Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
While seemingly half of the Legislature and lobbying corps was rocking to a U2 concert in Tampa, Gov. Rick Scott lowered the boom on Senate President Joe Negron’s priority higher ed. legislation.
The question is now, what will the Governor do with Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s education reform legislative package. We’ve predicted the Governor will sign it today and in Orlando, but it remains to be seen if we are right.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is coming to Miami tomorrow and the race to be Speaker of the Florida House in 2022 is speeding towards a conclusion.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Push to bolster college aid vetoed” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Scott vetoed a far-reaching bill that would have boosted financial aid for high school students heading to college while attempting to lift Sunshine State schools into the ranks of elite counterparts. The legislation required the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a state university or college. Florida used to pay 100 percent of tuition for those eligible for the top level of the state’s Bright Futures scholarship, but that was scaled back when the economy soured.
— Scott in his veto letter pointed out that students heading to school this fall will still be eligible for a higher Bright Futures award since that was included in the state budget he signed. But the change is only a one year fix and isn’t permanent because of Scott’s veto.
— Negron disagreed with Scott’s position and contended the bill would have required colleges to focus on their core missions. He also said that the governor’s veto would make it harder for families to save for college.
“Governor approves pay raise bill for state workers” via the Associated Press – State employees will get a pay raise this October under a bill signed into law by Gov. Scott. Rank-and-file employees who currently earn $40,000 a year or less will get a $1,400 pay raise, and those earning more than $40,000 will receive a $1,000 raise. The legislation also authorizes 5 percent pay raises to state law-enforcement officers that will kick in on July 1. Judges, state attorneys and public defenders will get a 10 percent raise in October.
“Scott signs tough new mandatory minimums for fentanyl into law” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The measure (HB 477), which passed in the final days of the legislative session, is meant to target drug traffickers and curb the opioid epidemic that is sweeping through parts of the state. … Beginning this October, judges will be bound to sentence people posessing 4 grams of fentanyl to three years in prison, 14 grams to 15 years in prison and 28 grams to 25 years in prison. These minimum sentences are meant to criminalize traffickers of fentanyl, which in recent years has grown to be one of the most prominent opioid killers in Florida.
— “This legislation was my top priority this session — because it gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools we need to combat the trafficking of fentanyl and save lives,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.
“Scott: No hard feelings between him and Richard Corcoran” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott, speaking to reporters after a bill signing, explained away the open tension between him and House Speaker Corcoran after the House this year tried to gut VISIT FLORIDA and do away with economic development organization Enterprise Florida, his two favored state agencies. By the end of the recent Special Session, however, lawmakers agreed to the creation of an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to be controlled by Scott, full funding for tourism marketing, and $50 million to help kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. That deal is said to be in return for Scott’s approval of a controversial education funding policy bill (HB 7069) … “What’s great is that people have passion for what they believe in,” he said. “I know the Speaker has passion for what he believes in; I have passion for what I believe in. Both of us went out there and tried to explain to others (our positions) … but we came together for what is a win for our state.”
— “The lobbyist who got Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran talking” (a great read about Bill Rubin) via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
“Gary Farmer to Scott: Veto ‘dreadful’ HB 7069” via Florida Politics – A new state senator who is also a prominent trial attorney is telling Gov. Scott to veto a contentious education policy bill, saying it’s a brew of “bad policy” and “a textbook example of a failure in government transparency.” Sen. Gary Farmer, a Parkland Democrat, wrote a 2-page letter to Scott on HB 7069, which critics have said will benefit charter schools to the detriment of traditional public schools. “This dreadful piece of legislation, if signed into law, would dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources toward improving our public education,” Farmer wrote.
“Scott signs pollution notification bill into law” via Florida Politics — The so-called spill bill (SB 1018) requires companies to submit a notice of a reportable pollution release to the Department of Environmental Protection within 24 hours of the release. That notice must contain a detailed description of the installation, substance and circumstance of the spill. “I am proud to sign this legislation today to strengthen Florida’s pollution notification laws. The sewage spill in Pinellas County and pollution incident at Mosaic last year demonstrated the importance of a 24-hour public notification requirement following pollution incidents,” said Scott in a statement. “Floridians deserve to know about these types of events and every Florida resident should enjoy clean water and a healthy environment. I appreciate the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for their work on this legislation.” The state agency is then required to publish the notification to the Internet within 24 hours of receiving it. It must also create a system that allows parties to subscribe and receive emails of notices received by the DEP.
Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented with the final 63 bills that were passed during the 2017 regular legislative session. All are House measures. He has until June 29, to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his action. They include HB 689, a wide-ranging alcohol bill that would ease regulations on “caterers licensed to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits,” cuts the “annual license fee for a craft distillery from $4,000 to $1,000,” defines the Japanese fermented-rice beverage known as sake as “wine” under state law, and expressly allows minors to work in stores selling beer, wine or liquor so long as someone over 18 is supervising them. As of Wednesday afternoon, 114 bills were on the governor’s desk.
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“Florida newborn screening bill signed into Law: What does it mean for babies?” via Jocelyn Beever of WFSU – Florida pediatricians will be able to test babies for more diseases under a new law signed by Governor Scott. Senator Lauren Book sponsored the legislation, and says this law will improve family health. “Newborns and newborn families will have an opportunity to be healthy and safe, which is wonderful,” she says. Following birth, Florida pediatricians will take a blood sample with a simple heel prick and test for several diseases.
“Fresh off special session, state reps now competing for social media ‘likes’” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – House Speaker Corcoran, debuted a new “friendly competition” between state lawmakers to see which one was the most popular on social media. “The FL HOUSE believes in competition,” Corcoran wrote. State representatives were ranked based on the number of likes on their Facebook pages and the number of Twitter followers each one had. Some legislators, like state Rep. Kimberly Daniels, boast over 35,000 likes on their Facebook pages. Other state lawmakers, like Rep. Jim Boyd, who has nearly 20,000 Facebook likes, simply ask constituents to like posts related to President Donald Trump, welcoming discussion on important issues through Facebook.
— ANDREW GILLUM’S BAD MATH —
Andrew Gillum‘s nascent campaign grossly overstated the number of donors who have contributed to the Tallahassee mayor’s bid to be Florida governor, a review of campaign finance documents by Florida Politics found.
On Friday, Gillum’s campaign bragged that it was “excited to have more than 7,000 contributors,” according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.
However, after Florida Politics reviewed the most recent campaign finance reports and asked the Gillum campaign why its numbers showed a significantly different number than what it was touting, Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum, admitted that the campaign had “slightly misstated the total in our press release.”
Slightly, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.
Both Florida Politics’ review and Gillum’s campaign agree that the campaign and his “Forward Florida” committee has received a combined 6,933 total contributions, according to the most campaign finance reports.
However, when duplicates are removed from the list of contributions, Gillum received donations from approximately 5,300 people. Florida Politics’ count has Gillum with 5,586 donors.
The claim of 7,000 donors was also rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact Florida, a fact-checking website. PolitiFact noted it found “5,383 unique names on individual contributions and 70 on Florida Forward PAC for a combined total of 5,453 donors.” The total number includes a few donors who gave “in-kind contributions as well for food and beverage.”
— “Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum overcounts campaign donors” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact Florida
— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Alcee Hastings backs Gillum — The South Florida Democrat announced Wednesday he was backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. “Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education,” said Hastings in a statement. “He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.” Hastings said his support for Gillum should not be “construed as being against others.” His endorsement marks Gillum’s first congressional endorsement.
Assignment editors: Gillum and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam will hold a press conference about the state of gubernatorial race at 3 p.m. at 3Z Telecom, 31500 SW 145th Street in Miramar.
Assignment editors: Chris King’s gubernatorial campaign will co-sponsor a phone bank for Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at SEIU 32BJ 14 NE 1st Ave. Suite 905 in Miami. The phone bank will be held in conjunction with the Miami Downtown Dems.
Happening tonight – “John Morgan to raise funds for Richard Corcoran as both consider run for governor” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – At the Orlando home of one of his firm’s lawyers, Morgan will be on hand to raise money for Watchdog PAC, a new committee that Corcoran founded last month. The men are friends, as they’ve reminded people in the past. Still, the fundraiser is unusual on two counts. For one thing, Morgan has threatened to sue the state — including Corcoran — over a ban on smoking marijuana, which lawmakers wrote into their legislation. There’s a second wrinkle: Both Morgan and Corcoran are considering running for governor in 2018. Corcoran is a steadfast Republican, and Morgan hasn’t yet said whether he would run as a Democrat or without a party affiliation.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida Blue will sell Obamacare plans statewide in 2018” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald – The future of the Affordable Care Act may be uncertain, but Florida’s largest health insurer, Florida Blue, announced this week that the company intends to stay in the individual market and sell coverage in all 67 counties next year. Florida Blue executives said they expect the Trump Administration will continue to fund cost sharing reduction subsidies that help low-income consumers pay for out-of-pocket expenses, such as copayments and deductibles. But the insurer will raise premiums about 20 percent on average if those subsidies are discontinued, said Penny Shaffer, market president for South Florida.
