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Sunburn for January 18 – Do unicorns exist?

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

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

WILL A UNICORN APPEAR IN FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE RACE?

In Silicon Valley, the word “unicorn” does not refer to the mythical horse-like creature with a single horn on its forehead. Instead, it is a description of a startup company with a valuation in excess of one billion dollars. Think AirBNB, Snapchat and Thumbtack.

Using that metaphor, is a political unicorn about to emerge in Florida’s sleepy U.S. Senate race?

For months, there have been endless whispers about a self-funding Republican on the verge of jumping into the fray. Since the beginning of the year, those whispers have turned into discernible chatter, with attention focused on several possible candidates.

One is developer Carlos Beruff, the Miami-born son of parents who emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba. In addition to being president of his Manatee-based Medallion Homes, Beruff is the appointed chair of Governor Rick Scott‘s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding. He also is on the Board of Trustees for State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota; on the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority; and a member of the Home Builders Association of Manatee County and the National Association of Home Builders.

One U.S. Senate campaign told FloridaPolitics.com that Beruff has told it that he is, in fact, close to deciding whether to enter the race. Beruff has said he’s met with representatives of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but one source at the NRSC said Beruff is not on its radar.

Pouring more water on possible Beruff for Senate bid are plugged-in Manatee-Sarasota Republicans who say that at the end of the day, the very busy Beruff won’t pull the trigger.

Of course, Beruff does not meet the billion dollar requirement to be a genuine unicorn. As FloridaPolitics.com investigated the possibility of Beruff running, several sources said that there is another possible self-funder considering entering the race. One source described this self-funder as a “Rick Scott-type minus the baggage … from Southwest Florida … with the ability to write a check for $100 million (for both the primary and the general) … who would force DeSantis and Jolly to consider immediately dropping out of the race.”

That seems far-fetched, but it does speak to the nebulous state of the Republican side of the U.S. Senate race. Neither DeSantis, nor Jolly, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, or Todd Wilcox — for a variety of reasons — have separated themselves from the rest of the field, nor has any of them raised the kind of money that would scare off the self-funders.

Then again, if there is a unicorn out there, it has yet to reveal itself.

OTHER NOTES FROM THE U.S. SENATE RACE

Brad Herold, the newly-minted campaign manager for DeSantis, says the campaign will release its 2015 Q4 report Tuesday and that the numbers will show the Ponte Vedra Congressman raised more in Q4 than Q3 and that its cash-on-hand figure is substantial.

Rick Wilson, the high-profile political consultant and commentator, has officially transitioned from the campaign of Carlos Lopez-Cantera to Reform Washington, the super PAC backing CLC. Statement from RW’s Ryan Wiggins: “We are thrilled that one of the most renowned media strategists in the country is joining our PAC. As one of Florida Politics ‘100 Most Influential People,’ Rick’s creativity and talent puts him in a league of his own.”

— Expect a big week from Jolly. We caught up with the Pinellas Congressman in Clearwater. He would not share with FloridaPolitics.com all of the details, but he did say he has a major policy rollout planned for Tuesday.

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— MORE FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

HALF-FULL — TWEET, TWEET: @Austin_Barbour: Real polling momentum for @JebBush SC Jeb jumps to 3rd only behind Trump & Cruz. NH jump ball for 2nd Plus Reuters

HALF-EMPTY — JEB BUSH DONORS AWAIT GREEN LIGHT TO JUMP SHIP via Anna Palmer and Ben White of POLITICO — [T]he money spigot is shutting off … [Most of two dozen major donors we interviewed] say they are waiting for what one veteran Republican and former Bush 43 administration appointee described as the ‘family hall pass’ to jump to another campaign after the New Hampshire primary. … “Hey, I need you to throw away money on Jeb — out of loyalty,” a Bush fundraiser has told donors recently. … Much of Bush’s Wall Street support network will shift to Rubio.

