Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
Barring a last-minute reprieve, which almost certainly won’t happen, Florida will execute Michael Ray Lambrix at 6 p.m. tonight.
The 57-year-old, also known as Cary Michael Lambrix, was convicted of the 1983 killings of Clarence Moore Jr. and Aleisha Bryant.
Prosecutors say he killed them with tire-iron and by strangling after an evening of drinking at his trailer near LaBelle, about 30 miles from Fort Myers.
He met them at a bar, then invited them home for dinner.
This week, he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution because Florida’s death penalty sentencing method was found to be unconstitutional, according to The Associated Press. The state has since required a unanimous jury vote in death cases.
The jury was not unanimous in either of Lambrix’s death sentence decisions, but Florida’s Supreme Court has said the new rules do not apply to cases as old as his.
Lambrix has been on the state’s Death Row for 33 years
— “Florida Death Row inmate gives rare interview before execution” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @MaggieNYT: The five living former POTUSes will take part in a hurricane relief concert, per inbox. Striking how it’s separate from White House efforts
— @GBennettPost: .@in Orlando Thursday…
— @FEMA_Brock: Spoke w/ @@ @ and @ each about our shared interests in track of this storm
— @GrayRohrer: .@spent his morning telling tourists to come back to the Keys. This afternoon he’s warning Panhandle/Gulf residents of new storm
— @TroyKinsey: As for @#‘s arrival.‘s Navy cap, word is it’s currently down for its 100-hour inspection but should be ready in time for
— @Swampette: Tallahassee status: already tuned into The Weather Channel 24/7
— @SkipFoster: Great news for Tallahassee — 0z Euro shifts way west — takes weaker Nate over La./Miss.
— @JebBush: Puerto Ricans deserve consistency and compassion in both action and tone from the Trump Administration. It’s about them, not about @.
— @TheFLBar: Several U.S. law schools — inc. 8 from FL — will help P.R. law students transition to cooperating mainland school & continue their legal ed.
— @JimRosicaFL: Can’t take any more bad Press Corps news. @is in my prayers, wishing him speedy recovery
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— CRISES —
“A tale of two Puerto Ricos: What Donald Trump saw — and what he didn’t” via Arelis Hernández and Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post — The Puerto Rico that Trump saw during his four-hour visit Tuesday afternoon was that of Angel Pérez Otero, the mayor of Guaynabo, a wealthy San Juan suburb known for its amenity-driven gated communities that was largely spared … where high-speed winds had blown out some second-story windows and knocked over a few trees — but where life seemed to be returning to normal, thanks to assistance from the government. If the president had traveled a little deeper into the island, to the communities that sustained some of the heaviest damage, he would have witnessed a very different Puerto Rico. Just 10 miles southeast of Guaynabo is this mountainous city of Caguas, nestled in a valley ringed by steep sierras and narrow mountain passes, with homes built densely on the edges of gravity-defying slopes. These hills were stripped naked by Maria’s malicious winds, leaving the trees without leaves and fruit, their bare branches contorted in painful postures. Houses that withstood tropical rain and wind for decades were blown off their foundations and destroyed by toppled vegetation. Twisted metal roofs landed in creeks all over the once-lush region.
“Jeb Bush criticizes Trump on Puerto Rico” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Bush criticized Trump’s words and actions toward Puerto Rico, effectively saying his former rival has not shown enough compassion: “Puerto Ricans deserve consistency and compassion in both action and tone from the Trump Administration. It’s about them, not about @POTUS.”
“Darren Soto: Congress must quickly approve robust relief package for Puerto Rico” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — … not just to assure full federal relief efforts from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, but to keep the commonwealth’s government operating in a place where almost no one can work. “The stories that you’re reading and seeing from Puerto Rico are all true,” the Orlando Democrat, who is of Puerto Rican descent, stated in a release. “Our fellow American citizens are facing unthinkable tragedies. I saw people all over the city waiting in long lines for groceries and gas, most areas lacked electricity, cellphone service and functioning traffic lights. Debris still covered many roads. Most buildings sustained minor or major damage. Hopefully, President Trump’s visit will tell him what I already saw firsthand: the damage is real and people need our help.” Soto issued a lengthy report on his findings that ranged from the obvious widespread problems [an island without electricity, cellphone service and massive destruction]; to pending issues, such as the government’s anticipation that it will run out of operating money in two to three weeks; to minor issues that could result in public health matters, such as ad hoc trash dumps appearing everywhere because there is no refuge service.
