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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.15.17

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Lawmakers may not be sending “formal responses” to Senate President Joe Negron’s request for “ideas” on medical marijuana implementation, but they are taking to Twitter.

Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, tweeted last Thursday: “We crafted a patient-centered #MMJ bill that delivers safe medicine to sick Floridians. It’s 95% done. Let’s finish the job! #SpecialSession”

Last week, Negron sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill related to the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

As of Friday, Senate spokeswoman LaQuisha Persak said there had been no “other formal responses.”

There were, however, tweets.

On Wednesday, Bill Galvano — Bradenton Republican and Senate President-designate for 2018-20 — had tweeted: “I agree with @richardcorcoran. I support a special session to address medical marijuana implementation.”

Speaker Corcoran last week called for a Special Session during WFLA-FM radio’s “The Morning Show with Preston Scott.

“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” Corcoran told Scott. “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

Jeff Brandes is the latest Florida lawmaker to call for Special Legislative Session on medical marijuana implementation. The St. Pete Republican wants “ample time for public input, to implement the will of the voters, so that patients and entrepreneurs alike may access the marketplace.”

Others chiming in on social media for a Special Session include Sens. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican; Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican; and Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who also penned the only “formal response” as of Friday.

But let’s not forget the overriding reality: Nobody wants to come back before Memorial Day weekend, despite Negron telling reporters a special session theoretically could take place as early as this week.

Theories are easy; governing is hard.

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Rick Scott asks Donald Trump administration to extend protection for Haitians” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott has pressed the Trump administration to back off on timeline that could result in the deportation of thousands of Haitians, many living in Florida. Scott raised the issue in a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. “Temporary protected status” for Haitians expires in July and they could be expelled in January. “The secretary has not made a decision on TPS for Haiti,” spokesman David Lapan[said]. “He and Gov. Scott did have a conversation about the program and the secretary listened to the Governor’s points about his desire for DHS to extend TPS.” About 50,000 Haitians have been allowed to live in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake. The TPS program has been extended several times but now faces another deadline. The Trump administration has been examining the criminal backgrounds, but Lapan says that won’t be used to make a final decision about TPS.

Scott signs Lake Okeechobee bill in former critics’ territory” via Isadora Rangel of TC Palm — Standing in front of people holding signs that read, “Thanks Gov., you saved our farms,” Scott signed Senate Bill 10 at John Stretch Memorial Park on the southern bank of the lake, between Clewiston and Belle Glade. The park is about halfway between Lee and Martin counties, which receive the brunt of polluted excess lake water during the wet season. The park is adjacent to the Miami Canal, which might be used to direct water into the proposed reservoir. Scott already had signed the bill privately May 5. Some Treasure Coast activists said they wished the governor had signed Senate Bill 10 in Martin County, which is ground zero for discharges into the St. Lucie River, but are happy he signed it anyway.

Rick Scott visits Lake Okeechobee ahead of a ceremonial bill signing of SB 10, which authorizes a reservoir to collect runoff south of Lake O.

Scott at SB 10 signing: I am committed to dike rehabilitation” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Over the last several weeks, Scott has bonded with Glades farmers who fought to keep their towns and their lifestyle whole — and who live in the shadow of the deteriorating Herbert Hoover Dike. It’s a part of the Everglades’ infrastructure he remains determined to put on a fast track toward reconstruction. In his remarks, Scott said, “To have the opportunity to sign SB 10 and focus on how we are going to get storage south of the lake — that’s a big deal and long term, it is going to be a big opportunity. But every day we have to think what we are going to do next — that’s why it’s very important to me that we get the Dike fixed.”

Even after SB 10, enviro-lobbyists vow to wage ‘war’ on Florida farmers” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Senate Bill 10 is widely celebrated as a carefully-crafted solution designed to alleviate water storage problems that have led to algae bloom in coastal estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee. A compromise was ultimately struck that delivered what environmentalists wanted, without taking farmland. But even though the final version of the bill still delivers on what environmental activists all said would provide the relief they seek — a massive water storage reservoir of up to 360,000 acre feet of water, located south of the lake — extreme activist groups like and Friends of the Everglades … are already admitting they aren’t satisfied with a “momentous victory.” The activists want more. BullSugar recently sent an email to its supporters vowing to continue the fight … Compromise isn’t part of the vocabulary for elitist, extremist, environmentalist organizations. To protect their waterfront homes, they will continue to pursue the destruction of South Florida’s agriculture communities with religious fervor. Peaceful coexistence isn’t an option.

