Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
YES, YOU’RE LOSING SLEEP OVER THIS ELECTION – Wearable devices that track exercise and other vital signs reveal what many have suspected: The election is making us lose sleep, the Wall Street Journal reports. The night of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Sept. 26, Fitbit users nationwide slept an average of 4.2 minutes less than they did the Monday before and the Monday after the debate. Users’ average sleep typically varies only about one to two minutes from one Monday to the next, so the change on the debate night is statistically significant.
NEARLY 4.4 MILLION FLORIDIANS HAVE ALREADY VOTED – As of Wednesday morning, 2,157,583 vote-by-mail ballots have been returned for the November general election, and 2,28,061 people have voted early across the state. Registered Republicans lead in vote-by-mail ballots to Democrats 905,842 to 830,300, but Democrats lead GOP voters in early voting 938,919 to 884,589. A total of 772,012 other party and no-party voters have returned ballots to their local supervisors of elections or voted early. The state’s website for vote-by-mail and early voting statistics is here.
DONALD TRUMP, JOE BIDEN IN FLORIDA — Donald Trump will kick off a four-city swing through the Sunshine State with a rally at noon at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater, 301 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami. From there, he’ll head to a rally at 4 p.m. at the Orlando Amphitheater at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, 4603 W. Colonial Dr. in Orlando. Trump will wrap up his day at 7 p.m. at Maritime Park’s Hunter Amphitheater, 311 W. Cedar Street in Pensacola. On the Democratic side, Vice President Joe Biden will rally voters at 11:15 a.m. at the Museum of Science & Industry, 4801 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa. He’ll then head to a rally at 2:30 p.m. at Palm Beach State College-Amphitheater, 316 PGA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens.
— President Obama will campaign for Clinton in Orlando on Sunday, per Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times.
HILLARY CLINTON HITS TRUMP ON TAX RETURNS IN SANFORD via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Calling him “the poster boy for everything wrong with our economy,” Clinton called on Trump to release his tax returns after slamming him for what she called the “legally dubious” ways he avoided paying taxes. Clinton’s rally at the Sanford Civic Center … was part of a swing through the crucial state of Florida, as polls show the race tightening with just a week before the presidential election. She told the packed crowd of about 1,000 inside the center – as well as a large overflow crowd outside – that “I’m not taking anything, anyone, any place for granted.” … “Twenty-six million people in America have already voted, more than 4 million of them right here in Florida,” she said. “If we can keep this up, there’s no doubt – if we vote, we win.” Clinton made no mention of the renewed FBI investigation of her emails, an “October surprise” that roiled the campaign … Instead, she focused largely on her Republican opponent. She hit Trump over a New York Times story that detailed the ways he might have avoided paying federal taxes for decades, saying “he has the nerve to call the military a disaster and insult veterans while he hasn’t paid a penny to support those who put on the uniform.”
EVERY VOTE COUNTS: BILL CLINTON APPEALS TO VOTERS IN DEEP RED SOUTHWEST FLORIDA via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Former President Bill Clinton made an appeal to Democrats in staunchly conservative Southwest Florida this week: Vote for Hillary and make sure everyone you know does, too. “The most important thing you can do is to vote and take your friends to vote,” Clinton said during a rally in Collier County on Tuesday. “Do it today. Do it tomorrow. Do it every day until Election Day. If enough people who are for her turnout, she will win Florida and she will win (the election).” Bill Clinton used his appearance at the Immokalee Pioneer Museum in rural Immokalee to paint a clear distinction between his wife and Trump. And Clinton said his wife is the only candidate in the race who can help the country move forward. “I think these people who support her opponent because they think nobody cares enough about them have a legitimate beef,” he said. “The problem is, she’s the only one with the programs that would help help ease their pain.”