POLL: DONALD TRUMP STILL LEADING IN SC, BUSH RISING via Andrew Shain of The State — Trump still holds a commanding lead in the S.C. Republican presidential primary … Bush has risen to third, according to the state’s first poll of the year. Trump received support from 32 percent of likely Republican primary voters … Cruz was second at 18 percent … Bush placed third at 13 percent, his largest showing of support in South Carolina over the past 15 polls dating back to August, according to results compiled by Real Clear Politics. Bush placed fifth or sixth in all but one S.C. poll taken since late September. Rubio … came in fourth at 11 percent … Carson, who was fifth at 9 percent. Christie was sixth at 4 percent with … Fiorina following at 3 percent.

BUSH FINDS HIS GROOVE IN TRUMP’S SHADOW via Philip Elliott of Time magazine — Everywhere Bush goes, he seems overshadowed by Trump … one voter urged him to be more precise in his discussion of Trump. Don’t call the billionaire unhinged, the mental health professional told Bush. Call him a narcissist or a sociopath. The next day … a voter reminded Bush that early pundits thought his nomination was inevitable. “What happened?” the voter asked. Bush takes these questions in stride. His strategy these days is simply to pitch himself as he is: a wonky technocrat who lacks the bombast of Trump, the charisma of … Rubio or the purist polish of … Cruz. “I’m not going to change who I am. I’m not,” he said. “I’m not going to play the game.” Either voters are going to go with him, or they’re not. “I’m not on reality TV. I try to be reality-based,” he said. As a result, the once-tentative campaigner has given way in recent weeks to a more confident politician … The question is whether the timing works in Bush’s favor, of if he’s finally getting his break too late … “This isn’t beanbag. You have to put your big boy pants on sometimes and fight for what you believe,” Bush told voters in Hampstead.

‘SUPER PAC’ BACKING BUSH LOOKS TO CROWDFUND AN AD FOR THE SUPER BOWL via Ashley Parker of The New York Times — in an email to donors … Mike Murphy, the head of Right to Rise, urged them to … contribute online to air an ad in the New England area supporting Bush during the Super Bowl, two days before New Hampshire holds its primary on Feb. 9. “Right to Rise USA will be running the first-ever crowdfunded television ad during the ‘Big Game’ … we need your help” … He explained a 30-second spot in the New Hampshire/Boston media market costs $300,000, and asked supporters to make a donation and tell their friends and family. The email included a link to the website, Tilt, which much like Kickstarter … will not charge until the goal is met. “This is just one way to let donors and supporters of Jeb take part in the process and know what their money is going towards,” said Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for Right to Rise.

MARCO RUBIO JABS REPUBLICAN LEADERS: ANGER NOT ENOUGH via Steve Peoples of The Associated Press — Rubio charged … anger alone isn’t enough to qualify someone to be president. “We also have to have someone for president who knows exactly what they’re going to do when they get there” … Rubio called out leading candidates … Trump and Cruz are surging in the polls, in part, by successfully tapping into conservative anger about the direction of the country. “Obviously, I share the frustration that others have about the future of our country and where it’s headed. But I’m going to detail exactly what we’re going to do about it … Donald hasn’t done that, whether it’s on national security or on the other issues. I think that’s a huge difference.” Rubio said Trump’s mantra, “We’re gonna make America great,” shouldn’t be enough to win voters’ support. “How?” You deserve to know that.”

RUBIO BUYS ANOTHER GUN, LINKS TO ISIS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — “I have a right to protect my family if someone were to come after us,” he said on Meet the Press. “In fact, if ISIS were to visit us, or our communities, at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability that I have to protect my family from them, or from a criminal, or anyone else who seeks to do us harm. Millions of Americans feel that way … If God forbid Isis pays a visit to you, to our community, the last thing standing between them and our families may be the ability to protect ourselves with our guns,” he said in Sioux Center. “And there’s no way we’re going to take that away from the American people, not when I’m president.” Rubio inferred … this was his second gun purchase. The first coincided with his U.S. Senate run.

