Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the great statesmen of Florida politics, my friend — and in some ways a mentor — Senator Jack Latvala.
KEY RACE IN FOCUS – FLORIDA’S 18TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
The race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District has become one of the most contentious races in the state.
There’s been jabs over donations, accusations about business deals, and comparisons to Donald Trump. And with just a few more days until Election Day, there’s still plenty of time for the race between Republican Brian Mast and Democrat Randy Perkins to take another turn.
Mast and Perkins are vying to replace Rep. Patrick Murphy, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The district stretches from Palm Beach Gardens to Fort Pierce and is considered one of just a few swing districts in the state. Murphy won re-election with nearly 60 percent of the vote in 2014, after defeating Rep. Allen West two years early by a margin of 1,904 votes.
Mast is hoping to woo conservative voters in the district. He’s been endorsed by the National Right to Life and the National Federation of Business and has the backing of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has dedicated spending $3.1 million to help Mast win.
A combat veteran, Mast lost both his legs while on a mission in Afghanistan. He spent a few months at Walter Reed Medical Center. He decided to go back to school, getting a bachelor’s degree in extension studies with a concentration in economics and minors in government and environmental studies from Harvard University’s Extension School.
But those same credential have become fodder for his opponents. During the primary, Republicans quested whether he actually had a degree from Harvard. Mast responded by updating his profile picture on Facebook to show him in a cap and gown at his graduation “in honor of my opponent who said … I was lying about graduating from Harvard.”
In October, he faced criticism over his decision to purchase a new home, two years after Helping a Hero, a Texas-based veterans’ charity, helped him buy one in South Florida. Records show Mast sold his Fort Lauderdale-area home in September, buying a new home in Palm City around the same time.
The organization’s general counsel said Mast didn’t break any rules or violate the contract by selling his home. And a spokeswoman for Mast said the criticism was “shameful and disgusting,” and said it was shocking Perkins’ “has the gall to spread these lies about Brian’s housing while he lives in a $15 million mansion outside the district.”
Perkins’ wealth has been a sticking point during the campaign. He has largely self-financed his campaign. Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Elections Commission show he gave more than $5.8 million of his own wealth to his campaign through Sept. 30.
Perkins is the owner and founder of AshBritt Inc., a debris removal company, which he started with his family after Hurricane Andrew swept through South Florida. He is worth an estimated $200 million, according to POLITICO Florida.
In an August memo, the Democratic Congressional Committee said his campaign will “make the case that with hard work and dedication, every American should have the chance to pursue the American dream as he did.”
“His All-American success story, appealing independent record, respected record of job-creation, and ability to fund his campaign all combine to be a threatening force to reckon with,” according to the DCCC memo.
Perkins wealth might be causing his campaign a bit of heartburn. Opponents have slammed him over his company’s dealings, claiming he overcharged the Broward County School District for repair work. And Republicans have questioned his temperament, some even comparing him to Trump.
The Perkins campaign has lodged its own attacks involving the Republican presidential hopeful. After a video had surfaced showing Trump making lewd comments about women, the Perkins campaign called on Mast to revoke his endorsement. That didn’t happen, and the Perkins campaign doubled down on its attempts to tie Mast to Trump.
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MORE THAN 4.5 MILLION FLORIDIANS HAVE ALREADY VOTED – As of 5:08 a.m. Thursday morning, 2,228,299 vote-by-mail ballots have been returned for the November general election, and 2,297,874 people have voted early across the state. Registered Republicans lead in vote-by-mail ballots to Democrats 932,404 to 857,368, but Democrats lead GOP voters in early voting 946,292 to 889,695. A total of 791,240 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.
RUMORS, MYTHS AND HALF-TRUTHS CLOUD FLORIDA’S ELECTION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – On his Facebook page, Mike Ertel has a name for it: “Debunk the bunk.” Day after day, this elections chief in suburban Orlando works to shatter the latest myth about supposed skullduggery in the Florida election. If I skip the race for President, the rest of my ballot won’t count. False: That’s an under-vote, and it’s perfectly legal. If my vote counts, I should be given a receipt. False: Your “I Voted” sticker is your receipt, so wear it proudly. Remember, it’s a secret ballot, not Publix. Mail ballots are counted only if it’s real close. False: Those are the first ballots to be counted. “Regardless of what your friends from up north claim, mail ballots are always counted, regardless of how close the race is,” writes Ertel, the Seminole county election supervisor, on Facebook. “Any other mail ballot bunk you’ve heard about that I can debunk or address?” Whatever it is, people in Florida seem more suspicious than ever about the election.