“Progressive groups sue over Scott’s judicial appointment power” via Florida Politics – The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause sued Scott, saying he doesn’t have power to name three new Supreme Court justices on his last day in office — only the governor elected after Scott does. Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis are all set to retire the same day his term ends. “A prompt, final decision on this pure question of constitutional law … would pre-empt cynical complaints by anyone dissatisfied with the decision that the case was contaminated by political considerations,” the writ says. To sum up: “The Florida Constitution prohibits a governor from making a prospective appointment of an appellate judge to an existing seat before that seat becomes vacant.”
“Audit finds understaffing and lax control of medication at state mental hospitals” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s state-run mental hospitals are understaffed, some are unlicensed and they are failing to keep track of pharmaceuticals and seized contraband, according to a new state audit. At one North Florida hospital, more than 2,800 antipsychotic drugs and 350 HIV antiviral drugs were misplaced, the report states. Hospital directors were not always told about suicide attempts or, in one case, that a patient had escaped, auditors found.
“Conservative group forms to oppose Florida’s death penalty” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – … yet tried hard to distance themselves from controversial and progressive anti-death penalty State Attorney Aramis Ayala. The group Florida Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is an offshoot of a national group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty which is seeking to get death penalty laws repealed state-by-state. “We believe the death penalty is inconsistent with our core conservative values,” said Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator with the group. They argued that Florida’s death penalty law is on the verge of being overwhelmed as the Florida Supreme Court is remanding as many as 200 cases back for new sentencing phases, after the laws were struck down twice in the past two years.
“Medical marijuana advisory board may be formed in Broward” via Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – As Florida increases access to medical marijuana, Broward County commissioners plan to create their own advisory board on the subject. The board approved Commissioner Mark Bogen‘s request to start the process of creating an 11-member committee that would follow the impact of medical marijuana in the county and make policy recommendations to commissioners.
“Pulse gunman’s wife asks for count to be dropped” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Noor Salman is arguing that an obstruction charge against her was filed in the wrong venue. The motion requesting the charge to be dropped was filed as people in Florida and beyond honored the 49 victims at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, exactly one year after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Salman’s husband, Omar Mateen, declared his allegiance to the Islamic State group during a three-hour standoff with police before SWAT team members killed him in a shootout. Salman was charged with aiding her husband, and obstruction for allegedly misleading investigators. The obstruction charge was filed in a federal district that covers Orlando, but she’s accused of misleading investigators during an interview in Fort Pierce, which is in the Southern District of Florida.
What Richard Corcoran is reading – “Ruling against Indian River School District could mean $2 million windfall for charters” via Andrew Atterbury of TCPalm – The School District must pay a group of five charter schools for withholding their fair share of a local tax for education, a Circuit Court judge ruled … The amount each school would receive is yet to be determined, but the ruling could cost the district more than $2 million. Judge Paul Kanarek‘s ruling is a major milestone in a two-year battle between the district and charter schools — Indian River Charter High School, Imagine Schools at South Vero, North County Charter School, Sebastian Charter Junior High and St. Peter’s Academy.
“Tampa Electric may join state power pool” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger – Tampa Electric, which has about 75,000 customers in south and eastern Polk County, may join the state’s power pool. Mark McCain, a spokesman with the Florida Municipal Power Agency, said the utility that serves about 670,000 customers in Central Florida may join a pilot project in the coming months. Tampa Electric would be the 16th utility to join the Florida Municipal Power Pool. Cherie Jacobs, a spokeswoman with Tampa Electric, confirmed the utility is exploring the option. She said it could help save customers money. Tampa Electric would add an additional 4,800 megawatts from 17 generators.
— MOVEMENTS —
Spotted: Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Sen. Anitere Flores, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Sen. Rob Bradley at the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee golf getaway at Torrey Pines. Also in attendance were Chris Clark, Chris Flack, John Holley, Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Frank and Tracy Mayernick, and Kyle Ulrich.
New and renewed lobby registrations: Eli Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Inc. d/b/a FACCPA
Happy birthday to my old friend, Travis Moore.