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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.17.17

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

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

Good morning from the deck of the Disney Magic. Current location is 33.44.05 N, 47.45.65 W. Course is 79 degrees. The nearest land is Santa Cruz des Flores. The ship is 1099.7 nautical miles from Ponta Delgada.


It’s time to talk about rules.

Nearly two months after the Constitution Revision Commission first convened, the Rules Working Committee will meet at 11 a.m. at Hillsborough Community College to begin hash out rules governing the 2017-18 commission.

The eight-member committee — made up of Tim Cerio, Brecht Heuchan, Don Gaetz, Carolyn Timmann, Tom Lee, Rich Newsome, Arthenia Joyner, and Roberto Martinez — has been tasked with identifying where “there is consensus and where improvements can be made,” according to an April 12 letter to CRC members. Once they’ve completed that task, changes to proposed rules will be submitted to the full commission for their consideration. CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff has said he hopes the rules finalized by early June.

The proposed rules have already caused some heartburn. The 37-member Constitution Revision Committee held its organizational session in March, but didn’t adopt rules after several members raised concerns that the proposal could dilute public input.

Watchdog groups — including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Florida Consumer Action Network, and the Florida AFL-CIO — have criticized the proposals, sending letters to commissioners and speaking out during public meetings across the state. In a recent letter, 16 groups warned of “the potential for leverage and influence over commission members” and an “unclear track for approval of proposals.”

So will their concerns be taken under consideration? Only time will tell. Members of the public will be allowed to weigh in on the rules during Wednesday’s meeting, but those wishing to speak better get their early. Due to the time needed to deliberate the rules, the public comment section of the meeting is scheduled to go from 11 a.m. to noon.

The Rules Working Committee meets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry Campus in the DSTU Auditorium, Room 111, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd in Tampa. Can’t make the meeting? It will be live-streamed on

— “Powerful state panel needs public credibility” via the Sun-Sentinel editorial board

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Jackie Schutz Zeckman named Scott’s chief of staff — The Naples Republican announced Tuesday that Schutz Zeckman will serve has his chief of staff beginning July 1. She’ll replace Kim McDougal, Scott’s current chief of staff, who is departing to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

“Jackie has been on my team since my first year in office and has done a great job leading my communications efforts and conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses. Along with her work on my communications team,” said Scott in a statement announcing the promotion. “Jackie was an integral part of my reelection efforts and has continued to be a trusted advisor in all aspects of implementing our agenda for Florida. I have full confidence that she will do an outstanding job as my Chief of Staff.”

She joined Scott’s communications team in 2011, after nearly two years with CoreMessage. She worked her way through the ranks, serving as deputy press secretary and press secretary, before she was named the governor’s director of communications in 2014.

— 4 politicos who benefit from JSZ’s promotion:

> Melissa Sellers Stone, who will be able to continue to control the Governor’s Office from afar.

> Mat Bahl, who as Richard Corcoran’s chief of staff will continue to play chess while Scott’s office plays checkers.

> Brian Burgess, who now has his best source in the Governor’s Office with the best job in the Governor’s Office.

> Cory Tilley, who can rightly brag about working for him being a stepping stone to bigger and better things.


Florida school boards: Education bill ‘substantially flawed,’ ‘unworthy’ of Rick Scott’s approval” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Add the Florida School Boards Association to the growing list of groups calling for a veto of HB 7069, the mammoth $419 million K-12 public schools bill Republican lawmakers unveiled and passed in the final days of their annual session. In a letter to Gov. Scott, the FSBA — which represents 64 of the state’s 67 elected county school boards — calls the bill “substantially flawed and unworthy of your approval to be enacted into law.” “One of our many objections to the bill is that, during a legislative session when leaders proclaimed to be the epitome of transparency in the legislative process, this massive bill was cobbled together behind closed doors,” wrote FSBA executive director Andrea Messina and FSBA president Tim Harris, a Polk County School Board member. “Because the bill was unveiled so late in the process, there was no realistic opportunity for members of the public and, by their own admission, some members of the legislature to even read the bill in full, let alone carefully evaluate its contents and repercussions,” they said.

