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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 9.29.17

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Congratulations to the Florida Chamber Foundation for putting on a successful 2017 Future of Florida Forum in Orlando this week. Judging from the tweets, the show was a hit:

— A live Skype conversation with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made Michael Myhre (@FLSmallBizGuy) write: “@marcorubio shares with @FLChamberFDN #FutureofFL what Washington and @SmallBizCmte is doing to help FL small business recover and grow.”

— A recap of Hurricane Irma recovery efforts had Sara Clements (@SaraSClements) tweeting: “Hearing from businesses (@DukeEnergy @insideFPL @Uber_Florida @Airbnb) on Irma recovery efforts. Super informative.”

— As state Reps. Danny Burgess, Jay Fant and Rene Plasencia spoke during “Keeping Florida Open for Business,” Darrick McGhee (@DarrickDMcGhee) wrote: “Great discussion occurring at #FutureofFL Conference w/ panelists @DannyBurgessFL & @jay_fant; moderated by @carolynj84.”

And yours truly later opined: “@RepStevenson asking good questions today during #FutureofFL panel on assignment of benefits.”

See you next year.

Litigation reform, fraud protection key issues in Florida Chamber conference” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – At the chamber’s annual Future of Florida Forum in Orlando, Florida Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Wilson bemoaned what he said where the worst pro-business grades for lawmakers his organization has ever issued, and also decried that Florida has slipped to 46th nationally in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual survey of state’s legal climates for business … “So the issue is, we’re trying to recruit major companies to Florida. We’re asking companies in advanced manufacturing. They’re looking at Wall Street Journal articles,” Wilson said. “We simply have to find a way to get it [reform] done. And we’re needing leadership to work with us in that area.” Those comments came shortly after he outlined what he called “the worst grades in the history” of the chamber’s grading system for state lawmakers, which led to 14 lawmakers getting “A”s and 37 getting “F”s, “including leadership in the Senate,” Wilson said. “Even if someone earns an F, we still want to work with them, so we can get as many things done as we can. This isn’t personal, but we have twenty and a half million people in Florida who are counting on them to do the right thing,” Wilson added.

Adam Putnam: Renewed push for technical education key to fixing economic woes” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A lot of Florida’s economic weaknesses and longterm economic security can be treated with a bigger, more focused attention on vocational and technical education, Putnam told a gathering of business leaders … Given just enough time, he surmised, to talk about just one issue in any depth, the Republican gubernatorial race frontrunner chose his ongoing crusade to push for a rethinking of Florida’s education policy, one in which students are advised and steered early on, in middle school and certainly by high school, to consider preparing for the trades rather than for college. It would be better for many students, and better for many businesses, he argued, considering how many high-skill jobs go unfilled in Florida because of the skills gap, a gap discussed earlier at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Future of Florida Forum.

Florida Chamber Foundation launches ‘my career’ website tool” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The “Launch My Career Florida” project weaves data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida Department of Education and the U.S. Census Bureau to create an interactive website that allows students, parents, counselors, businesses and adults seeking new career opportunities to explore. By filling in interests and clicking options, the user is presented with information about what a particular job field likely will pay, how much the education will cost, how much time it will take to get the education, and what the ultimate return-on-investment will be. Costs of living are factored in too, as are degrees of job satisfaction, provided via data from Gallup Inc. polls. It also has a “skills added” feature, that allows people to determine what additional skills they may wish to pursue in addition to a particular degree, to make themselves more valuable in the jobs market.


@PressSec: At @ricardorossello request, @POTUS has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately.

@MaryEllenKlas: WH says @FLGovScott to lunch with @realDonaldTrump at the @WhiteHouse Friday; Puerto Rico download/warning?

@RepCurbelo: The most sincere, heartfelt speech I’ve heard in the House just now by @SteveScalise. Welcome back my friend. What a day! What a country!

@Amy_Hollyfield: GOP: Bill Nelson fundraising email a ‘new level of tone deaf’

@BrettMmurphy: A FEMA spokesman has hung up on me twice today for asking to go on the record about temporary housing in FL

@AdamPutnam: Back in the Keys today checking in our our people and our progress. We’ll come back stronger than ever. #FloridaStrong #FloridaProud

@MyWFClife: Please use caution when driving along I-75. #Alligators are on the road due to flooding in Paynes Prairie.