RUBIO: LAW-ABIDING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS COULD STAY via Isaac Arnsdorf of POLITICO — In an interview … on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” [Rubio] said felons shouldn’t be allowed to stay, but those who commit lesser crimes could still qualify … he didn’t specify whether those allowed to stay would ever be able to become citizens. “If you’re a criminal alien, no, you can’t stay. If you’re someone that hasn’t been here for a very long time, you can’t stay,” he said. “I don’t think you’re gonna round up and deport 12 million people … If circumstances change or you learn something along the way, it’s reasonable to say, ‘Maybe a different approach will work better,’ … So, for example, on immigration it is clear no comprehensive solution to immigration is going to pass.”

TED CRUZ PLOTTING NEW ATTACKS ON DONALD TRUMP via Katie Glueck and Ben Schreckinger of POLITICO — He’s pro-choice. He’s pro- gay marriage. He’s against traditional values. He’s New York, and he’s got to talk about that … “Iowa is three weeks away,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said. “People want to know how you’re different. It’s time to tell how we’re different.” It’s a dramatic shift for Cruz, who until this week either ignored or laughed off Trump’s occasional swipes. … Trump [told CNN’s Dana Bash night after the debate:] “I guess the bromance is over.”

538 PROJECTS CRUZ, HILLARY CLINTON TO WIN IOWA via Kristen East of POLITICO — Cruz has a 51 percent chance of winning Iowa when national and state polls as well as endorsements are taken into account. In that forecast, Trump trails Cruz with a 29 percent chance of winning Feb. 1. A look at just state polls shows a much closer race between Trump and Cruz … a better chance of winning by 2 percentage points, 44 percent to Cruz’s 42 percent. All around, Clinton is believed to have an all-but-certain victory over Sanders in Iowa. The polls-plus forecast gives Clinton an 82 percent chance of winning, while Sanders comes in at 18 percent. That margin narrows dramatically with a look at just Iowa polls, with Clinton leading Sanders 66 percent to 34 percent. The forecasts suggest that state polls alone may not be the most accurate predictor of primary results. Forecasts are also available for New Hampshire … show Trump with the greatest chance of winning, with a double-digit margin over all other candidates. Based just on New Hampshire polls, Trump has a 57 percent chance of winning, with the next candidate … Rubio with a 12 percent chance. With all polls and endorsements accounted for, the margin between the two shrinks, but Trump still holds a sizable advantage, with a 39 percent chance of winning to Rubio’s 19 percent.

MEANWHILE … HILLARY HOLDS HUGE NATIONAL LEAD: A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds Clinton leads Sanders by 25 points nationally, 59 percent to 34 percent, with Martin O’Malley barely registering at 2 percent.

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DARREN SOTO ANNOUNCES MORE LABOR UNION SUPPORT IN CD 9 RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The announcement covers the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Soto pledged that in Congress he would support efforts to preserve Davis-Bacon prevailing wage protections, stand up against groups advocating for Federal “Right to Work” legislation, and support legislation preserving the right to organize.

CD 11 CANDIDATE JUSTIN GRABELLE REPORTS RAISING OVER $111,000 SINCE GETTING IN RACE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — “It’s really encouraging,” Grabelle said … “Given that we announced a full month into the quarter and lost a few crucial weeks with the holidays, I was trying to manage my own expectations a little bit going in. As it turned out, the quarter went great, and we’re off and running. The whole team is fired up and knows how excited I am to get back out there. We’re going to work hard and keep earning the support of this community the old-fashioned way, one conversation and one event at a time.” He is running in the GOP primary election against the Rev. Jack Martin, who just entered the race this past week. Dave Koller is the only announced Democrat in the race.