“Thousands of acres of conservation easement on Cabinet aides’ agenda” via Florida Politics — The Triple S Ranch lies 15 miles north of Lake Okeechobee — a 7,000-acre cattle operation, relatively untouched by development, within the recharge zone for the Kissimmee River. Rare and endangered species, including a Florida panther, wander its streams and cypress swamps. On Wednesday morning, aides to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet will peruse a proposal to buy a conservation easement on 4,177 acres of the Okeechobee County property, for close to $7 million. The deal is scheduled to go before Scott and the Cabinet on May 23. … The Florida Forest Service has rated the property Tier One for easement acquisition under the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, intended to keep valuable agricultural lands free from intensive development — and also to protect historical and environmental treasures.

The other ‘Derrick McGhee’ to give invocation at next Cabinet meeting – When the invocation is given at next week’s Florida Cabinet meeting, it won’t be Tallahassee lobbyist Derrick McGhee doing the honors, but his 11-year-old son, Derrick McGhee II. McGhee, with the Johnson and Blanton firm, said he had gotten a call from the Cabinet office asking if his son would be interested. McGhee, who was Gov. Rick Scott’s legislative affairs director, also is pastor of Tallahassee’s Bible Based Church on Woodville Highway. Young Derrick is active in the youth ministry. “I asked him; he was not pressured at all,” McGhee told Florida Politics. “He’s excited to do it.”

“Lobby firms bring in more than $35.7M in first quarter” via Florida Politics — The Top 5 earners during the three-month period were Ballard Partners, Southern Strategy Group, Ronald L. Book PA, Capital City Consulting, and Greenberg Traurig. Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group led the pack in the first quarter, reporting median earnings of more than $2.4 million and $2.3 million respectively. Book’s firm reported median earnings of more than $2 million in the first three months of 2017. Capital City Consulting reported median earnings of more than $1.6 million; while Greenberg Traurig reported media earnings of more than $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2017. GrayRobinson, which reported more than $1.1 million; The Rubin Group, which reported $936,000; Floridian Partners, which reported $935,000; Johnson & Blanton, which reported $910,000; and Metz Husband & Daughton, which reported $882,000 rounded out the Top 10 earners during the first quarter of 2017.

New and renewed lobby registrations

David Childs, Hopping Green & Sams: Farmland Reserve

Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: San Felasco Nurseries, Inc.


– “Adam Putnam brings ‘Florida first’ tour to Altamonte Springs” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

Assignment editorsAdam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with a meet-and-greet at 1 p.m. at the Rohan Recreation Center, 850 Kristine Way in The Villages. He’ll then head to Jacksonville Beach, where he’ll attend a grassroots meet-and-greet at Angie’s Subs, 1436 Beach Boulevard.

“Three Leon County officials endorse Gwen Graham for Governor” via Florida Politics — Leon County Commissioners John Dailey and Kristin Dozier, and Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor Tabitha Frazier have endorsed Graham for governor, her campaign announced Tuesday. In a statement, Graham said she was “proud to have the support” of the local leaders, and pledged to support “elected officials on all levels to diversify our economy, invest in our schools, and protect our land and water.”

Welcome to the world: 

“Jose Felix Diaz deletes photo of himself with Donald Trump to prep for state Senate run” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times  – if you supported Trump during his rise to power, you don’t get to wash that stink from your résumé. We’re looking at you, Miami State Rep. Diaz. Now that Diaz is officially gunning for a promotion and running for state Senate, the lawmaker has conspicuously scrubbed his Twitter page of an infamous photograph with himself and the Donald. On Jan. 19, 2017, Diaz tweeted out a photo of himself locking hands with Trump at an inaugural party. The tweet got a fair amount of press: “Just ran into the first guy who ever fired me,” Diaz tweeted. “The next president of the United States @realDonaldTrump #Apprentice #POTUS #ElPresidente” But now, the tweet and photo are both scrubbed from Diaz’s Twitter page. It’s not clear exactly when the photo was removed, but as of May 15, Twitter lists the post as “deleted,” and the post is no longer showing up on websites where it had previously been embedded.