Scott should veto this deplorable budget” via Perry Thurston for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As lawmakers, we are sent to Tallahassee with only one job that’s mandated by the state constitution: pass a balanced budget by the end of the annual 60-day legislative session. We barely did that, and it’s debatable if what we approved passes muster with our constituents. The Florida Legislature shouldn’t use the budget to undermine public schools and community colleges, to carve out special deals for special interests or pick winners and losers in the property tax valuations so that a favored few will pay less taxes while a majority suffer from less services. Yet, that’s what happened in Tallahassee, thanks to Speaker Corcoran who pushed dramatic policy changes into so-called “conforming bills” that are now hard-wired into the state budget. Give the Speaker credit. He held the session hostage until he received the Senate’s consent. The new spending plan is now in the hands of Gov. Scott, who is no fan of Corcoran’s and has hinted that he might veto the whole budget and call lawmakers back to the capitol for a special session. I urge the governor to do just that. Florida can’t afford what the speaker is selling.

Editorial: Gov. should veto bill that seals millions of criminal records ” via the Tampa Bay Times on, SB 118, cruised along for weeks with a narrow focus. Then the legislation exploded into something entirely different, and nobody noticed. Sen. ed one new paragraph last month shortly before the Senate unanimously approved his bill … requiring that Florida automatically seal all criminal history records of a minor or an adult arrested for a misdemeanor or felony when the prosecutor does not file charges, the charges are dismissed before trial, or the person is found not guilty at trial and all appeals are exhausted. There is no individual review of the record, no discretion, no exceptions and no limits on how many times the same person could have records sealed … That’s 2.7 million public files wiped out. This is not just a serious concern for the media. This should alarm anyone who runs a business, considers a new venture with someone they don’t know well, hires a landscaper at home or seeks a baby sitter for their children.

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will announce Florida tourism numbers for the first quarter of 2017 at a 9:15 a.m. news conference at Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail in Miami. Media must park inside the Jungle Island parking garage found at the front entrance of the park. Please enter through the park’s main gate and park staff will be available for guidance to reach the news conference location.

Proposed Florida law would steer federal money away from poor students, districts say” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — With just 30 lines of text in a 278-page education bill, Florida lawmakers moved last week to significantly alter how schools and districts receive and use federal Title I funds, which provide extra educational resources to poor children. If signed into law by Gov. Scott, the measure would spread the money to more schools, including for the first-time charters, and reduce the amount available for district-level initiatives such as summer school. It further would cap the percentage schools may use for parent involvement programs at a level lower than what many schools currently spend. The proposals are unprecedented in Florida, and unwelcome to school district leaders. Proponents might like the idea of having the federal money “follow the students” into schools, said Hillsborough County superintendent Jeff Eakins, who oversaw federal programs in his district before taking the top job. But “this language is going to hurt the students that need (added support) the most,” he said. “This just really ties our hands.”

Florida House ‘sets the record straight’ in new video — The House has released a 2-minute and 30-second video to explain a sweeping-education bill passed on the final day of the 2017 Legislative Session. The video aims to highlight the bill, and aims to “set the record straight” when it comes to several provisions. “Recently, your Florida Legislature passed transformational and sweeping educational reform,” a narrator says in the video. “While we did that, the rumors and gossip started to fly, just like back in school. So class is in session, and it’s time to set the record straight.”

Joe Gruters bucks party line on state budget” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — It’s one of the biggest votes of the year. Loyalty is expected. Bucking party leadership and rejecting the spending plan is a risky move for any lawmaker. But that’s exactly what freshman GOP state Rep. Gruters did last week. Gruters voted against the budget because it included Speaker Corcoran’s proposal to eliminate the taxpayer-funded business incentives doled out by Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, and cut funding for Visit Florida, the tourism promotion agency. Gruters consistently has opposed the Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida cuts, voting against Corcoran’s proposal early in the legislative session. After defying leadership on such a high-profile issue, none of Gruters’ priority bills got a hearing. Continuing to oppose Corcoran and his allies could make Gruters a pariah, but he decided to double down anyway.