DANA YOUNG’S FUNDRAISING JUGGERNAUT — The South Tampa Republican pulled in $712,980 in 2015 to both her campaign and associated committee, Friends of Dana Young PC. The solid year was capped off with nearly $172,000 raised in December, leaving Young with an impressive $615,797 combined cash-on-hand. Young‘s campaign tells me it added another $93K to its coffers in the brief period in January before Session started.

EMILY SLOSBERG MAKES IT OFFICIAL IN SD 30 via Florida Politics – Senate hopeful Emily Slosberg will officially announce her candidacy for the newly redrawn SD 30 in northern Palm Beach County today. The 34-year-old Democratic attorney and politico said in a statement confirming her run she would bring “energy, fresh perspective and activism” to Tallahassee.

CHRIS WHITFIELD JUMPS INTO HD 14 DERBY via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Whitfield officially filed … after announcing his entry at the GOP Debate Watch Party … The Democratic side has two candidates, one being former HD 14 Rep. Terry Fields, who has already seen GOP money go his way in early fundraising. Fields is opposed by Leslie Jean-Bart, who has the backing of trial lawyers and the Corrine Brown machine.

KATHERINE VAN ZANT EXPANDS FUNDRAISING ADVANTAGE IN HD 19 via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — There was $21,907 of December money for Van Zant … It brings her total to $109,910, against just over $25,000 spent. Koch brothers money was among the many maximum donations from companies in such sectors as citrus, tree farming, and real estate development to Van Zant … Leslie Dougher barely cleared four figures in December, with just over $1,100 bringing the former RPOF Chair close to $41,000 raised against about $13,000 spent. Bobby Payne‘s $2,850 December brought him over the $50,000 mark, against just under $5,000 spent.

DEB DENYS AFFIRMS INTENTIONS TO RUN IN HD 25 via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In the wake of incumbent Fred Costello filing to run in Congressional District 6, Deb Denys announced her intention … to replace him in House District 25. “I’m proud to announce my candidacy to bring genuine conservative leadership to Tallahassee. My passion and commitment for public service has always been motivated by a desire to make Volusia County, not just my district, the best place to live, work and raise a family,” Denys, a current District 3 Volusia County Councilwoman said.

— “Buddy Dyer endorses Carlos Guillermo Smith in House District 49” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

DECEMBER A SLOW FUNDRAISING MONTH FOR HD 80 CANDIDATE BYRON DONALDS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Donalds received just on $150 check during the one-month fundraising period. Since opening his campaign account in March, Donalds has raised $72,505. Donalds is running for the seat currently held by Rep. Matt Hudson. He faces Joe Davidow, a Naples Republican, in the August primary.

FORMER DAPHNE CAMPBELL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER FILES TO TAKE OVER HD 108 via Florida Politics — Fayola Delica filed for the Miami-Dade County seat … the only candidate listed for the seat outside of Campbell, who announced … that she would challenge Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis in the newly redrawn SD 38. Delica works as a motivational speaker and as a campaign consultant. Before filing … the candidate was working on the campaign Tinuade Pena, who is running in a four-way race for the HD 86 seat held by term-limited Democratic Rep. Mark Pafford.

ANTONIO DIAZ WASTES LITTLE TIME FILING ANOTHER CANDIDACY, THIS TIME HD 112 via Florida Politics — Miami Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez said he was eyeing a Senate run … and fellow Democrat … Diaz didn’t waste any time filing to take over for the two-term representative in House District 112. Diaz is best known for leading a recall campaign against Miami Mayor Carlos Jiminez and for his own campaign for Miami City Commission, which stalled out after Diaz didn’t file the paperwork to get on the ballot … he likely won’t be the only candidate on the docket. HD 112 has a close split in voter registrations and Rodriguez faced tough battles in both of his elections. Rodriguez is likely to file for SD 37, which was expected to pit Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis against Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

SAVE THE DATE: Black bear hunt activist Chuck O’Neal will hold his official Senate District 11 campaign kickoff event Thursday, Jan. 28. Event begins 6 p.m. at the An Tobar Irish Pub, 600 N. Lake Destiny Road in Maitland.