Florida Supreme Court to rule on legality of red-light camera program” via Celia Ampel of the Daily Business Review –The high court accepted a case challenging Aventura’s red light camera program after two appellate courts seemed to disagree on whether Florida municipalities can legally allow private companies to review traffic images and choose which ones to forward to police. In the Aventura case, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled the program was OK as long as police officers actually reviewed the record in deciding to write a ticket, rather than just accepting the company’s call. But an earlier Fourth DCA opinion found Hollywood’s red light camera program unlawfully delegated police power to third-party vendors. The Florida Supreme Court did not believe the decisions conflicted; attorneys for Aventura argued the facts in the two cases differed significantly. But the justices agreed to take the case because the majority of them accepted the Third DCA’s assessment that it was a matter of great public importance.

Assignment editors: Hispanic business and civic leaders will discuss the economic contributions of immigrants in the Palm Beach area and the need for immigration reform during an event at 10:30 a.m. at Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant & Social Club, 7101 S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Roly Marante, with the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Lazaro Mur, an attorney with the Mur Law Group; Juan and Dina Rubio, the owners of Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant; and Andre Varona, the former CEO of the Palm Beach Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are expected to speak.

Stalking pythons: Carlos Lopez-Cantera joins Everglades hunt” via The Associated Press – South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith says Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera went hunting with one of 25 hunters hired to kill pythons on district property … Tom Rahill and Lopez-Cantera brought in a 15-foot-4-inch python. It was the 96th python caught by the district’s hunters since March 25. Rahill leads the “Swamp Apes” program taking veterans on hunts to remove invasive animals from the Everglades. The district is paying $8.10 an hour in a python-killing pilot program ending June 1.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera: Python Hunter – Florida’s Lt. Gov. was one of 25 hunters hired by SFWMD to kill pythons in the Everglades. Lopez-Cantera brought in a 15-foot-4-inch python, the 96th caught by the district’s hunters. Photo credit: Twitter.

“Despite lack of deal, Seminole Tribe still paying state millions” via Florida PoliticsThe Seminole Tribe of Florida has given the state of Florida another multi-million dollar payday. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation reported that the tribe paid $19.5 million in gambling revenue share on Monday … That money includes revenue share from banked card games, specifically blackjack … It has Vegas-style and other gambling at seven casinos around the state, including Tampa’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, but has blackjack only in Tampa and Hollywood. Monday’s deposit brings the total amount paid by the Seminoles this year to $97.5 million, DBPR spokesman Stephen Lawson said. The cut of the money from blackjack, however, is being “administratively segregated” in the General Revenue Fund until the Tribe and state come to agreement on renewed rights to offer blackjack in Florida.

How profitable will medical-marijuana shops be? Very, says confidential pitch for investors” via David Smiley and Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald –A private equity firm’s confidential pitch deck … shows that only days ago Surterra Florida was seeking investors to buy a $10 million minority stake while also arguing against limits on the number of retail outlets any licensed operator can open. Some potential investors were lured with projections that show Surterra grossing $138 million in sales by 2021 thanks largely to the operation of 55 retail outlets — nearly four times the cap desired by the Florida Senate. The numbers may not be exact, as both Surterra and The Costera Group warned that neither company verified or authorized the projections. But the sensitive documents shed rare light on an industry shrouded in secrecy and show how much money is riding on how — and whether — the state regulates the number of medical marijuana retail outlets following the passage of Amendment 2.