“Major Puerto Rico power restoration project awarded to small, untested vendor” via Florida Politics — The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) — per the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) guidance — has selected a tiny, two-man company with fewer than two years of experience and merely $1 million in annual revenue to repair its massive and critical 230KV electricity transmission line. Whitefish, Montana-based, Whitefish Holdings, LLC lists two employees and $1 million in annual revenue … Founded in 2015, the firm has previously been awarded three Department of Energy contracts for amounts ranging from under $40,000 to a little over $1,000,000. That’s hardly the sort of track record one might expect for the firm responsible for a project so critical to the Puerto Rican recovery and rebuilding efforts. While it is important for governments to contract with small-and-minority-owned-
Assignment editors — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will travel to Florida to “conduct on-the-ground assessments of hurricane damage at National Park Service locations and to receive a briefing on Everglades Restoration.” He will be in the state through Saturday. On Friday, Hill tour hurricane damage at Big Cypress National Preserve. Saturday, Zinke will hold a media event with Sen. Marco Rubio and members of the state’s congressional delegation.
“Hurricane Irma causes $2.5B in damage to Florida crops” via The Associated Press — Irma dealt Florida’s iconic orange crop the most devastating blow causing more than $760 million in damage. Beef cattle and dairy were next with $237 million and nearly $12 million respectively. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam released the preliminary assessment. The powerful hurricane damaged nearly all the citrus fruit in some Southwest Florida groves and seriously damaging groves in Central Florida. Growers talked of trees standing in 3 feet of water, which is a death sentence for a crop already under a decade-long siege by citrus greening disease. Much of the fruit was young, and it’s too late in the season for a new crop.
— “Debris cleanup still a slow slog across Tampa Bay” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times
“Rick Scott says Florida’s ready to help Puerto Rico, but critics see little action so far” via Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott’s six-hour tour Thursday was dismissed as a photo opportunity by state Sen. Victor Torres, a Democrat whose Orlando-area district will soon welcome tens of thousands of hurricane evacuees. “Talk is cheap,” said Torres, who finds Scott’s response long on platitudes and skimpy on specifics. “I don’t have the power. If I was the governor, I would move, I would make things happen. We need to step up our game.” Torres, a former Marine and New York City police officer, said that if Scott had access to a state aircraft to fly to Puerto Rico, he should have packed the plane with relief supplies.
“Trailers to house storm victims are here, but no one’s in them” via Larry Kahn of FLKeysNews.com — A week after the first travel trailers to house displaced hurricane victims arrived in the Keys, they remain in storage in Key West with no apparent immediate plan to get people in them. The Florida Division of Emergency Management said that “the temporary housing units in Monroe County are staged in Key West for just-in-time delivery to ensure that empty units are not sitting in the public eye. As for a timetable, it is ongoing. As pads become available and survivors are approved by FEMA, we are then able to match them.” … “It’s not like anyone can get on a list and sign up for a travel trailer,” FEMA spokesman Nate Custer said. “Rental housing is the preferred option, then we put people in hotels.” For trailers, “We have callers managing applications from the Joint Field Office that are reaching out to registrants as quickly as possible,” state Emergency Management said. Trailers are “a last resort, it’s the best way to describe it,” Custer said. “It’s not always easy to place these units. You need to have electricity, you need to have utilities.”
“After Irma, pummeled Everglades shows signs of resilience” via Maddie Stone of Earther.com — After doing an aerial flyover of Florida Bay after the storm and spotting enormous racks of dead seagrass, Everglades Foundation wetland ecologist Steve Davis was worried. The scene reminded him of a seagrass die-off that occurred in the summer of 2015, when the bay — a shallow estuary bounded by the Everglades wetlands to the north and Keys to the south — became too salty, owing to high temperatures and a dearth of rainfall. The die-off precipitated enormous algae blooms, triggering fish kills and dealing a major blow to Florida’s commercial and recreational fishing economies. But when Davis went out on the bay with some fishing guides and a handful of reporters last week, what he saw was quite different. “We did see some large floating mats of grass, like we saw a few weeks prior in overflight,” he said. But, rather than creating a vast dead-zone, all that detritus appears to have triggered a feasting frenzy. “You’re seeing lots of things like shrimp and crabs associated with those [dead seagrass] mats,” Davis said. “The fish,” particularly tarpon, “were just in heaven eating the shrimp.”