SAVE THE DATE: Former Florida GOP chair and Indian River County Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan hosts a fundraiser to support House District 54 candidate Erin Grall. Event is Tuesday, Jan. 26, beginning 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club Board Room, 202 South Adams St. in Tallahassee. For more details, contactinfo@eringrall.com.

SPECIAL INTERESTS FLOOD FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGNS WITH $28 MILLION IN 6 MONTHS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Since July alone, at least $9.5 million — in five- and six-figure checks — was sent to the political committees of individual lawmakers. Another $6 million went directly to the campaigns of state representatives and $3 million to state Senate campaigns. The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised another $3.2 million for Republican senators. The Republican Party of Florida, which is collecting checks for state House campaigns, raised $4.3 million, and the Florida Democratic Party, which raises money for all its legislators, collected $2.1 million. The torrent of cash is the result of a shift in state campaign finance laws that allowed for unfettered donations to legislative political committees in the wake of the federal court ruling on Citizens United. Stronger disclosure laws opened the door to more frequent reporting, but there is no requirement for contributors to disclose what issues or bills they are attempting to impact. Many of the cash-rich special interests are getting preferential treatment as their priority bills have been moving early in the 60-day session. Just as importantly, many ideas that are opposed by influential special interests are getting blocked.

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DID CHRIS SPROWLS JUST FINALLY DEFEAT ERIC EISNAUGLE FOR HOUSE SPEAKER … AND BY DEFAULT? — Supporters of Pinellas Republican Chris Sprowls‘ bid to become Speaker of the Florida House at the beginning of the next decade have repeated a talking point again and again about rival Eric Eisnaugle: “We’re not sure who eventually will be Speaker in 2021, but we know it won’t be Eisnaugle.” They said that after the first band of House members launched a coup against Eisnaugle. They said that after Brad Drake — the North Florida legislator who owes, in part, his victory to Eisnaugle’s financial backing — withdrew his support of the Orlando Republican. They said that after Shawn Harrison, who had previously spoken out against those who broke their pledge, switched his support from Eisnaugle to Sprowls. They said that after St. Johns County Republican Cyndi Stevenson, a redshirt freshman who is technically a member of the next class of state representatives, pulled her pledge card from Eisnaugle’s stack. For his part, Eisnaugle has been able to do little to stop the bleeding from this death from a thousand cuts. Still, he and his camp insist that he has enough support of the entire House Republican Caucus (which includes members in the class before and ahead of Eisnaugle’s and Sprowls’) that he is still on track to be Speaker in 2020-2022. But that claim doesn’t appear to hold much weight anymore, especially after Thursday, when Eisnaugle lost another pledge — and perhaps the race to be Speaker. Worst of all, he lost by default. Thursday, Fred Costello threw his hat into the ring for Congressional District 6. That’s great for Costello. Horrible for Eisnaugle. That’s because Costello was a pledge for Eisnaugle. Now Costello’s support is off the scoreboard, leaving Eisnaugle as many as three votes behind Sprowls in FloridaPolitics.com’s unofficial whip count.

>>>Sprowls is Adam Smith’s Winner of the Week in Florida politics.

ANTI-CORRUPTION BILL FACES ROCKY PATH IN LEGISLATURE via William March of The Associated Press — The legislation seeks to end what a 2010 grand jury called a “corruption tax” on Florida citizens amounting to millions a year in extra taxes, government fees and even highway tolls to make up for the waste, fraud and misconduct by public officials … Efforts to move legislation forward in both the House and Senate have been mixed. Senate Bill 582, sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz … was voted down by a Senate committee last week. The House companion bill, PCB 16-05, passed its first hearing in the Rules Committee, where the Chairman Ritch Workman … is sponsor. Many legislators favor the bill’s provisions redefining corruption in criminal law to make it easier to prosecute. Florida law currently requires prosecutors to prove that a public official or those who offer them bribes or rig bids acted corruptly or with corrupt intent — a very high hurdle … The proposed legislation would make it easier to obtain a conviction by requiring only proof that defendants acted “knowingly and intentionally.” The strongest objection to the bill appears to be that it also would apply to state contractors or vendors.