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“George Sheldon, under fire in Illinois, also faces questions at home” via Florida PoliticsSheldon, a former Florida official now facing an ethics inquiry as director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, also ran into a spot of trouble at home this week. Property records show Sheldon, secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families in 2008-11, claimed a homestead exemption on his Tallahassee house while he was living and working in Chicago. He also was listed as “delinquent” on paying his Florida Bar dues, according to its website … He sent a copy of a lawyer’s opinion letter saying, in part, “mere absence for a protracted period of time is not of itself sufficient to establish abandonment of homestead.” … Also Tuesday, a Bar spokeswoman told that Sheldon “is no longer fee delinquent.” “His fees are current and he’s paid the reinstatement fee of $150,” the Bar’s Karen Kirksey said. He is, however, still listed as “not eligible to practice in Florida” because he had not yet returned a required form, she added.

FDOT selects Archer Western-de Moya for I-395 Revitalization” via Julie Caputo of Miami’s Community Newspapers –… and construct an iconic “Bridge for the Ages” that will redefine Downtown Miami and its connection to Miami Beach. When designing this bridge, Archer Western – de Moya Team had three primary goals in mind: 1) Alleviate the extreme traffic problems on I-395; 2) Connect the Overtown community with the Biscayne Boulevard and Downtown neighborhoods, and 3) Provide an iconic bridge that will be a signature for Miami. To accomplish these goals Archer Western – de Moya went above and beyond in their planning process. As a result, the Archer Western – de Moya design was voted #1 unanimously over other competitors in the area of traffic benefits by FDOT. The multi-arch “Miami Fountain of Light” design of the bridge, itself, will be like no other in the world and will serve as signature for Miami worldwide.

— ALOE —

It hasn’t been this hot in Florida to start the year since 1895, report says” via Samantha Putterman of the Tampa Bay Times – According to a climate report by the National Centers for Environmental Information, Florida recorded the hottest average temperatures for the first four months of the year since 1895. On April 29 and 30, for example, Tampa observed its highest and second-highest daily highs on record for the month, reaching 96 and 95 degrees. And Florida is only one of 14 states, stretching from the southwest to the mid-Atlantic, that experienced record-breaking temperatures in the first period of 2017, according to the NOAA report. January-April 2017 also unveiled the second-warmest average temperatures for the United States overall, falling closely behind 2012. The scorching temperatures come amid Florida’s most active wildfire season since 2011, the report states. The searing conditions prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency April 11.

“Fresh off Atlantic City deal, Seminole Tribe now adding Hard Rock in Canada” via Florida PoliticsThe Seminole Tribe of Florida, which recently bought the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, is expanding its Hard Rock gambling and entertainment brand to Canada. A Tribe spokesman on Tuesday said that the Seminoles had won a bidding process to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. The deal with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., pending final approval by Canadian authorities, includes an investment by Rideau Carleton Raceway Holdings Limited, a Canadian horse racing concern. “This is a crucial first step towards a larger strategic vision of our world-class brand’s expansion efforts in Ontario and throughout Canada,” said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming CEO, in a statement.

Happy birthday to Rep. Bobby Payne, Becker Poliakoff’s Karen Skyers.

SalterMitchell launches ‘Fluent in Floridian’ podcast — The podcast launched Tuesday, with SalterMitchell releasing episodes featuring interviews with Florida State University President John Thrasher, Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith, and Sally Bradshaw, a longtime senior advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush. “News is consumed so quickly now that it’s become hard to get to know our leaders and understand their motivations, so we’ve created a show that allows listeners to hear more than simply soundbites,” said Chris Cate, the podcast’s host and the senior public affairs director at SalterMitchell. “Fluent in Floridian is conversational, much like NPR’s Fresh Air, except we’re talking to Florida’s top leaders, innovators and influencers about their backgrounds and visions for our state.” Episodes are available on, or you can subscribe on Apple podcasts or on your Android devices.

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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