In Tallahassee, more than 15 state workers handle voter fraud and voter assistance hot lines. They fielded more than 550 phone calls Monday. In Jacksonville, a self-appointed group of a dozen election watchdogs, including two African-American pastors, has bought newspaper ads, promising $5,000 rewards for voter fraud tips that end in convictions. They call themselves Florida Citizens for Honest Elections. Their spokesman, Readus Cordell Smith III of Palm Beach Gardens, cited recent cases of suspected voter fraud in Florida, all of which were widely reported in the news media, including two women arrested last week in Miami. “If we stop only one bad guy, it will be worth it,” Smith said. “We just want it to be a fair vote.” Around the state, elections officers report numerous calls asking if other ballot choices will count if no selection is made for president. The answer is yes.
HAPPENING TODAY – BARACK OBAMA, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN IN FLORIDA — President Obama is scheduled to hold two campaign events in the Sunshine State. He’ll start the day at 10 a.m. with an early voting rally at the Florida International University Arena, 1180 SW 113th Ave. in Miami. From there, he’ll head to North Florida where he’ll hold an early voting rally at 1:30 p.m. at the University of North Florida Arena, 1 UNF Drive, Building 34 in Jacksonville. And get ready for some traffic, Jacksonville. The president isn’t the only big name in town today. Trump is scheduled to hold a rally at noon at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, 13611 Normandy Blvd.
ATTACK-DOG JOE BIDEN DELIVERS FIERY ANTI-TRUMP SPEECH BEFORE ADORING FANS via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times – Biden recently said he thought he could have beaten Hillary Clinton had he run in the Democratic primary. He should have tried, in the view of many among the estimated 300 people who came to the Museum of Science & Industry to watch Biden stump for Clinton. “He’s just awesome,” said Shawn Forrestal, 48, of St. Petersburg. “He inspires me. He supports women and the assault weapon ban and does it in a way that gets me excited.”
Once Biden took the stage in MOSI’s small back patio, he showed the audience why … his fangs were on full display as he worked through the list of problems the Democrats have with Trump. There was Trump’s insistence that he’s smart not to pay taxes, the Billy Bush recording of his “locker room talk” about women, comments and tweets found inflammatory by women and minorities, and how the Republican nominee stiffed contractors, then explained he didn’t like their work. “Well, Trump, maybe I don’t like the quality of what you say,” Biden said … he rattled off why he considers Clinton the most qualified for the job — her experience as secretary of state, her work as a New York senator to help first responders following 9/11, her desire to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work, and a platform that includes free community college tuition.
FLORIDA POLL: CLINTON AT 49%,TRUMP AT 47% — A new CNN/ORC poll found Clinton and Trump are essentially tied in Florida. The poll found 49 percent of likely Florida voters said they were backing Clinton, while 47 percent said they supported Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson received 3 percent support, while 1 percent said they backed Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The poll of 773 likely voters has a margin of 3.5 percent.
Clinton received support from 73 percent of non-white voters and 34 percent of white voters. She also saw support from 39 percent of independent voters, and 58 percent of voters who identified as moderates. The poll found 65 percent of white men and 54 percent of white women said they backed Trump. He also received support from 63 percent of white voters without a college degree.
CLINTON AT 46%, TRUMP AT 45% IN NEW Q-POLL OF FLORIDA via Florida Politics — A new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows a tight race in Florida. The survey of likely voters shows 46 percent support Clinton, compared to 45 percent who back Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein both received 2 percent support. The survey of 626 likely Florida voters was conducted from Oct. 27 through Nov. 1. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percent.
The new poll showed Clinton had support from 40 percent of independent voters and 49 percent of women. About 48 percent of respondents who said they already voted said they backed Clinton, compared to 42 percent who said they backed Trump. He continues to have strong support among white voters. The poll found 60 percent of white men and 56 percent of white women said they backed Trump. Clinton’s lead widens in a head-to-head match-up. In a two-way race, Clinton receives 47 percent, compared to 45 percent for Trump.