— “Bill Clinton rallies in St. Petersburg” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times
COMPLAINT ALLEGES TRUMP CAMPAIGN CEO INELIGIBLE TO VOTE IN FLORIDA via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – A global activist group that opposes Donald Trump has filed a complaint with Florida elections officials claiming that his campaign CEO submitted false voter registration information. The complaint says Stephen Bannon does not actually live at the Sarasota County address where he registered to vote in August. “Under Florida law, to qualify as a registered voter, one must be a resident of the state,” states the one-page complaint filed Oct. 19 by Heather Reddick, chief operating officer of Avaaz. “These allegations are a serious matter of public interest given Mr. Bannon’s role as the chief executive officer of the Republican candidate’s presidential campaign and warrants immediate investigation.” Avaaz is an international online campaign organization that opposes Trump’s candidacy. The group has launched a campaign urging Americans living overseas, including in Mexico and Canada, to vote in the election.
DIGITAL AD TARGETING LATINO VOTERS IN FLORIDA EQUATES TRUMP TO A ‘CAUDILLO’ via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – The Latino Victory fund is spending $40,000 on a digital ad campaign slamming Trump and Marco Rubio, calling the billionaire businessman a “caudillo” who Senate candidates should not support. The ad is running in Florida through Election day targeting independent Hispanic voters through Facebook and using targeted video ads to draw Hispanic likely voters in Miami, Tampa and Orlando. There is a Spanish-language and English-language version. The ad features footage of Latin American dictators, from Cuba’s Fidel Castro to Venezuela’s late Hugo Chavez, to drive home the point that America doesn’t need a “caudillo” in the White House. The ad ends with Trump at a podium saying “I alone can fix it.”
LATINO VOTE CONTINUES TO BUILD IN FLORIDA WITH A WEEK OUT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – On a conference call … Maria Rodriguez, the executive director of the Florida Immigration Coalition and FLIC Votes, announced that 359,000 Latinos had voted as of Monday in Florida, a record this early out before Election Day. “The strategy has been to really push our people to vote early and vote by mail,” Rodriguez said on a conference call Tuesday organized by the pro-immigration group America Voices. “It’s not something culturally that we usually do,” she said, adding that “we’re seeing big bumps for early voting.” There are four groups working on the ground in Florida that have been working to register Hispanic voters this year — The New Florida Majority, Organize Now (based out of Orlando), Faith in Florida Action and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and is being led by the Center for Community Change Action. A focus this year has been on registering and mobilizing low-propensity voters, those who have either no voting history or have voted in just one of the last three elections.
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FLORIDA TEACHER HAMMERS TRUMP IN NEW AD — Local Voices launched a five-figure online ad campaign featuring Liz Middleton, a public high school teacher and former state representative. The 60-second spot features Middleton talking about Trump and the message he is sending to Florida’s young adults and children. “I want my students, male and female, to know that the only reason to worry about body image is when working for optimum health, that nobody has the right to judge them or anyone else by some arbitrary and rigid standard of beauty,” said Middleton. The Local Voices’ 2016 ad campaign features unscripted commentary from Americans in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona. Click the image below to watch the ad.
SOUTH FLORIDA ATHLETES WEIGH IN ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION via Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald – About half to two-thirds of South Florida professional athletes are registered to vote, which is consistent with national statistics among all Americans. Twenty-nine of 53 Dolphin players showed up as registered — 11 Democrats, four Republicans and 14 Independent/No Party Affiliation. The Marlins leaned more Republican with nine players registered as Republican, six Democrat, eight Independent and 12 non-U.S. citizens. The Heat had three Democrats, no Republicans and four Independent. The rosters for the Panthers and Miami FC are dominated by non-U.S. citizens. The Panthers have five U.S.-born players (one registered Republican, one Democrat, three Independent) and 19 foreigners. Miami FC soccer club has 15 non-U.S. citizens and 10 players registered to vote — one Democrat, one Republican, eight Independents. National numbers are similar.
ESPN the Magazine did an anonymous survey of 97 athletes from the NBA, NHL, NFL, WNBA and MLB. Asked if they plan to vote, 72.5 percent replied Yes. 27.5 percent said No. Asked their political party, 32.6 percent replied Democrat, 28.4 percent Republican and 38.9 percent Independent. And asked who they’re voting for, 51.9 percent said Clinton, 28.6 percent said Trump and 19.5 percent said neither.
