’s referred to us.”

COMMITTEE SHOOTS DOWN PAY RAISE FOR LAWMAKERS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Florida Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner‘s bill to increase salaries of all state legislators from (SB 712) was shot down in committee … Under her bill, the salaries of the members of representatives and senators would rise from $29,600 to $50,000 annually. The House Speaker and Senate President’s salaries would rise to $57,000. “I understand where Senator Joyner is coming from, but I disagree with the premise that more money will produce a more diverse Legislature,” said … Jack Latvala, who contended the Senate is plenty diverse. “That’s a perspective that’s missing from this body,” Joyner said. “People wonder why we have so many folks with so much money who are up here who raise a lot of money to get here, and the conventional wisdom out there on the streets is that we’re bankrolled by special interests and lobbyists and handpicked by our parties.”

BUSINESS GROUPS ENLIST LEGISLATURE TO PREEMPT LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL REGS via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – SB 306 by Sen. Dwight Bullard … would skirt a 2009 preemption on the regulation of plastic bags to allow pilot programs in coastal cities. He failed to get the preemption lifted in previous attempts in the House and Senate.Environmental groups have joined cities and counties in criticizing those preemptions. On the polystyrene and fracking bills, cities and counties have negotiated compromises with bills’ sponsors that allow preemptions. Environmentalists support legislation that likewise would ban fracking statewide. The Florida Retail Federation says some preemptions are needed.

HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES STATE ECONOMIC INCENTIVE PROGRAM REWRITE via  Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The bill, HB 1325 filed by Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd, seeks to establish a new Florida Enterprise Fund, one of Scott’s priorities. Several provisions of the bill are similar to a proposal (SB 1646) sponsored by Clearwater Republican Rep. Jack Latvala, including lower return-on-investment (ROI) requirements, and a new incentive process where a Senate President and House Speaker can veto projects costing more than $2 million, rather than requiring approval by the legislative budget commission.

COMMITTEE PASSES BILL THAT AIMS TO BAN SYRIAN REFUGEES via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Rep. Lake Ray‘s Prevention of Acts of War” bill passed House Justice Appropriations on a party-line vote Tuesday, 9-3. The bill directs the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct background screenings of certain refugees and immigrants, and directs the Governor & Attorney General to prevent entry into or resettlement in state of “certain restricted persons.” Backers said the bill was “narrowly tailored” to address Syrian refugees and other Middle Eastern populations.

BALANCE BILLING MEASURE CLEARS 2ND SENATE PANEL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Senate panel on Tuesday OK’d a measure that would ban the practice of “balance billing,” when insurance companies often unexpectedly slam a customer with a high bill for using an out-of-network health care provider. The measure (SB 1442), carried by GOP state Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah, now moves from the Banking and Insurance Committee to Appropriations. Garcia’s aim is to get patients out from between the provider and the payer, meaning health insurance companies. A strike-all amendment also approved Tuesday expands its effect to hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, specialty hospitals, and urgent care centers.

AMID JEERS, SENATE ALIMONY BILL CLEARS FIRST COMMITTEE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Judiciary Committee, the first of its three review panels, OK’d the measure (SB 668) by a 6-4 vote after impassioned comment for and against the proposal, even after speakers were limited to 30 seconds … state Sen. Wilton Simpson … moved to vote on the bill by 5:50 p.m., only 10 minutes after the bill was called up. At first, the motion passed largely on a party-line vote, though committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla… voted against it. But de la Portilla then struck the motion down, saying staff reminded him such a motion needs a two-thirds vote for approval, which it didn’t get. The final vote took place at 5:59 p.m., amid hollering and jeers from the bill’s opponents. De la Portilla also voted against the bill.

BILL TO BAR RED LIGHT CAMERAS NARROWLY PASSES COMMITTEE, MOVES TO FULL HOUSE via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald – State Rep. Frank Artiles … said the cameras have become a “backdoor tax” where cities and counties are more interested in collecting traffic fines than promoting public safety. “It’s about money,” Artiles said, moments before his bill passed 14-12 in the House Appropriations Committee. The close vote came just after Melissa Wandall, the widow of a Bradenton man who helped inspire passage of the state’s red light camera law in 2010, made an emotional plea for lawmakers to oppose Artiles’ bill. A similar bill in the Florida Senate sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes… still has two committees to clear before it can get to a Senate floor vote.