“Florida fishing villages, famed for smugglers and stone crabs, dig out from Irma’s mud” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — Three weeks after Hurricane Irma lashed Chokoloskee and Everglades City, the small fishing villages as well-known for stone crabs as their outlaw past are still digging out from a blow that brought powerful winds but also something much worse — a storm surge awash in deep, foul mud … when the skies ominously darkened and sent another round of pounding rain last week, a carpet of mud surrounding the RV now serving as Everglades City’s temporary town hall turned slick again, sending the mayor slipping and sliding in his crabber boots. While the damage from Irma’s landfall in the Lower Keys was severe, the impact in this isolated pocket of Southwest Florida may be worse. So far, about 100 homes have been condemned, but countless others are barely habitable, their sodden insides stripped by owners or sprouting mold and mildew as damaging as any hurricane.
“Miami School District will request delay to state testing due to Irma” via Jessica Bakeman of WLRN Miami — In a letter to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho asked if the district could get an extra week before state English language arts and math tests take place this spring. Under Carvalho’s proposed schedule, third grade English tests would begin April 16 and run through April 23. Fourth through eighth-grade tests would be administered April 23 through May 18. Tests are later this school year because of a new state law that recently went into effect. “It certainly makes sense to delay it one week to afford those additional days of academic exposure,” Carvalho said during a school board committee meeting.
“Polk veteran awaiting FEMA help still lives without power weeks after Irma” via Corey Davis of WFLA — Hurricane Irma sent a massive tree through Jonathan Bonney’s roof that knocked out the power. The Army veteran, whose wife died a few years ago, said he has nowhere to go. It’s just him and his dog living in the house at 1250 Fairview Avenue. Bonney doesn’t have insurance, but he applied for financial assistance from FEMA a couple of weeks ago. He needs help paying the security deposit along with first and last month rent at an apartment he found. Right now, he’s waiting for an inspector to come to his home. Bonney lives less than five minutes from the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at the Stuart Center in Bartow. A FEMA official tells me that the waits for assistance are long, but they’re trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible.
Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will provide updates on Tropical Depression 16 and its potential impact on Florida beginning 9 a.m. CDT At the Escambia County emergency management offices, 6575 North W St. in Pensacola.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Is Adam Putnam indirectly in bed with Germany’s far-right?” via Florida Politics — According to recent campaign finance reports, Putnam paid Austin-based Harris Media more than $76,000 for advertising … Harris — founded in 2008 by Vincent Harris — was on board with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered Parliament after the nation’s Sept. 24 elections. Harris was in charge of the populist group’s successful online advertising blitz. As a result, AfD became Germany’s third biggest party, taking 13.3 percent of the total vote … a “seismic shock” … Moving to the right may be understandable for a primary race. But getting in bed with Harris Media and Germany’s radical far right? Say it ain’t so, Adam Putnam.
Save the date:
“Matt Caldwell snags endorsement from Matt Gaetz” via Florida Politics — … for his campaign for Agriculture Commissioner … Gaetz said was backing Caldwell “because he is a consistent conservative.” The first term congressman represents likely the most conservative U.S. House district in Florida and his endorsement looks to drum up Caldwell’s right-wing bona fides in what is shaping up to be a hard-fought GOP primary in the Cabinet race. “He has never voted to support things like Obamacare expansion, the Charlie Crist tax increases, and Big Brother-style red light cameras,” Gaetz said. “And, he’s the only candidate in this race who has refused to take public tax dollars to finance his campaign.” Some of those jabs seem to be directed at Caldwell’s primary opponents: Sen. Denise Grimsley, Paul Paulson and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman — all three of whom are leading him on the fundraising trail.
— “Pam Keith gets backing of VoteVets in CD 18 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
“Carlos Curbelo claims Democrat ‘demanded I be deported’ from immigration event” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Curbelo claims a top Democrat “demanded I be deported” from an immigration event and activists fired back that he was grandstanding. The event focuses on Senate legislation to help Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents. Curbelo is sponsoring a different version and claims Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, tried to block him from attending. “Attempting to exclude someone with a long history of supporting Dreamers is petty, counterproductive and selfish,” Curbelo told The Hill. On Twitter, Curbelo said Durbin “demanded I be deported” from the news conference but he‘d attend anyway. Durbin’s office denied the allegations and some immigration activists said Curbelo’s use of “deported” was self-serving and offensive given real people face the threat of being thrown out of the country. In the Hill, organizers with FWD.us backed up Durbin, saying there was a miscommunication with Curbelo’s office.
“Keith Perry challenger boasts $73K September haul” via Florida Politics — Kayser Enneking, M.D., filed for SD 8 on Sept. 1 after mulling a run for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, which is much more favorable to GOP candidates than SD 8. “I’m honored by the outpouring of support since announcing my candidacy less than a month ago. Voters are ready for a leader who understands the importance of access to health care and public education. We need thoughtful solutions in Tallahassee. The legislature should be working on problems faced by their constituents not the issues of special interests. Our campaign is about giving a voice to every family and making Tallahassee finally work for us,” Enneking said. Enneking’s first report is not yet available through the Florida Division of Elections, but her campaign touted the $72,900 haul, as well as Enneking’s Gainesville roots in an email.