Texts: Fire station funding another budget fight waged behind closed doors” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The fire station funding battle was between state Sen. Denise Grimsley and state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, both Republicans who wrote their chamber’s government operation’s budget. At the end of session, it was their job to handle early budget negotiations over House and Senate disagreements on that $1.9 billion budget. Like most other areas of the budget, the final touches on the portion overseen by the two was almost exclusively hammered out behind closed doors. The subcommittee Ingoglia and Grimsley led held four public budget negotiating meetings totaling just 16 minutes. In none of the five meetings were any specific issues or sticking points discussed, and, in most, taking roll call for the 23-member subcommittee was more than half the meeting. In another example of closed door budget fights … text messages that showed a behind-the-scenes scramble as lobbyists worked to secure funding for a water storage program supported by politically-influential agriculture corporations.


Citizens Insurance CEO helped his boss sell his business, then got $100,000 in raises” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Citizens chief executive Barry Gilway confirmed he acted as a go-between for Christopher Burr Gardner, who was trying to sell his longtime Winter Park insurance agency, and a Chicago businessman who became its buyer. According to emails … Gilway sent Gardner’s contact information to Rick Gulliver, president of HUB International Limited, a Chicago insurance brokerage. “Thanks — calling Chris today,” Gulliver wrote Gilway two days later. Gilway said he and Gulliver became close associates nearly two decades ago when he was in charge of insurance operations for Zurich Canada. Gilway had more than four decades of senior level insurance industry experience when he joined Citizens in 2012. “This is called Networking 101,” Gilway. “I don’t think I did him any favors. All I did was make an introduction. It should be of no concern.” Three months later, in January 2015, Gardner, who as the board chairman of Citizens is listed as Gilway’s supervisor, approved a $50,000 pay increase for Gilway. That brought Gilway’s annual salary to $500,000 a year. Gilway received another $50,000 raise six months later, bringing his salary to $550,000.

“Leave Syria, visit Florida? Tourism agency makes error” via Gary Fineout of The Associated PressFlorida’s tourism marketing agency was forced to sign a new contract after a newspaper pointed out it hired a firm to advertise to potential Syrian tourists … VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson signed a $14,000 contract with a German advertising firm back in March that included Syria and nine other Middle Eastern countries. President Donald Trump included Syria on a list of countries covered by a temporary travel ban. A spokesman for the agency blamed the mistake on someone cutting and pasting a list of Middle Eastern countries into the contract. After The Naples Daily News asked questions, VISIT FLORIDA signed a new contract Wednesday that listed only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“Transportation board settles on three for next FDOT head” via Florida PoliticsThe list of names to be the next secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation is down to three. The Florida Transportation Commission, the department’s advisory board, interviewed five applicants Thursday and is set to recommend three to Gov. Rick Scott. They are Richard Biter, a former assistant secretary of the transportation department; Phillip Gainer, FDOT’s District Secretary for northwest Florida; and Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse. The panel will officially vote to recommend those candidates next week. More than 120 people had applied for the open position, created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

Lyft sharpens attack strategy to battle Uber in coveted South Florida market” via Nancy Dahlberg of the Miami Herald — Lyft, the feisty archrival of Uber in the ride-hailing wars, is sharpening its attack strategy to go after more market share nationally and in South Florida. Nationwide, Lyft has seen new user activations rise 60 percent since news about sexual harassment claims, a #deleteUber movement, a trade-secret lawsuit, a Justice Department probe and executive departures hit ride-hailing titan Uber and its embattled CEO in the past couple of months. In South Florida, its largest and fastest-growing Florida market, Lyft ridership has grown more than threefold since 2014, said Sam Cohen, general manager of Florida for Lyft.