DEMOCRATIC-LEANING FOR OUR FUTURE SEES BRIGHT SPOT WITH GET-OUT-THE-VOTE EFFORT IN FLORIDA via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Republicans may have a slight advantage in voter turnout so far through mail-voting and early voting, but a coalition of get-out-the-vote groups led by For Our Future said a deep-dive look at the numbers has them encouraged. In particular, progressive campaigners are hyping their greater success in getting sporadic voters — those who probably can’t be counted on to vote — to vote. The issue is whether the across-the-board increases in early voting in Florida means new and additional voters, or simply voters who would vote regardless, and they’ve voted early this year. The coalition also pointed to an increase in Hispanic voters voting early, suggesting this likely Democratic bloc will have an impact favoring Clinton and Patrick Murphy.
And they discounted reports that relatively small numbers of African-American voters are voting — the most loyal Democratic bloc. Jerry Green, Florida outreach director for Vote Vets, insisted black voters still largely wait until Election Day to vote, so their absence from early voting ranks doesn’t concern Democrats. “Right now there’s just over a 15,000-vote difference. But when you look at sporadic voters, 30 percent of our voters are sporadic voters, versus 24.8 percent for the GOP. When you look at three-of-three, the people who have voted in the last three presidential elections, 56 percent of GOP voters are voters that are going to show up, compared with 47 percent of Democratic voters who are true and tried. Those voters are going to turn out and vote,” said Ashley Walker, senior statewide campaign adviser at For Our Future. “So I feel good that we are turning out more sporadic voters than they are.”
HOW ONE MAN, AND 1.7M OTHER FLORIDIANS, LOST THE RIGHT TO VOTE via the Miami Herald – For Roderick Kemp, an African-American living in Fort Lauderdale, the 2008 presidential election was a pivotal moment. That year, Kemp became an organizer for then-Sen. Barack Obama, and Obama’s historic election inspired Kemp to stay politically engaged in the years that followed through local and state campaigns. The election of the first black president and the role political organizing played are both historic and emotional for Kemp, a calm and soft-spoken 60-year-old. He broke his usual ease at his home in Fort Lauderdale when he described attending the inauguration in Washington, D.C., in 2009. “At that moment, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is what it’s like to be a part of effective change,’” Kemp recalled, fighting back tears. Along with aiding in the president’s re-election campaign in Florida four years later, Kemp, a real estate agent, served on local boards, ran county commission and mayoral races, and managed a field office for Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign. “It just seemed second nature to me that I need to be involved,” Kemp said. By the time the 2016 election campaigns started, the question for Kemp was not if he would be involved in the 2016 election efforts, but how. “My phone has been ringing off the hook from leaders of the Broward County Democratic Party asking me, ‘Are you ready? We need you,’” Kemp said. But this year, Kemp’s involvement came to an abrupt halt. The Florida Division of Elections discovered a skeleton in his closet. Kemp received a brief letter from the Broward Supervisor of Elections informing him that the state of Florida had revoked his voting privileges due to a previous felony conviction.
SENATE FORECAST REMAINS COULDY WITH ONE WEEK TO GO UNTIL ELECTION DAY via Stuart Rothenberg of the Washington Post — About half of the 11 races that have been watched at some point over the last year are still too-close-to-call. But Republicans remain on the defensive, and Democrats have many routes to gaining the four seats they need to take control of the Senate. The presidential contest remains an important cloud hanging over the fight for the Senate. The re-emergence of Hillary Clinton’s email issue puts the former secretary of state on the defensive and gives ammunition to GOP House and Senate candidates. Clinton still has a clear advantage in the presidential contest, but FBI Director James Comey’s recent letters (one to Congress and the other to FBI employees) add some near-term uncertainty to the overall political environment. … In Florida, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio leads challenger Patrick Murphy in the mid-single digits. The race isn’t over yet, but the Republican has a clear advantage even though GOP early voting in the state has been disappointing.