AMENDMENT PRESERVES LANGUAGE IN SENATE BILL THAT PREVENTS AUTO FRAUD via Arek Sarkissian of Political Fix Florida – Part of an otherwise mundane auto insurance bill that would strip a requirement that insurers inspect certain used cars in-person to prevent fraud was changed during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism … Current law requires auto insurers in seven Florida counties to physically inspect used vehicles. [The] portion of the law was preserved with a late-file amendment filed by Sen. Jack Latvala … But bill sponsor Jeff Brandes … does not believe it’s necessary. The cost for the inspection is about $10 per vehicle, which Brandes said amounts to about $10 million per year paid by insurance companies. Also, he believes the same information is available through online service CarFax. “I would argue that these reports are not 100 percent accurate or using the same information,” Brandes said.

BILL TO START 2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION IN JANUARY ADVANCES IN SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Under a bill that narrowly passed in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, the early start could happen again in 2018. The measure passed on a party-line vote, with all three Democrats on the committee dissenting. Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens said he wasn’t sure that the Legislature could be provided with sufficient economic data so early in the year to project onto the following year’s budget, and inquired whether the state’s chief economist, Amy Baker, had weighed in on the legislation. He feared that economic projections could be inaccurate, compelling the Legislature to return back to Tallahassee for a special session.

TWEET, TWEET: @Jason_Garcia: The last lobbyist to successfully persuade the Florida Legislature to loosen the tourist tax? Winter, the movie-star dolphin without a tail.

VIDEO: FLORIDA MAN GOES OFF IN LEGISLATIVE MEETING via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Those attending a desultory Senate committee meeting in the Florida Legislature got to see an angry voter up close and personal, when a man who identified himself as Antonio Davis began testifying about Tampa Democrat Arthenia Joyner‘s quixotic proposal to raise the salaries of Florida legislators. Davis began speaking on the bill, then went off topic, going off on Florida nonprofits who he said he had ruined his life. When Committee Chairman Jeremy Ring told him he had to go, things got a bit intense.

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LGBTQ DEBATE OFTEN SEEMS TO BE ABOUT BATHROOMS via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – I’ve watched the public debate over the proposed human rights ordinance in Jacksonville from afar. But this week, I got a taste of it myself. A Florida Senate committee was considering a bill that would change state law to extend civil rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The bill would add sexual identity and sexual orientation among the list of things you can’t use to discriminate against someone, joining other things like race, age, nationality and disability. The sponsor, Sen. Joseph Abruzzo … said he wanted to make sure the LGBTQ community wasn’t discriminated against on the job, when renting an apartment or going to dinner at a restaurant. But most of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee said they felt the measure forces Floridians to compromise their beliefs in order to protect people who may intend to do harm. Why does this debate always end up focusing on what happens in bathrooms?

PROPOSAL TO ALLOW CONCEALED GUNS IN FLORIDA AIRPORT TERMINALS FACES DIM PROSPECTS via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – SB 1500 by Sen. Wilton Simpson … is among several gun bills under consideration by lawmakers this year that aim to expand gun-owners’ rights and specifically those of the 1.5 million people with concealed weapons permits in Florida. The bill received initial approval from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee … along party-lines, with Democrats in opposition. But the House companion to Simpson’s proposal — HB 4051 by Rep. Jake Raburn — is all-but-dead because it has not been heard by any of the three committees it’s been assigned to. It awaits a hearing before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, but that panel held its final meeting of the 2016 session two weeks ago.

MY TAKE: TAKE A BREATH BEFORE CASTING JUDGMENT ON PRISON HEALTH CARE CONTRACT via Florida Politics – (S)ome of the first reports about this issue made straw men of the lobbyists who represent Centurion, as if the losing bidders don’t have their own team of well-connected lobbyists. One reporter even dragged out Ben Wilcox, the on-again, off-again research director for Integrity Florida, to offer some smoke-where-there-is-no-fire rhetorical questions about the awarding of the contract being connected to campaign contributions. Yes, Centurion is represented by a former Speaker of the House, but Wexford’s lead lobbyist is Jim Eaton, no shrinking violet.