“Ed Hooper nabs Mike Fasano endorsement for SD 16” via Florida Politics — Pasco County Tax Collector Fasano, a former Republican state lawmaker, has been a longtime political force in West Pasco County. Hooper, who served in the House from 2006 to 2014, is running in Senate District 16, covering parts of Pinellas and Pasco counties. “I know Ed Hooper to be an honest and thoughtful person who cared about how laws affect the people he represents,” Fasano said. “Hooper has my full support and endorsement for state Senate.”
Save the date:
“Grand theft charges against Winter Haven candidate for state House dropped” via The Ledger — Democrat Carmelo Garcia was arrested May 26, the same day he filed to run for office … Charges were dropped by the Osceola County State Attorney’s Office Aug. 31. Winter Haven police arrested Garcia on a Kissimmee police warrant from a 2016 case, police reported. Kissimmee police accused Garcia of writing bad checks totaling $800 in July 2016. Garcia filed to run for the District 41 state House seat against Republican incumbent Sam Killebrew.
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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Constitution review panel could tackle ‘write-in loophole’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Constitution Revision Commission committee on Wednesday began considering whether to change Florida’s primary election system, including buttoning up what’s known as the “write-in loophole.” That allows a write-in candidate to close a primary. The commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee heard from advocates and some of the state’s elections supervisors, but took no action. Here’s how it works now: A Florida primary is open to all voters if candidates from other parties don’t qualify to run. But state elections officials have opined that a write-in candidate qualifying for a general election in a race keeps a primary closed. And here’s how political parties and others have gamed the system: They’ve been known to line up a political novice to file as a write-in to close a primary, which usually benefits the incumbent.
“Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee plans hurricane talk” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — … Chairman Bill Montford announced … That is assuming the committee’s hearing is not postponed because of a hurricane. Very early projections of Tropical Depression 16 forming off the coast of Central America have it becoming Hurricane Nate and hitting Florida — right near Tallahassee — Sunday. Montford … set the discussion with Hurricane Irma in mind, taking place roughly a month after that storm hit Florida. “Hurricane Irma was a catastrophic storm, the likes of which Florida has never seen,” Montford stated in a news release issued by the Senate Democrats’ office. “We continue to face the long and complicated process of recovery statewide, from our businesses and tourist industry, the school systems, to agriculture and infrastructure, there was not an entity left untouched.”
“Ben Albritton, Jeff Brandes again push for a review of government procurement” via LobbyTools — Rep. Albritton, a Wauchula Republican, and Sen. Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, will team up again in 2018 to create a task force that would evaluate state and local procurement laws and policies. HB 111 would create a 14 member group headed by the secretary of the Department of Management Services, joined by seven local government and industry leaders appointed by the governor, two each from the Senate president and House speaker, the CFO and the state’s chief information officer. A similar bill (SB 368) does not include a CFO or CIO and gives the governor six appointees. Both require the task force to submit final recommendations by July 1, 2019. Albritton’s identical bill last session unanimously passed the House and a comparable measure by Brandes died in its last committee of reference after passing the first two unanimously.
“Bill would rein in community redevelopment agencies” via Florida Politics — A measure to overhaul community redevelopment agencies (CRAs), a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, has been filed for the 2018 Legislative Session. Rep. Jake Raburn, a Lithia Republican, is sponsoring the bill (HB 17) … Under the bill, CRAs would have to conduct ethics training, open competitive bids, and file annual performance reports … Most recently, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office sent subpoenas to the city of Tallahassee and the City/County Community Redevelopment Agency over deals that body has made, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. “The subjects of the subpoenas included prominent business people and financial documents and communication with city officials,” it said.
Al Jacquet files repeal of chastity defamation via Florida Politics — The Lantana Democrat filed legislation in the House Wednesday to repeal state law making it a crime to defame a woman on the grounds of she’s unchaste. Current law, passed in 1883, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to “falsely and maliciously imput(e) … a want of chastity” to any woman. The same bill (HB 6019) also would repeal a law, first passed in 1915, that created a first-degree misdemeanor of “willfully and maliciously” making a false statement or suggestion affecting the “solvency or financial standing” of a bank or “building and loan association.”