DEMOCRATS HOPE TO SPRING SURPRISE AGAINST MARCO RUBIO via Kevin Robillard of POLITCO – Florida Republicans have felt twinges of discomfort as they’ve watched Trump trail this October and Democratic early votes flood in. If the bottom falls out for Trump on Election Day — a scenario that may have just become less likely following the FBI’s Friday email announcement — Republicans fear he could drag Rubio down with him. Democrats’ main Senate super PAC, Senate Majority PAC, just sent at least $1 million to Florida to try to help make it happen. “Sen. Rubio’s on defense,” [Patrick] Murphy insisted in an interview. “He doesn’t want the job. He doesn’t like the job. He views this as a consolation prize.” It would be a huge turnaround for Murphy, who has been mercilessly mocked this year for his short business experience, embarrassing revelations that his résumé included misleading items, and his wealthy father’s inconveniently named luxury yacht, “Cocktails.” A GOP political machine that is more invested than ever in protecting Rubio’s political future has outspent Democrats by more than $15 million on advertising pushing these themes, while Democratic groups have largely left Murphy to fend for himself, leaving him almost wholly dependent on the possibility of a large Hillary Clinton win to get him across the finish line. But Republicans believe Rubio’s unique profile — high name ID in his state, singular strength with Hispanic voters, and a base of hard-core supporters — meant he was always better positioned than other incumbents to survive a wave.
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FLORIDA DEMOCRATS OUTPACE REPUBLICANS IN FEDERAL CASH via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — For the first time in more than five years, the Florida Democratic Party has more cash to spend on federal races than the Republican Party of Florida. As both statewide political parties fight to deliver Florida for their nominee, the RPOF’s federal account, which can only be used on federal races, currently has $1.7 million cash on hand compared to $3.5 million for the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida, which is the state party’s federal arm. Since overtaking Republicans in July, the Democrats had not had more in federal cash reserves since Oct. 2010. RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said the comparative lack of federal funding did not concern him. “The only thing we are concerned about is continuing to beat the Dems in Florida,” he said in a statement.
NEW VOTER REGISTRATION NUMBERS GIVE DEMOCRATS OPTIMISM IN CD 7 via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel – Officials with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said they are optimistic that Florida’s 7th Congressional District will flip in their favor Nov. 8 after the latest voter registration numbers now show Democrats outnumbering Republicans by nearly 3,800 voters in that district. “Absolutely,” said Christie Stephenson, a spokeswoman for the DCCC. “Thanks to redistricting and the demographic shifts already underway, we have always felt like this district was trending toward the Democrats.” U.S. Rep. John Mica … is facing a challenge from Democrat Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park resident and Rollins College instructor. The district includes all Seminole County and portions of north Orange County. The latest registration numbers show a 6.3 percent increase – or 10,284 more voters – among Democrats from Aug. 1 through Oct. 18 in the 7th Congressional District. Republicans showed a 2.9 percent increase – or 4,807 — in registered voters in that period. And those with non-party affiliation showed a 9 percent increase – or 10,636. The Democratic Party has conducted extensive efforts to register voters, “in addition to greater enthusiasm among Democrats this cycle,” Stephenson said in explaining reasons for the increase in Democratic voters.
— “Stephanie Murphy gets former Puerto Rico official Kenneth McClintock’s backing” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis joins former Gov. Charlie Crist at several events in St. Petersburg. From noon to 1 p.m., they will host a civil rights discussion with students at the USF St. Petersburg University Student Center, Ballroom 2, 200 6th Avenue South in St. Petersburg. From 2-2:45 p.m., they will tour Jordan Park apartments, beginning at the Woodson African-American Museum, 2240 9th Avenue S in St. Petersburg. Media RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— “Charlie Crist and David Jolly: two nice guys in a not-so-nice congressional race” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times
CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND RELEASES FINAL AD IN CD 18 — The Congressional Leadership Fund is making its closing arguments in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The conservative super PAC released its fifth and final ad in the race between Republican Brian Mast and Democrat Randy Perkins. The 30-second spot focuses on claims about Perkins’ business.” Whether it’s grossly overcharging a school district or refusing to reveal his profit from a half-a-billion-dollar-governme
JONI ERNST-AFFILIATED PAC GIVES $5K TO BRIAN MAST IN CD 18 via Florida Politics – Mast … reported $8,700 in contributions in a new filing with the Federal Election Commission Monday, including $5,000 from a committee backing Iowa Sen. Ernst … Ernst, elected in 2014, has become a major player in GOP politics and is best known for her annual “Roast and Ride,” a fundraising event she hosts alongside other Republican politicians which includes a motorcycle parade. Last week, Mast reported about $95,000 in new contributions through FEC filings and through Oct. 19 he had raised about $2.3 million and had about $400,000 on hand.