STATE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE — YES, TRUMP HAS A PATH TO VICTORY via Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight — Trump remains an underdog, but no longer really a longshot: His Electoral College chances are 29 percent in our polls-only model — his highest probability since Oct. 2 — and 30 percent in polls-plus. Whenever the race tightens, we get people protesting that the popular vote doesn’t matter because it’s all about the Electoral College, and that Trump has no path to 270 electoral votes. But this presumes that the states behave independently from national trends, when in fact they tend to move in tandem. we haven’t seen too many of those polls in Clinton’s firewall states, such as Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. But that’s misleading, because we haven’t seen many high-quality polls from those states, period! We have seen lots of polls from North Carolina and Florida — for some reason, they get polled far more than any other states — and plenty of them have shown Trump gaining ground, to the point that both states are pure toss-ups right now. … It’s true that Trump would have to make a breakthrough somewhere, by winning at least one state in Clinton’s firewall. But that’s why it’s not only reasonable but 100 percent strategically correct for Trump to be campaigning in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. (I’ll grant that New Mexico is more of a stretch.) Sure, Trump’s behind in these states, but he has to win somewherewhere he’s behind — or he’s consigning himself to four more years in Trump Tower instead of the White House. Michigan and Wisconsin are as reasonable as any other targets: Trump isn’t any further behind in them than he is in higher-profile battleground states such as Pennsylvania, and the demographics are potentially more favorable for him.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY IN NEW STATE POLLS FOR CLINTON via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — It has always been possible that Trump could become president, in the abstract sense. There are a slew of reasons that the map and the electorate were stacked against him regardless of his campaign, of course, but the past few months of polling seem mostly to have been about determining the margin of his defeat rather than his odds of winning. For Trump to win, an awful lot would have to go right. On Wednesday, a lot did. At the national level, the race has followed a broad pattern: a big lead for Hillary Clinton that narrows to a tie and then balloons back out. … As of this moment, Clinton leads in four of the 10 closest battleground states and Trump leads in six, according to RealClearPolitics averages. It’s enough, if we apply those averages to the electoral college, to bring Trump within eight electoral votes of Clinton. … On Tuesday, we noted that Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes was grim, mostly because he needed to win North Carolina, Florida and Ohio and then more states on top of that. A glut of new state polls helped shift those averages to Trump’s benefit. But hidden in the new polls, as bleak as they are in some cases, are reminders of why the race continues to be Clinton’s to lose, as long as she stops the electoral bleeding.
— “Why fewer poll results mean more election uncertainty” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post
TRUMP MAKES CLOSING ARGUMENTS IN NEW TV SPOT — The Trump campaign released a new advertisement Wednesday, which, according to the campaign, is meant to be serve as the Republican nominee’s closing argument. The 30-second spot, called “Choice,” is meant to contrast Trump with Clinton. “The American moment is here. Two choices, Two Americas, decided by you,” a narrator is heard saying in the ad. “Hillary Clinton will keep us on the road to stagnation. Fewer jobs, rising crime, America diminished at home and abroad. Donald Trump will bring the change we’re waiting for. America: better, stronger more prosperous — for everyone. A plan for tomorrow, a future brighter than our past. The choice is yours.” The ad is expected to air in major markets across the country. Click the image below to watch the ad.
TRUMP IS MASTER OF HIS DOMAINS, EVEN ONES THAT BASH HIM via Michael Sisak of The Associated Press – Whoever owns donaldtrumpsucks.com must really hate Donald Trump, right? Wrong! It’s the Donald himself. The same goes for no2trump.com, trumpmustgo.com and two dozen other web addresses that sound like they’re bashing the billionaire Republican presidential nominee, his business interests or his political aspirations. What would Trump want with such insulting domains? Easy. To make sure his critics and rivals can’t have them. He and his Trump Organization own more than 3,600 web addresses, according to the research firm DomainIQ. The vast majority bear the names of his properties, products and progeny. There are 274 domains alone featuring the name of Trump’s daughter Ivanka. And then there are the ones that seem better suited for the anti-Trump crowd: eight domains ending in “scheme,” eight ending in “fraud” and eight ending in “sucks.”