CONSUMER GROUP LAUNCHES ATTACK AGAINST AUTO INSURANCE BILL via Arek Sarkissian of Political Fix Florida — The Consumer Federation of the Southeast believes a bill pertaining to auto insurance would halt pre-insurance inspection of some used cars, and they’ve launched a bid to stop it … the group says the “proven tool against fraud” has been in use since 1989. “By requiring in-person inspections, the existing law deters scam artists from victimizing consumers with bogus transactions,” Jennifer West, executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, said in the release. “Anything that stops this kind of fraud is money in the pocket of consumers, and there is no good reason to erase such an important protection” … inspections cost insurance companies less than $14 per vehicle, and data shows that insurance fraud costs each household’s insurance policy $227 per year. Law enforcement and insurance investigators regularly use data from these inspections to advance their fraud investigations. The point of contention is wrapped up into 70 words of the 11-page SB 1036, by Sen. Jeff Brandes … would make the mandatory physical inspections optional for insurers.

TOM LEE FILES LOBBYIST-AUDIT BILL HE OPPOSES via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Tom Lee filed legislation under his name that would repeal state-required audits of lobbying firms, but says he is not on board with the idea … He filed the legislation … to help keep the House companion from stalling, because it did not have a sponsor headed into Tuesday’s start of the legislative session. That bill, HB 4065, is sponsored by Rep. Dan Raulerson, a Republican who represents a House seat that overlaps Lee’s Senate seat. “He needed several bills filed to keep his alive, so we helped him out,” Lee said. It’s not an uncommon practice. Lee says he is not supportive of removing the lobbying audits from state statute. He said he will now transfer the bill to another senator. “Guess I have to now,” he said.

— “New survey shows Florida for-profit hospitals provide quality health care for less” via Florida Politics

— “Uber fight looms in Miami-Dade; mayor promises a veto to keep Uber in Miami” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald

— THE VICE BEAT — 

PAM BONDI GRANTED MORE TIME TO PREP FOR SLOT MACHINE CASE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Bondi‘s office is getting more time to prepare legal arguments in a case over whether certain Florida dog and horse tracks can offer slot machines to guests. Florida Supreme Court granted the request … giving her lawyers another month to turn in their brief. The request asked for an extension to March 4, but the court instead gave them till Feb. 11. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which runs the racetrack in Gretna, about 25 miles west of Tallahassee, is bringing the case. The question before the court essentially is whether slot machines are allowed outside South Florida if local voters in a particular area approve of them. Gadsden County voters OK’d such a referendum in 2012.

BILL WOULD LIMIT THE NUMBER, COST OF LOTTERY SCRATCH GAMES via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — The House Government Operations Subcommittee voted 12-1 in favor of the bill which … Rep. Frank Artiles said is aimed at setting limits to scratch-off games that he said are most popular in the state’s poorest neighborhoods. Tickets now cost as much as $25 each. The bill (HB 607) would limit the Lottery to 20 active scratch-off games at a time. The department currently lists 79 scratch-off games on its website, including 14 that cost more than $5. “All I want to do is rein them in. What we have here is an abuse of the people who need the most help,” Artiles said. “We are the government and we are the ones that are abusing the system.” Artiles compared the games to slot machines, saying people are looking for instant gratification. He found no vocal disagreement among committee members.