But don’t take my word for this, listen to what the Department of Corrections is saying. Here’s a statement from McKinley Lewis, spokesman for the department. “This contract was bid on by three providers, two of which submitted bids that were tens of millions of dollars more expensive than the awarded vendor’s price.”

Winners tell funny stories and losers yell “Deal.” Centurion was the winner here and the losers want to shuffle the deck. It’s their prerogative to challenge the bid, but let’s all take a breath before we pass further judgment on this deal.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be at the Capitol for a series of meetings with state officials and legislators including Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. Afterward, Nelson will hold a media availability at 3 p.m. in the fourth floor rotunda.

TWEET, TWEET: @BylineBrandon: Another marathon possible in the House tomorrow. School choice bills getting loaded up with amendments

ANOTHER MORNING MUST-READ – RICK SCOTT, TRIANGULATION AND THE DIFFICULT PATH TO SESSION END via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – (W)hat’s left in the closing days and hours is a conundrum that is going to require someone, including maybe Gov. Rick Scott, to compromise. Here’s why: The Senate and House can’t bring a new state budget in for a landing until they reach a consensus on how much money to spend, whether it’s on health care, schools as well as tax cuts and the $250 million economic development proposal that Scott wants in order to lure new companies to the state. Right now these high-level budget decisions – called allocations – have not been made yet. Until those decisions are made then other budget items – whether it’s pay raises for state workers or more money for land preservation – can’t be resolved.

(H)ow do you get to the end of the session and pass the one bill (the budget) that is required each year? Normal legislative protocol would be to split the difference and rely on the tried-and-true maxim of getting something is better than getting nothing. But will Scott go along with that? He made it clear _based on interviews with top legislators who met with him on Tuesday – that’s he’s still banking on getting what he asked for.

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POLLS DU JOUR: A new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll finds Donald Trump leading the GOP field nationally with 38%, followed by Ted Cruz at 18%, Marco Rubio at 14%, Ben Carson at 8%, John Kasich at 7% and Jeb Bush at 4%. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders, 50% to 40%.

The latest tracking poll from South Carolina House Republicans shows Trump leading the field with 33%, followed by Cruz at 14%, Rubio at 14%, Bush at 13%, Kasich at 10% and Carson at 6%.

A new Gravis Marketing poll shows Trump at 37%, Cruz at 23%, Rubio at 19%, Bush at 9%, Kasich at 6% and Carson at 6%.

CAMPAIGNS SECRETLY PREP FOR BROKERED GOP CONVENTION via Ben Schreckinger of POLITICO – Candidates, outside groups and party officials are quietly maneuvering for a nomination fight that goes all the way to the bitter end … The end-game for the most sophisticated campaigns is an indecisive first ballot leading to a free-for-all power struggle on the floor in Cleveland. … Should the first ballot fail to produce a nominee, the outcome of the convention will depend on results of the parallel primary now underway for the hearts and minds of delegates.

AMERICANS UNITED FOR CHANGE CALLS ON MARCO RUBIO TO “DO YOUR JOB, FILL THE SUPREME COURT VACANCY, PRESERVE THE CONSTITUTION” – Americans United President Brad Woodhouse released a statement: “The Republicans promising to keep a seat on the highest court in the land empty until God knows when in 2017 seem to believe the Constitution only applies to them when it’s politically convenient … Republicans who say ‘who cares’ that the President has 11 months left in his term will tell you that presidential elections matter — except for the last one, and the one before that. These same Republicans often claim their principles are guided by a strict adherence to the Constitution, but apparently all that goes out the window when they feel their radical right wing agenda is at risk …  Rubio should listen to his Republican colleague, Senator Thom Tillis, who said that it would be ‘obstructionist’ of their party to deny a fair hearing to whoever the nominee is.”

MARCO RUBIO SURGES BACK TO ELECTRIFY SOUTH CAROLINA via Eli Stokols of POLITICO – His bruises from New Hampshire have healed … The 44-year-old senator was indeed humbled by the humiliation he suffered before heading to South Carolina, but his chances of capturing the Republican nomination haven’t completely gone south. Trump sits high atop the polls here, but Rubio is positioned to finish either second or third. A poll … taken entirely after Saturday’s debate shows Rubio tied for second with Cruz at 18 percent.