DANA YOUNG SAYS ACCUSATIONS SHE PROFITED FROM FRACKING VOTES ARE FALSE via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – A left-leaning political advocacy group is accusing Young of benefiting from the oil drilling and fracking industry while voting for legislation that would encourage drilling and fracking in Florida. The organization, Florida Strong, says Young … has become wealthy while in the Legislature from the proceeds of her husband’s investment firm, which has had stakes in companies that profit from the oil industry. “Young’s net worth has skyrocketed during her time in the Legislature on the backs of Tampa residents who deserve better,” Florida Strong executive director Charly Norton said in an email. “It’s clearer now more than ever that voters cannot trust Dana Young.”
But Young … says the accusations are false. She says they’re based on misinterpretations of the drilling-related bills she’s voted for while in the state House and distortions of the nature and timing of her husband’s investments. “I have always been opposed to fracking in Florida, I am opposed to it now, and I always will be,” she said.
BOB BUESING PLACES FINAL TV AD IN SD 18 RACE via Florida Politics — In his new ad, called “Kitchen,” now airing on broadcast and cable stations in the Tampa Bay area this week, the Tampa Democrat makes the case that “Florida politics just don’t reflect real people anymore,” as shots of regular voters are shown staring straight into the camera. “Problems don’t get solved by who shouts the loudest,” he says. “In real life, they get solved here,” he says, standing in front of a kitchen table. Click the image below to watch the ad.
MISLEADING SLATE CARD IN MIAMI PURPORTS TO SHOW DEMOCRATS — BUT RECOMMENDS SOME REPUBLICANS via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times — A suspicious slate card recently mailed to some Miami households deceptively represents itself as recommending Democrats but actually encourages voters to support some Republicans, including two incumbents for state Senate: Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores — both of whom are fighting for re-election in newly redrawn, Democratic-leaning districts. The true source of the mailer is dubious. The political action committee listed on the disclaimer doesn’t exist anymore, never operated in Florida and its treasurers — one of whom has past ties to Diaz de la Portilla — say they have no knowledge of it.
Both Diaz de la Portilla and Flores also said they had no involvement in it and that the first they had heard of the slate card was when a Herald/Times reporter asked for comment … “I have nothing to do with it; I don’t know it,” Diaz de la Portilla said emphatically. This isn’t the only deceptive slate card that has surfaced in Miami-Dade County in recent weeks. Another one that was distributed at early voting sites in North Miami-Dade and North Miami also appeared to be pro-Democrat but urged people to vote for Amendment 1, which Democrats oppose, and to support Raquel Regalado for Miami-Dade mayor, one of two Republicans on the ballot. This new slate card — which was purportedly “paid for and approved by Democratic Action PAC” — was mailed to voters, rather than handed out at polling sites.
ABORTION ORAL ARGUMENTS BECOME FODDER IN HEATED SOUTH FLORIDA STATE SENATE RACE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The Democratic challenger to Flores is making Tuesday’s Florida Supreme Court oral arguments over a controversial abortion measure part of their heated campaign for an open Miami seat. In 2015, Flores sponsored legislation that requires women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.
The law was challenged by the ACLU and a women’s clinic in Gainesville. After lower courts split on whether to temporarily halt the law in April, the Florida Supreme Court voted 5-2 to temporarily suspend it. Flores has been a member of Senate Republican leadership circles, but after a three-year long redistricting challenge is running in a seat that Barack Obama won by 5 points in 2012. As a result, her opponent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has cast Flores as too conservative for the area, a strategy that has included trying to tether her to Donald Trump and pointing out positions she has taken in the Legislature that are largely opposed by Democrats. “Unlike my opponent, I trust women to make their own health care decisions, free from interference from politicians, in consultation with their doctors and loved ones,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement. “Our community deserves better than politicians pushing laws designed to shame, coerce or judge women and their families.”