Assignment editors — Medical cannabis dispensary Surterra Wellness will celebrate the grand opening of its Tallahassee Wellness Center with a “Party for the Patients” starting 10:30 a.m. at 1639 Village Square Boulevard in Tallahassee.
— STATEWIDE —
“Survey says Floridians feeling financial stress” via the News Service of Florida — With many people worried about a lack of high-paying jobs, 60 percent of Floridians say they feel financial stress in their households, according to results of the 2017 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey … six in 10 Floridians feel at least some financial stress, though that is down from 71 percent in 2015. The most financial stress was found among unemployed people, households with incomes under $35,000, African-Americans, people without college educations and women. The survey also found the most stress in South Florida, where costs of living are higher than in other parts of the state.
“Florida to seek death penalty against killer clown suspect” via The Associated Press — Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg issued a statement saying the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for 54-year-old Sheila Keen Warren, who was ordered held without bail at a court hearing. She was extradited from Abingdon, Virginia, where she lived with her husband Michael Warren for years. Defense attorney Richard Lubin told reporters Sheila Warren “vehemently denies” killing Marleen Warren and will plead not guilty. She was arrested last week after a grand jury issued a first-degree murder indictment. Investigators say new DNA testing gave them what they needed to make an arrest. Michael Warren, 65, has not been charged, but detectives and prosecutors have refused to rule him out as a suspect. He has not responded to phone messages left at his home. He and Sheila Warren married in 2002. Marlene Warren was killed in May 1990 by person dressed as a clown who handed her carnations and two foil balloons. Her son, who witnessed the killing, said she replied, “How pretty!” The clown then pulled a handgun, shot her in the face and drove away. Marlene Warren died two days later.
“Court overturns state board on charter schools” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal was a victory for the Indian River County School Board, which in 2015 denied two charter-school applications filed by Somerset Academy, Inc. Backers of the charter schools took the issue to the State Board of Education, which rejected the decision of the Indian River board and said Somerset Academy should be allowed to move forward with the schools. The ruling by the appeals court said the Indian River board had “clear and convincing evidence” on a series of issues that supported the denial of the proposed charter schools. As an example, the appeals court said the Indian River board showed that the applications failed to meet financial requirements included in state law. “The School Board painstakingly pointed out how Somerset’s applications patently showed that Somerset’s intended budget was financially unrealistic and untenable,” said the 10-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Carole Taylor and joined by judges Melanie May and Cory Ciklin.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Avenue Strategies adds former top staffer for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via POLITICO — Avenue Strategies Global, started by Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett, is adding Art Estopinan as a partner. Estopinan, a former chief of staff to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, will help Avenue lobby for Qatar, which is paying Avenue $500,000 a month as it tries to win friends in Washington as its diplomatic standoff with Saudi Arabia and its allies enter the fifth month. “Right now, it’s just the Qatar project, but my guess is we’ll be fully integrating him into the firm,” Bennett said in an interview.
New and renewed lobbying registrations
Brian Ballard, Carol Bracy, Ballard Partners: Enchanted Rock
Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: AECOM Technical Services
Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Solix
Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: The Presidio Corporation
Kim McDougal, GrayRobinson: IMG College
Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Affordable Bio Feedstock, Affordable Bio Feedstock of Jacksonville, Affordable Bio Feedstock of Port Charlotte, Florida Biodiesel Fuel
Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: National Lightning Protection Corporation
— ALOE —
“SpaceX’s next rocket could see Florida’s Space Coast add activity” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — A component of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to establish spaceflight to Mars gained a critical component recently when he announced how he intends to pay for it — and part of the plan involves more frequent flights that can use smaller rockets. By developing a smaller vehicle, with a booster and ship that could replace the company’s Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX could more frequently launch into low-earth orbit, increasing revenue opportunities. That money could then be poured into the development of the BFR. Musk’s plans could bring more work to Central Florida and the Space Coast, a state official said … “This location remains the spot in the U.S. that makes the most sense to do any serious deep-space exploration from,” said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances.
“Universal Orlando to hire 3,000 employees” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — The full-time, part-time and seasonal positions include openings in attractions, operations, culinary, food services and merchandise. The employees are needed at Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and CityWalk. Universal will hold multiple hiring events with the first one from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Universal Orlando Human Resources office. Hiring events are by appointment only. Candidates should apply online at www.UniversalOrlandoJobs.com.
Happy birthday early to Sachs Media Group’s Jon Peck, a gifted writer and one of most enjoyable individuals to work with. Celebrating today are Chris Hart, Trey Price, the brilliant Gregory Wilson, and Joe York, who has been working non-stop directing AT&T’s response to the hurricanes.