FANTASY SPORTS BILL FACES LONG ODDS IN LEGISLATURE via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald — Key state senators say they are increasingly hesitant to make any moves affecting the status of daily fantasy sports games because the state is in the middle of complex negotiations with both the Seminole Tribe of Florida and pari-mutuel wagering companies over what forms of gambling should be allowed. “It is now part of the overall gaming conversation,” said … Rob Bradley … the Senate’s lead negotiator on a new gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe. “You can’t talk about fantasy sports in a vacuum.” Bill Galvano … said given the “litigious nature” of the gaming industry, it’s clear if one area of the industry is tweaked, it affects the state’s whole gaming landscape. “It is all very much related,” Galvano said. In Florida, the industry is in a gray area, so much so that some daily fantasy sports companies including the nation’s third largest, Yahoo, refuses to allow Floridians to play the games, even while others like FanDuel and DraftKings accept them.

GROWER INVOKES UF PARTNERSHIP IN TESTIMONY, BUT UNIVERSITY SAYS NO TO POT via Caitie Switalski of WUFT-FM — Robert Wallace, owner of Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Alachua County told Florida’s Senate Committee on Regulated Industries … he is working with scientists from the University of Florida to develop and distribute medical marijuana by summer, and that he will donate a portion of his proceeds to the university for research. Two days earlier he told the Alachua City Commission that he has a property picked out to dispense his proprietary product next to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Yet spokeswomen for the University of Florida and UF Health say neither organization is working with Wallace’s business. Wallace, whose nursery is the recipient of the Northeast region cultivating and dispensing license for medical marijuana in Florida, confirmed to the committee he is on track to make the Feb. 7 deadline to request authorization to start growing the plant. UF Health Shands has no plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary.

*** A special message from Florida’s horsemen: While legislators debate using hard-earned taxpayer dollars for corporate relocation incentives, Florida employers who’ve been hard at work for decades could lose everything, thanks to “decoupling”— a Big Casino cash grab and gambling expansion plan tucked inside the Seminole Compact. It seems senseless to kill established Florida businesses, while spending public money in hopes new business may materialize. But Florida could do just that when “decoupling” leaves horse racing investors with NO WAY to do business and NO CHANCE to recoup financial return. Gambling policy should be about growing Florida’s economy. Not padding the pockets of Big Casinos. Florida’s horsemen oppose decoupling in ANY form. NoDecoupling.com. ***

ENERGY SECRETARY: FPL ‘LEADS’ WITH RESILIENT, ‘SMART’ POWER GRID via Leila Miller of the Miami Herald — Modernizing the country’s electrical infrastructure is high on the U.S. Department of Energy’s agenda … Florida Power & Light has taken the lead. At the end of a tour of FPL facilities highlighting the utility’s initiatives to strengthen its electrical grid, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced $220 million in federal funding for a new multiyear grid modernization program. “Modernizing the U.S. electrical grid is essential to reducing carbon emissions, creating safeguards against attacks on our infrastructure, and keeping lights on,” Moniz said in remarks to the press at an FPL facility in Miami. “This public-private partnership between our National Laboratories, industry, academia, and state and local government agencies will help us further strengthen our ongoing efforts to improve our electrical infrastructure so that it is prepared to respond to the nation’s energy needs for decades to come.” DOE’s National Laboratories and other partners will receive the funding, aimed at supporting research to strengthen the country’s grid in light of climate-change threats. “Climate change is certainly something we have to react to — that hardening of infrastructure is part of that,” Moniz said. “Unfortunately, we have to be prepared for more extreme weather, more damage from storm surges, hurricanes.”

SPOTTED at Jacob’s in Tallahassee, a strange pairing for breakfast: Alvin Brown‘s former Chief of Staff Chris Hand and Lenny Curry‘s political brain, Brian Hughes.

APPOINTEDPeter Logan to the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota District Board of Trustees.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Caitlin Murray, seemingly the only person I know who enjoys Champagne almost as much as my wife, as well as Brian Goldmeier and AARP Florida’s Jeff Johnson. Celebrating today are Brody Enright and No Casinos’ Sara Johnson.

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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