JEB BUSH’S SON: FORMER PRESIDENTS BUSH COULD ‘POTENTIALLY’ VOTE FOR CLINTON via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times— Jeb Bush‘s son, George P. Bush, suggests that his uncle and grandfather could vote for Clinton over Trump. The Texas land commissioner floated the idea Tuesday night at an event in San Marcos, in which he said he’s the only one of the family who will vote straight ticket Republican. So does that mean Presidents Bush could go for Clinton, an Associated Press reporter asked. “Potentially. But hard to speculate,” the younger Bush said. “I don’t know how they voted. I’m speculating, to be honest.” Jeb Bush has also said he won’t vote for Trump. Nor will he vote for Clinton.
FBI INVESTIGATING ALLEGED STRAW DONOR SCHEME TIED TO PATRICK MURPHY via Jonathan Swan of The Hill –The FBI is investigating an alleged illegal donation scheme involving a wealthy Saudi family that supports … Patrick Murphy. The Hill has found no evidence that Murphy himself was involved in, or even aware of, the alleged scheme. … The Murphy campaign noted that a conservative super PAC earlier this year filed a complaint on the issue that the FBI is looking into. “This complaint was written by a Republican super PAC willing to say anything to elect Marco Rubio,” said Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp. “Neither Patrick nor any current or past employees have ever been contacted regarding this matter, and we are confident an examination of the facts will result in its dismissal.”
RATINGS CHANGE IN FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE RACE via Jennifer Duffy of The Cook Political Report — Florida is a swing state that produces narrow victories in many of its statewide general elections. This contest between Marco Rubio and Murphy won’t be the exception. However, Rubio has the upper hand here. He is well known, does better than most Republicans with Hispanic voters, and has a base in Democrat-heavy Miami-Dade County. Moreover, Republicans had outspent Democrats on television by nearly $14 million between September 1 and October 26. Murphy’s candidacy was hobbled by revelations that he embellished his resume and business experience. With their prospects of unseating Rubio diminishing, Democrats pulled their funding, leaving Murphy to his own devices, and he doesn’t have the resources to compete with Republicans’ well-funded effort.
While the eventual results may be close, Rubio is on track to win re-election and the race moves to the Lean Republican column.
JOHN MICA LAUGHS HIS WAY TO POSSIBLE DEFEAT via Rachael Bade of POLITICO – John Mica is facing his toughest re-election bid in more than two decades, as he’s buffeted by Donald Trump headwinds, a well-funded Democratic challenger and a redrawn voting district. But at a canvassing kickoff just over two weeks before Election Day, the Florida Republican wasn’t fretting. Instead, he was cracking jokes. “I don’t have a campaign manager,” he chuckled during a speech that was supposed to inspire volunteers to get out the vote. Just a few minutes before, he highlighted his “terrible press operation” — a single, part-time press secretary who’s actually a Democrat. And after noting the more than $3 million worth of attack ads Democrats have aimed his way, Mica laughed it off, saying “we haven’t had that kind of money … nor would we waste that kind of money,” before shifting gears to highlight an unusual strategic advantage: “I do have my secret weapon: my wife, Pat. She’ll be driving the getaway car today!”
The 12-term incumbent may be in denial, but his political future is no laughing matter. After sailing to easy re-election for more than two decades without a serious Democratic challenger, the ex-chairman of the House Transportation Committee has suddenly found his congressional seat in serious jeopardy. Thanks to a new congressional district, about a quarter of his constituents don’t know him. A good chunk of those new voters are Democrats, turning the 73-year-old conservative’s formerly red district into one evenly split between the two parties for the first time ever. Meanwhile, Democrats in Washington — who for years were unable to recruit a solid candidate to contest the popular lawmaker known for earmarking favors for his district — have finally found themselves a formidable challenger in Stephanie Murphy. The 38-year-old daughter of Vietnamese refugees is young and dynamic, a polished presence on the campaign trail.