During session, Flores argued a mandatory wait time is needed because an abortion is a major medical procedure, and other major procedures are not generally done same-day.
HOUSE CANDIDATE CALLS FOR STATE RESPONSE TO MISSING BALLOTS IN SEMINOLE COUNTY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Yadav is calling for the state to take “all steps necessary to address” missing ballots in Seminole County, suggesting there may be voter fraud at work. Yadav, who’s taking on Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes, is responding to news reports in the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday that the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Office has confirmed five absentee ballots apparently were stolen from mailboxes or somewhere else, filled out and returned by someone other than the actual voters.
Seminole Supervisor Mike Ertel confirmed the incidents and said he was turning the matter over to law enforcement after Tuesday’s election. The incidents were discovered two different ways. First, the county’s canvassing board flagged the ballots because signatures didn’t match. Then when a resident called in complaining about not receiving a ballot, that one and the other four were checked and confirmed as rejected, Ertel said. From there Ertel had his staff double-check every absentee ballot from within a two-mile radius, but found no other suspicious ones. And the five were from three houses of geographically very close proximity, he said. His office is consulting with attorneys to determine how and when to turn the matter over to law enforcement for investigations and possible prosecutions. But for now the suspicious ballots all remain part of the election. The affected five voters were given the opportunity to vote provisionally. But Yadav took issue with Ertel’s explanation that his office checked for potential voter fraud only within a two-mile radius, and his statement to the Sentinel that it might not be turned over to law enforcement until after the election.
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OPENING FOR STATE SUPREME COURT GETS FIRST APPLICATION via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Conservative appellate judge C. Alan Lawson has become the first applicant. Jason Unger, the Tallahassee attorney who chairs the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, confirmed the name Tuesday night. Lawson is now chief judge of the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach. Republican Gov. Rick Scott will make the pick, his first chance to select a member of the seven-member Florida Supreme Court that often splits 5-2 on matters of public policy. Now, Justices Charles Canady and Ri
JUSTICES CONSIDER 24-HOUR WAITING PERIOD FOR ABORTIONS via Michel Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times — Justices heard arguments … over whether to keep in place an injunction that has blocked the waiting period from being enforced for most of the past year and a half. A Tallahassee circuit judge agreed to block the law while a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic moves forward. The Supreme Court won’t yet rule on whether the law is constitutional, but because a lawsuit over constitutionality could take years, the justices’ ruling could determine, for years to come, if the 24-hour waiting period goes into effect.
Still, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the state argued in court over how the law impacts a guarantee of privacy in the Florida Constitution that courts have ruled protects women’s right to have an abortion if they choose. “Privacy infringement is apparent as a matter of law because the state is telling a woman that she cannot exercise a fundamental constitutional right for a 24-hour period,” said Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Lawyers for the state argued that state lawmakers were justified in passing the law in 2015. Society has an interest in people making important decisions after giving them proper consideration, said Denise Harle, the state’s deputy solicitor general.
PSC APPROVES HIGHER WATER, WASTEWATER RATES FOR UTILITIES INC. CUSTOMERS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The Florida Public Service Commission … approved nearly $558 million in water and wastewater rate increases for Utilities Inc. of Florida customers in 10 counties, but some customers would receive refunds. The new rates are intended to be temporary, to keep the company solvent pending further review of its finances and operating expenses by commission staff. The vote followed the board’s approval … of a limited 5.5 percent water rate increase for Pasco County customers, to finance the conversion to county water. The utility’s supplies there have failed to meet state and federal quality standards. And the vote came while commission staff continued to evaluate the utility’s request to sweep all of its customers into a single base rate, a matter likely to be decided next year. The limited increase would factor into the consolidated rate case, in any event, commission analyst Denise Vandiver said following the hearing. “Frankly, I think they probably should all be heard at the same time,” said Patty Christensen, a lawyer in the Office of Public Counsel, which represents ratepayers before the commission.