Body farm for researchers and detectives opens near Tampa” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — Officials broke ground on the Adam Kennedy Forensics Field, a five-acre patch of land north of Tampa. It’s the seventh such facility in the nation and the first in Florida’s subtropical environment. Officials in Florida hope their farm, to be used at first by detectives and forensic anthropologists at the nearby University of South Florida, will draw scientists from other countries and grow to be the largest in the world … Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF, predicts that by studying how bodies react in Florida’s sweltering humidity, more evidence will be preserved and breakthroughs made in real-life-cases. The research also would benefit other countries with subtropical and tropical climates, she said. Bodies are obtained by donation. The first four will be buried next week, and in January, Kimmerle and other researchers will hold a course for detectives on exhumation. Later, other bodies will be exposed to water and buried during different seasons to determine how different factors affect decomposition and evidence. After the bodies are studied, the skeletons will be cleaned and preserved and made available for future research.

No dice: Miami Beach commission moves to ban casinos” via The Associated Press — The city’s commission voted unanimously for two preliminary ordinances banning casinos or any other gambling facility on the island. Commissioners will take a final vote July 26 … city leaders decided to push the ordinances after the state Legislature considered granting a new gambling license for South Florida. That plan eventually fell through Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine says the resort city has no need for casinos and cited opposition from operators of the annual Art Basel fair, which draws art lovers from around the world. There are also concerns about more crime, traffic and addiction to gambling.

Comedian Samantha Bee throws weight behind Florida felons’ voting rights” via Kate Payne of WFSU — Bee of the TBS show Full Frontal sat down with Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Meade is behind a proposed ballot initiative that would automatically restore civil rights to felons … “In Florida, felonies can be things like buying weed, tampering with an odometer or disturbing a lobster trap. So basically Spring Break,” Bee joked. “And once you lose your rights, it’s nearly impossible to get them back.” Bee set up a new website for audience members to download and sign the petition if they’re Florida voters. For those who can’t vote in the state, Bee joked folks can mail it to a grandparent who is.


The North Fort Myers Republican will formally launch his 2018 Agriculture Commissioner campaign at 11:15 a.m. at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers. chatted with Caldwell ahead of his announcement about what he learned from his 2008 Senate District 27 bid, what prompted him to run for statewide office, and what distinguishes him from the rest of the 2018 hopefuls. On what lessons he’ll take from his SD 27 run: “Certainly it’s not ever going to be the same running in a district versus a state, but even then, as a novice, I appreciated that the seat was a real microcosm of Florida. It was basically a 50-50 seat, with a slight Democratic registration advantage. It had urbanized downtowns, it had cattle ranches and citrus groves, it covered part of Lake Okeechobee, and it had ocean on each side. It was quite literally a snapshot of every kind of venue you’ll encounter in the state of Florida. You had to learn to campaign in different environments. You always want to remain true to who you are and what your values are and what your goals are, but you do have to make sure you communicate and meet people where they’re at, and with such a diverse district, it was one of those educational lessons for sure.” On running for office: “Here’s an opportunity, from my perspective to keep pursuing the issues that I think are important, the ones I’ve had a chance to focus on and shape the policy outcomes. That’s what I’m always going to be looking to do, to be effective. … The God’s honest truth is, this gig takes a lot of a personally and certainly commands a lot from their family. A few years ago with those special sessions, I was gone 42 weeks of the year. To me, running for higher office is really a waste of time if you don’t have a real commitment to make a difference, to have issues and challenges you want to tackle. Just running for office because it’s cool or a nice title, I’ll never understand it. It’s just way too much of a personal investment and a sacrifice as part of a family to just to it for the popularity sake. You have got to want to do this gig because you think you can make a difference.” On what distinguishes him from other candidates: “Ultimately, that’s a question for the voters to decide. What I can commit to and offer is that I have a deep-rooted investment in the state of Florida. This is not about titles or the opportunity to put something on my resume. I honestly don’t care if someday my gravestone says anything more than ‘husband and father,’ that’s the only real job that I worry about being successful in my legacy. But this is really, to me, a chance to serve. You look at the things I’ve been able to work on over the last … seven years in the process and I think it demonstrates my ability to work with challenging issues, to work with a bipartisan coalition of folks, to work with folks across the aisle, to come together on some pretty tough things.”