CHARLIE CRIST NETS ANOTHER $7K FROM LOBBYISTS, MORGAN & MORGAN EMPLOYEES via Florida Politics – The donor roll included attorneys Adam Brum and Keith Carter of Morgan & Morgan, who gave $1,500 and $1,000, respectively. Crist took a job at Morgan & Morgan after his lone term as Florida governor ended in 2011. Also in the filing were Tallahassee lobbyist Jeff Sharkey and Nicholas Herbach of Index Management Services, who each gave $1,000, as well as the American Federation of Government Employees PAC, which gave $2,500 … U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who also filed a notice with the FEC to report a $1,000 contribution from a PAC tied to Florida East Coast Industries.
FINAL POLL OF CD 13: CRIST 48%, JOLLY 45% via Florida Politics – According to the survey from St. Pete Polls and commissioned by FloridaPolitics.com, Crist continues to lead Jolly by three points, 48 to 45 percent. These are the exact same numbers Crist led Jolly by in the previous St. Pete Polls survey conducted a week ago. For the first time, Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton in the battleground district, 47 to 46 percent.
Going inside the numbers, Crist has a substantial lead with those who say they have already voted, either by mail or in person. Crist leads Jolly 55 to 41 percent among those who say they have already voted. Jolly, however, is 51 to 39 percent with those who say they are still likely to vote.
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SOLAR ADVOCATES FILE SUIT TO BLOCK ‘MISLEADING’ AMENDMENT 1 via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Using new information that came from a leaked audio recording, solar industry advocates … filed two legal actions aimed at asking the Florida Supreme Court to disqualify the outcome of Amendment 1 voting because of revelations they claim are proof that Florida’s electric utility industry intentionally attempted to deceive voters. The lawsuits, filed by the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association and Floridians for Solar Choice, the pro-solar political committee opposing the amendment, ask the court to reopen the case involving the ballot language used in the proposed Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot and declare it unconstitutionally misleading.
Proponents of the amendment, the utility-backed Consumers for Smart Solar, intentionally “withheld relevant and material information as to the objective and intended purpose of the amendment, and thereby misled this Court (and is now misleading the public) as to the adequacy of the ballot title and summary presented to the voters,” the groups allege in their emergency lawsuit. They cite a report by the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald that quotes Sal Nuzzo, the policy director and vice president at Tallahassee think tank supported by the utility industry, calling Amendment 1 “an incredibly savvy maneuver” and an “act of political jiu jitsu” that attempts to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding it as a pro-solar amendment. The ballot summary fails to “disclose that by making the right to generate solar power for one’s personal use the sole constitutional right, the amendment impliedly excludes the constitutional right to share excess power generated with one’s neighbor or otherwise transmit the excess power,” the suit alleges. “It certainly does not disclose that, as Mr. Nuzzo touted, the purpose of the amendment is to curtail the expansion of solar power in Florida.”
TAMPA BAY TIMES’ MIND-BOGGLING FIGURES IN ‘ROOFTOP SOLAR FIGHT’ DON’T ADD UP via Florida Politics – Consider the eye-grabbing Tampa Bay Times’ front-page headline … $43M spent to limit solar. Beyond the silliness of assuming that every dollar utilities donated this cycle is part of a plot to fight rooftop solar — as if there is nothing else they care about — the story is screwed up six ways to Sunday … Let’s start from the top: “Lost in the tumultuous presidential election and the down-ballot fears, something big has been happening quietly in Florida this year: Electric companies have dropped $42.7 million into political campaigns.” Well, $42.7 million rounds up to $43 million so this makes sense … until you read the next line: “Since January 2015, $20 million of the industry’s profits went to finance and promote Amendment 1, the ballot initiative that attempts to frustrate the expansion of consumer-owned rooftop solar in Florida, but another $15 million went to fuel the campaigns of a select group of powerful legislative leaders to prepare for a prolonged war against rooftop solar.” Hmm … $20 million to Amendment 1 plus $15 million on campaigns adds up to $35 million … not $42.7 million or $43 million. Where’s the other $7.7 million to $8 million? Keep reading. “According to Division of Elections reports, the biggest spender on the effort is Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, which has poured $22.2 million into political campaigns this cycle — $14.2 million into state legislative campaigns, and $8 million to Consumers for Smart Solar, the utility-backed political committee promoting the amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.” OK, so FPL donated $14.2 million toward “state legislative campaigns” and an additional $8 million to Consumers for Smart Solar for $22.2 million. If that sounds high, it’s because it is. The Division of Elections shows the sum of all of FPL’s donations to candidates and political committees excluding Smart Solar this cycle is $6.1 million. Combine this with about $8 million to Smart Solar, and you get roughly $14.2 million. Not $22.2 million. If you’re keeping track, the total of the actual figures for all the utilities combined is $29.7 million, including Smart Solar contributions. The Herald/Times inflates this total by more than 40 percent, and the Pulitzer-promoting Tampa Bay Times put a $13 million error on its front page. How the Herald/Times can jointly botch something this badly is mind-boggling.