STATE STARTS ENFORCING CARD GAME DECISION via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has started sending form letters to advise card room operators about a final agency order on designated-player games. Last week, the department adopted an administrative law judge’s findings that those games, similar to poker, were “unauthorized” under state law. That’s because they played too much like “banked card games,” such as blackjack, only allowed to the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Such games “cannot be allowed to continue to operate in the current manner,” said the letter, signed by Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Anthony Glover. Authorized games must be “played in a nonbanking manner.” Card games are offered at the state’s pari-mutuels, such as dog and horse tracks. They reportedly bring in an extra $10-15 million a year statewide. State regulators came down on card rooms across the state earlier this year, filing administrative complaints against seven racetracks that offer poker-style card games.
RICHARD CORCORAN: A ‘DISGRACE’ FOR CITIES AND COUNTIES TO HIRE LOBBYISTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran … who will become Florida House speaker in three weeks, calls it “a disgrace.” He’s referring to the widely-accepted practice of cities, counties, school boards and other local governments hiring Tallahassee lobbyists to represent them at the state Capitol. This major profit center for the lobbying industry easily costs Florida taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and Corcoran wants it to end. “I think it’s a disgrace that taxpayer dollars are used to hire lobbyists when we elect people to represent them … The state doesn’t do it and neither should the locals.” State agencies have in-house lobbyists (LADs, legislative affairs directors) who are state employees. Local governments do too, but they hire contract lobbyists, some for six-figure salaries, to supplement the work of their own staffs. The practice is institutionalized at every level of government in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida. Corcoran, who will ascend to the speakership three weeks from today, has been at work for months rewriting the operations manual of the House, known as the rules, in ways that have Tallahassee lobbyists on edge and may make their daily lives a lot more difficult. Corcoran’s path to success was paved with the generosity of Tallahassee’s special interests, but he has vowed to “blow up” a system in which term limits has made some lobbyists more powerful than lawmakers themselves. Passing a law to ban use of taxpayer money for outside lobbyists would never fly in the Senate. Any lobbying restriction could face First Amendment challenges under the First Amendment, which includes a right to petition government for a redress of grievances.
IN PRECARIOUS POSITION, SEMINOLE TRIBE PICKS NEW LEADER via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Seminole Tribe of Florida … has selected Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. as its new chairman. He replaces James E. Billie. The tribe’s governing council removed Billie last month, citing disagreements over “policies and procedures.” … Billie ran for his job again, coming in second with 297 votes to Osceola’s 319 votes, out of 843 cast. The election comes as the tribe awaits the verdict in a federal trial that could determine the future of its finances. Osceola “is a 44-year-old entrepreneur who lives on the Hollywood Seminole Reservation,” according to a press release. “… (H)e was previously elected to serve on both the governing Tribal Council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the board of directors of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., which manages most non-gaming business interests of the Tribe.”
AIF SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON WORKERS COMP RATES via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – AIF moved Tuesday to build public support behind a fix for rising workers’ compensation insurance rates that business interests see as a threat to the state’s economy. The lobby solicited comments from the public “on how Florida can restore a stable, self-executing, and affordable workers’ compensation system as the Florida Legislature intended,” according to a press release. Floridians can comment on the situation here.
AIRBNB HEARTS COLLEGE FOOTBALL – Airbnb is releasing today the “Florida College Football Report” highlighting how its home-sharing community is helping expand lodging capacity to meet the growing demands of college football fans, and creating a positive economic impact for local communities and hosts. While Airbnb has helped welcome over 1.36 million visitors to the sunshine state, some key cities like Tallahassee, Gainesville, Jacksonville and Orlando are benefiting the most from college football fans.
According to the report, the 2016 Florida and Florida State home games has resulted in Airbnb visitor spikes to Gainesville and Tallahassee ranging from 70 percent (Florida’s Spring Game) to 726 percent (#12 Florida State hosting #3 Clemson). Gainesville’s Airbnb host community – 53 percent of whom rent out an extra room in their home – has earned $362,000 in supplemental income during Gator home football weekends. Meanwhile, Tallahassee’s Airbnb host community – 45 percent of whom rent out an extra room in their home – has earned $211,000 in supplemental income from Seminole home football weekends.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to David Custin.