North Fort Myers Republican Matt Caldwell kicks his bid for Agriculture Commissioner into high gear with an April fundraising haul of more than $412K.


Adam Putnam criticizes state budget deal during Sarasota stop” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Putnam, who had input on the budget as the state’s current agriculture commissioner, said during a stop in Sarasota that “I certainly have some concerns about the budget and how it was done.” Putnam was alluding to the fact that the final budget deal was largely negotiated behind closed doors, leading to criticism from Scott and others about a lack of transparency. Scott is particularly incensed that lawmakers eliminated funding for the economic incentives doled out by Enterprise Florida, and reduced the tourism promotion dollars awarded to Visit Florida. Asked about those cuts after his speech to the Sarasota GOP, Putnam said: “when you take job creation for granted it slips away.”

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour Monday with an “Up & Adam” Breakfast at 8 a.m. at Rafiki Tiki Riviera Beach Marina, 190 E. 13th Street in Riviera Beach. He’ll then head to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 2301 SE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale.

Gwen Graham gets backing of Amy Mercado, Lori Berman, Barbara Watson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Mercado, vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign that the congresswoman “stood up for our shared values in Washington … She voted to defend Obamacare, co-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage, and worked to protect Florida’s environment,” Mercado continued. “She has the courage to fight for our priorities and the experience to get things done.” … “It showed me she cares about every student, regardless of their ZIP code or background. After years of Republican attacks on our public education system, we need a governor who will end high-stakes testing and the current system of demoralizing school grades,” Watson said.

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Look who’s shaved and ready to be a state Senate candidate:

Save the date: Florida Foundation for Liberty is hosting a fundraising reception for Rep. Paul Renner Thursday, May 25. Reception begins 5:30 p.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr. #3500, in Jacksonville. RSVP to Katie Ballard at (954) 803-3942 or

“Daniel Webster endorses Bobby Olszewski in HD 44 race” via Florida Politics — Webster represented the area of HD 44 in southwest Orange County for decades, as a member of the Florida House, the Florida Senate, and a member of Congress, until congressional redistricting forced him to move a few miles into Lake County to run in another district in order to stay in Congress. His endorsement gives Olszewski’s campaign another shot of steam as other potential Republican candidates, including Will McBride and Scott Boyd, contemplate jumping into what will be a short campaign season. Olszewski, a former city commissioner in Webster’s former hometown of Winter Garden, also received the endorsement of former Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, to go along with dozens of endorsements from local officials in western Orange. “Bobby is a man of faith and a true conservative who truly sacrifices his time, treasure, and talents to serve west Orange County. He will be a great advocate for all of us in Tallahassee and I fully endorse his candidacy,” said Webster in a statement.

“David Rivera banks another $110,000 for April” via Florida PoliticsFormer state representative and congressman David Rivera banked $110,750 last month toward his 2018 run for House District 105, campaign finance records show. The April take follows a $100,000 loan. Rivera is looking to replace term-limited state Rep. Carlos Trujillo in the Republican-leaning district. His only competitor, Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez, collected $36,800 for April, bringing her total to $51,425.


AppointedJoel Schleicher and Rebecca Smith to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Joyce Brancato to District Board of Trustees, College of Central Florida. Dr. Sarvam TerKonda, Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos and Dr. Robert London to the Florida Board of Medicine.

Personnel note: Mike Sole appointed to fish and wildlife commission” via Florida Politics — Sole served at DEP from 2007 to 2010, then went to work for Florida Power & Light Co. and NextEra Energy, where he has been vice president for environmental services. He succeeds Charles Roberts III for a term ending Aug. 1, 2021.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners LLC: Trafelet Brokaw & Co., LLC

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: WeatherSTEM

Lobbyist compensation reporting deadline — Compensation reports are due for the first quarter of 2017, Jan. 1 through March 31.

Spotted — At a Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association reception at the Key West Country Music Songwriters Festival: Adam BabingtonMelanie BeckerJim DaughtonCarol DoverNicole GarganellaAndy Palmer, Sen. Kathleen PassidomoKirk PepperHolly Raschein, Sen. Wilton Simpson and Marlene Williams.

Happy birthday to once (and future?) candidate Eric Lynn.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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