TALLAHASSEE’S LIKELY NEXT DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN WAS ON PAYROLL OF BIG TRUMP BACKER via Gary Fineout for his blog The Fine Print – Former state senator – and likely member of Congress after Nov. 8 – Al Lawson has been straightforward that he has worked as a lobbyist for the last several years … financial disclosures Lawson filed earlier this year revealed that he was on the payroll of the high-powered lobbying firm of Brian Ballard, who is a top fundraiser for Republicans including Trump. Ballard also has lobbied on behalf of Trump. Lawson’s financial disclosure filed May 16 with the clerk of the U.S. House lists Ballard Partners as source of income exceeding $5,000. This form said that Lawson’s duties for Ballard Partners were “lobbying.” Three days later Lawson filed an amended form that changed his duties for Ballard from “lobbying” to “consulting.” When asked about it a few weeks ago, Khloe Greenwood, a spokeswoman for Lawson’s campaign said: “Senator Lawson is not currently on payroll with Ballard Partners. He was a consultant during the legislative session earlier this year, and provided counsel for governmental and public affairs on a variety of projects.” Still the connection to Ballard and his firm may have proved useful to Lawson in other ways.
DONATIONS TO LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGNS TOP $358.9 MILLION — Legislative campaigns raised $358.9 million through Oct. 21. An analysis by Contribution Link found the about 76 percent of the contributions, or $273.6 million, went to committees. The analysis found $220.5 million, or 81 percent, of total committee money went to political committees. Another 11 percent, or $29.2 million, went to state party committees and 5 percent, or $13.2 million, went to affiliated party committees. Candidates received $85.3 million through Oct. 21. Republicans received 54 percent, or $46.3 million, of total contributions to candidates, while Democrats received 30 percent, or $25.5 million, of total candidate contributions. Independent or no-party affiliation candidates received 13.5 million.
BILL GALVANO’S COMMITTEE RAISES MORE THAN 360K IN 5 DAYS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida Since Oct. 28, the committee has brought in $365,000, including $150,000 from committees affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida, and $100,000 from Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez. Over that time, Galvano’s committee has given $425,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a 9 a.m. press conference at the Hollywood Theater, 12884 City Center Blvd. in Jacksonville to kick-off the I-95/I-295 North interchange project.
WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – CITY OF PENSACOLA CREATES AVIATION CLUSTER ALONG THE 1-10 CORRIDOR via Jackalyn Kovac of WEARTV.com – On Friday, Rep. Clay Ingram, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, and Gov. Scott gathered in Pensacola for the groundbreaking of VT MAE Aerospace facility, a multi-national company providing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) to aircraft. Just another day and another groundbreaking in Pensacola and more jobs for Florida. According to Hayward, “we are celebrating the establishment of a new industry here in Pensacola.” Pensacola is open for business and lately hasn’t been shy to creating jobs and innovation. Add to the Pensacola list a booming downtown renaissance, a model ordinance for Uber, expansion of Navy Federal Credit Union (bringing thousands of news jobs), and development of the Pensacola International Airport Commerce Park. The VT MAE facility is scheduled to operate in early 2018.