TREY GOWDY CUTS SC AD FOR RUBIO: ‘DEMOCRATS FEAR MARCO THE MOST’ via Jonathan Easley of The Hill – In the new ad, Gowdy praises Rubio‘s national security policy and says he is the candidate Democrats least want to face in a general election. “I have spent my life fighting to enforce the rule of law and keep Americans safe,” Gowdy says … “And no one is stronger for America’s security than Marco Rubio … Destroy ISIS. Protect our borders from all threats. Marco Rubio will be a commander in chief who brings back American strength … I’m Trey Gowdy — that’s why I support Marco Rubio and that’s why the Democrats fear Marco the most.”

JEB BUSH: DONALD TRUMP ‘FEARS ME’ via Nick Gass of POLITICO – Bush taunted Trump … saying the real estate mogul “fears” him. He said that explains all of Trump’s broadsides. “I think he is a master at manipulation, and I find it amusing on one level that he constantly attacks me.”

BUSH FIREST A SHOT AT TWITTER AND TWITTER BLASTS BACK via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Bush found a way to stir up Twitter. By posting a photo of a handgun with the caption, “America.” He had gotten it earlier during a tour of FN Manufacturing, a major firearms maker in Columbia, S.C. But Bush posted the caption without context, leading to the range of emotion you’d expect. By 9 p.m. Tuesday it had been retweeted more than 15,500 times. And Twitter was ready to respond. Some altered the inscription on the gun. Others named another location — often a fictional location — and the “weapon of choice” from that location.

bush tweet

TRUMP CONSIDERS THEORY ANTONIN SCALIA MIGHT HAVE BEEN MURDERED via Rebecca Kaplan of CBS News – Trump didn’t exactly subscribe to a fast-emerging conspiracy theory that Supreme Court Justice Scalia may have been murdered — but he didn’t exactly dismiss it, either. “I’m hearing it’s a big topic, that’s the question. And it’s a horrible topic, but they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow,” Trump responded. “I can’t give you an answer. You know usually I like to give you answers but I literally just heard it a little while ago.”

***In Marion County alone, the horse industry’s annual economic impact is $2.62 billion and nearly 20,000 jobs–completely dwarfing any Seminole Compact estimates.  Totally opposed by horsemen, the “partial decoupling” plan now in play would put horsemen on forced welfare with an artificial “set aside purse pool,” wiping out free enterprise and Florida’s ability to compete for horse racing business with other states.  United Florida Horsemen want legislators to know that “Partial Decoupling” is being peddled by casino-only interests, the goal of which is to channel money directly into their corporate bottom lines that would have normally been circulated into Florida’s economy.***

GWEN GRAHAM STILL HASN’T DECIDED ON POLITICAL FUTURE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Gwen Graham on Tuesday said she still has not decided whether to run again for her 2nd Congressional District seat. A recent Florida Supreme Court-ordered redistricting has made the district so strongly Republican that’s it’s unlikely Graham or any other Democrat could win the seat. “There is, right now, a motion for an injunction that has been filed,” she said. “So we will see if the lines are changed or not. I’m hoping that I am running for this district just as it was in 2014.” The Democratic-leaning portions of her district were cannabalized to create a new 5th Congressional District, now held by Democrat Corrine Brown.

JOE GARCIA-COMMISSIONED POLL SHOWS HIM WITH A BIG LEAD OVER ANNETTE TADDEO via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – The survey, conducted by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm, has Garcia leading Annette Taddeo, 34 percent to 24 percent, in a head-to-head matchup in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which stretches from the Miami area to Key West. About 42 percent of those surveyed were undecided.

TOM LEEK ENTERS HD 25 RACE TO SUCCEED FRED COSTELLO via Orlando Rising – Leek [is] the third Republican vying to take over for Rep. Fred Costello, who is running for the congressional seat held by U.S. Senate candidate Ron DeSantis. “As a local businessman, attorney, former House staff member and most importantly, as a father and husband, I enter this race to make certain our community gets the best possible, tried-and-true conservative representation in the Florida House of Representatives,” Leek said. “Our state has challenges and exciting opportunities. We need genuine, conservative leaders with the vision, track record, and wherewithal to get the job done.” Leek joins Volusia County Council member Deborah Denys and Costello’s former legislative aide, Becky Reichenberg … Leek also worked as a legislative aide in the early 1990s, more recently serving as the chair of the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce.

MIGHT PATRICK CHAPIN RUN FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 47? Via Orlando Rising – A trio of Democrats have filed to run against incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Miller in his Orlando-based District 47 seat, but party officials have their eyes on a fourth candidate … Patrick Chapin, the son of beloved former Orange County mayor Linda Chapin and the current CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his business experience and service in the community, Chapin is truly self-sacrificing when it comes to taking care of American soldiers. Chapin’s story would be pretty powerful on the campaign trail if Democrats can convince him to shift his post-recovery focus from training for his next endurance event to a state House campaign.

MUST-READTHEME PARK COMPANIES POUR AT LEAST $2.77 MILLION INTO STATE POLITICS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Disney, as usual, leads the way, with a combination of cash and in-kind services (typically providing tickets or opening theme parks or other Disney facilities to party events) worth $2.4 million in political contributions … Various Disney entities have poured in almost $1.5 million to the Republican Party of Florida, Republican candidates and Republican political action committees, according to the reports. Disney gave Democrats $560,000, and contributed another $339,000 to nonpartisan political action committees. Various companies affiliated with Universal Parks & Resorts donated $247,000 to Republicans, $43,000 to Democrats, and $41,000 to nonpartisan PACs. SeaWorld companies were frugal compared with its Orlando theme park counterparts, providing $23,000 to Republicans, $7,500 to Democrats and $7,600 to nonpartisan groups. All SeaWorld donations were in cash. Busch Gardens in Tampa provided almost no political contributions.

EPILOGUE‘OUTRAGEOUS’ COLLECTION OF PONZI SCHEMER SCOTT ROTHSTEIN’S ITEMS TO BE SOLD BY JEWELER via Thad Moore of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s a marvel, really: a huge, 12.08-carat canary yellow diamond flanked by two 1.5-carat diamonds. Its previous owner went to prison for trying to hide it from federal agents. It’s so nice, legend has it, that the band is broken because it had to be cut off her finger. And in a few months, it will be on the auction block, sold by a St. Petersburg jeweler in one last effort to make whole the victims of one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history. Jeffrey Hess, who owns Old Northeast Jewelers and Hess Fine Art, is tasked with auctioning about 60 items that were seized from Scott Rothstein, 53, and his 41-year-old ex-wife, Kim, liquidating a collection that’s appraised at roughly $10 million. At auction, they’ll likely sell for 20 to 40 percent of that amount.

***Looking for a way to lighten up after a long day at work? Stop by during Happy Hour at The Edison’s Beer Garden for daily appetizer specials and half off craft beers from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.! After happy hour, stick around for a delicious internationally-inspired dinner. Get a taste of our menu here:***


Bonnie Basham, Capital Ideas: Boat Owners Association of the United States

Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Justin Day, Cardenas Partners: ecoATM; Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

Ellyn Bogdanoff, EBS Consulting: Hamilton Downs Horsetrack, LLC

Brian Delburn: Tenet Healthcare Corporation

Towson Fraser, Fraser Solutions: AIDS HealthCare Foundation

Gary Guzzo, Corey Staniscia, Floridian Partners: Summit Consulting; Sunspire Health

Sarah Harris, Thomas Panza, Panza Maurer & Maynard: IGT and its Affiliates; Public Health Trust

William Helmich, Helmich Consulting: Sunshine State Heritage PAC

Whitney Lee Marvin: Florida Association of Insurance Agents

Monica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: Florida Association of Cosmetology & Technical Schools

Christopher Snow, Snow Strategies: Children’s Care Campus; Children’s Home Medical Equipment; Martin County PPEC

Stephen Wise, Stephen Wise Consulting: First Coast Maritime Academy

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Paul Gross, Southern Strategy Group’s Monte Stevens, and Jacksonville’s man-about-town Will Torres.

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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