ALL ABOARD FLORIDA MAY ABANDON $1.75B OF TAX-FREE BONDS, SEEK NEW FINANCING via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm.com – In court documents … All Aboard Florida revealed it wants to abandon its request for $1.75 billion of tax-exempt bonds and instead go after separate allocations of $600 million for the first phase of the project and $1.15 billion for the second phase. If the U.S. Department of Transportation approves the new financing, Martin and Indian River counties’ federal lawsuit would be moot, the company said in court documents. For more than a year, Indian River and Martin counties have argued that issuing the private-activity bonds before a final environmental report was completed violated the National Environmental Protection Act. But in its new bond application, All Aboard Florida has promised to spend the $600 million only on work between Miami and West Palm Beach, where an environmental review has been finished, “design work has been completed, all permits necessary for the commencement of rail service have been issued and construction is well underway,” president Michael Reininger said in the company’s Sept. 30application to the Department of Transportation. If this first allocation is approved, the Miami-to-Orlando railroad then likely would apply for $1.15 billion for work between West Palm Beach and Orlando, Reininger said, though court documents provide few details about that financing.
COURT: STATE EDUCATION OFFICIALS WRONG IN TESTING CASE via the Associated Press – A Florida appeals court says that the state Department of Education was wrong in how it handled a request by a Sarasota County mother seeking an exemption from the state’s standardized tests. The 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday ruled in favor of Paula Drew, whose 15-year-old daughter, Maddy is in the 10th grade. Paula Drew in early 2016 asked for an exemption from Florida’s standardized tests because her daughter has a serious medical condition. The request was denied, but the department refused to grant an expedited hearing to reconsider the case.
The three-judge panel said that the department later acknowledged the error and has since granted a permanent exemption for Drew. But the judges said the case was of such importance that they decided to issue a ruling anyway that faulted the department’s actions.
FORMER FAMU ADMISSIONS OFFICER ARRESTED ON BRIBERY CHARGES via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – A former Florida A&M University admissions officer was arrested for allegedly receiving bribes from prospective students and family members … Leman Junior Ulee, 46, was charged with two counts of bribery and one count of official misconduct after a March 2016 investigation found evidence that he charged fees to alter academic records of prospective students who otherwise might not have been admitted to the Tallahassee public university. “Investigators believe the students had no knowledge of the scam, and may have assumed the additional fees to be part of the admissions process,” according to a news release. Ulee was placed on administrative leave without pay in April and fired in August. He turned himself in and was booked in Leon County Jail. State law enforcement officials completed the probe at the request of FAMU officials, the release said.
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THE COMING CLASH FOR TALLAHASSEE LOBBYISTS AND OTHER LOBBYING TIDBITS via Gary Fineout of The Fine Print – The date that Tallahassee’s lobbying corps is waiting for is Nov. 10 … the date that incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran … said he will distribute proposed new rules for the Florida House. And judging by the chatter among lobbyists, they are viewing it as an oncoming train that will roll right over them and greatly affect the $100 million-plus a year influence industry. Corcoran … has made no secret of his intention to blow up the process or in the words of his GOP caucus designation speech “cleaning up our own house.” And that means adopting rules and laws that will greatly impact what lobbyists can and can’t do – and impact what legislators can and can’t do. One of his most notable proposals is his plan to end the “revolving door” between the Legislature and lobbying by pursuing a constitutional amendment that would bar legislators from lobbying the legislative or executive branch for six years not two. But another big change – which Corcoran himself alluded to a year ago – and which is expected to show up in the new rules is a requirement that lobbyists disclose a lot more information. Lobbyists will be required to not only name their clients, but to force them to disclose – at least on the House side – the names of the bills, amendments and even the appropriation items they are lobbying House members on. Another big change under consideration … is a proposal to ban local governments including cities, counties and school boards from hiring contract lobbyists. Now will there be pushback? Absolutely.
STACEY WEBB FOUNDATION TO HOLD EVENTS via Florida Politics – The nonprofit is named after the late education lobbyist for Southern Strategy Group in Tallahassee. Webb, an arts promoter, was interested in “bringing the arts to children who otherwise could not afford or access it,” said Webb friend Shannon Colavecchio. To that end, the foundation’s “Bike and Brunch event,” set for Nov. 12, is to raise $10,000 for 10 arts scholarships needed for the first year. And this Thursday from noon-2 p.m., the Foundation’s mobile art bus, the “ART-V,” will be parked across from Southern Strategy Group’s downtown office, on the corner of Adams Street and College Avenue, “where we are inviting people to paint their mark on the outside,” Colavecchio said. “We will be selling event tickets as well and providing general info about the program.” For info, click here.