@JackLatvala: @ClemensFL told a group that a campaign tour with @JohnMorganESQ/ @JackLatvala “Would be better than The Grateful Dead tour”

@CraigTimes: Oh, #Florida! Restaurant owner says if you burn your NFL gear, he’ll give you a free footlong

@TBOcom: Tropical wave, heading toward Florida, has 40 percent chance of development

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— THE 51st STATE —

Donald Trump races to catch up as Puerto Rico crisis escalates” via Franco Ordoñez and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – The Trump administration is scrambling to get its arms around a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico after Republicans and Democrats charged the White House with moving too slowly and paying too little attention to the island and its 3 million American citizens. Eight days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, Trump’s team suspended for 10 days a U.S. shipping law to allow foreign vessels to assist in Puerto Rico’s relief effort. And the administration announced a three-star general overseeing the U.S. military’s efforts to move supplies into and throughout the island would go to Puerto Rico. These efforts came only after significant pressure from local and federal officials of both parties, who spent the last three days warning the president that Washington’s response was not sufficient for the scale of the crisis. “This is Katrina 2017, make no mistake about it,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois and one of five Puerto Ricans in Congress.

A resident bails water from a flooded home in Catano, Puerto Rico. Photo credit: AP.

Now even money is running out in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico” via Ben Fox and Danica Coto of The Associated Press – The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. There are long lines at the banks that are open with reduced hours or the scattered ATMs that are operational amid an islandwide power outage and near total loss of telecommunications. Many people are unable to work or run their businesses because diesel to run generators is in short supply or they can’t spend all day waiting for gas to fill their car. All are struggling with the overwhelming devastation of Hurricane Maria, which began tearing across the island early in the morning of Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph. It destroyed the entire electricity grid while grinding up homes, businesses, roads and farms. At least 16 people were killed. There still is no exact tally of the cost and full extent of the damage, but Gov. Ricardo Rossello says it will bring a complete halt to the economy for at least a month. “This is the single biggest, major catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico, bar none, and it is probably the biggest hurricane catastrophe in the United States,” Rossello said.

’Where the hell is the cavalry?’ – Florida lawmakers call on military to engage more in Puerto Rico” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “Where the hell is the cavalry?” Sen. Bill Nelson asked that, imploring the military to step up involvement in Puerto Rico. “There is a crisis in Puerto Rico where food, fuel, water and medicine is sitting at the docks and not getting out to the remote parts of the island,” Nelson said. “The situation calls for an immediate response by the U.S. military to provide security and distribution to these remote areas.” Sen. Marco Rubio also called on the Department of Defense to ramp up “logistical engagement” to distribute relief. “This is what they do,” Rubio said. “They’re the best responders to natural disasters on the planet. And we need to employ them.” The urgency from the Florida senators, and a host of other political leaders in the state, comes as President Trump has been seen as slow to respond, though he’s taken action in recent days.

– “White House is restricting lawmakers from visiting Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, aides say” via Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post

Bridge swept away by Hurricane Maria … Ruby Rodriguez, 8, looks back at her mother as she wades across the river in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico. Photo credit: Gerald Hebert.

Florida could see influx of Puerto Ricans, who have already shown growing political power” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – The catastrophe in Puerto Rico has the potential to send tens of thousands of people to Florida, continuing a steady exodus from the economically depressed island. That could have wide ranging effects on services, but also politically, as Puerto Ricans have grown as a force in the state. Last year, Democrat Darren Soto became the first Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida. Amy Mercado was elected to the Florida House, Victor Torres to the Senate and Emily Bonilla to the Orange County Commission, making her first Puerto Rican Democrat elected to that office. All three are Democrats. Politics will follow, but right now, the humanitarian concerns are at the forefront, and Florida could be bracing for a wave of Puerto Ricans leaving the island for good. Bonilla says as many as 100,000 Puerto Ricans could be moving to Florida in the coming months and has asked Orange County to be prepared. “There are hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans living in the Central Florida region,” she wrote in a letter … “Traditionally, Puerto Ricans are very family oriented and will be more than happy and will insist on taking in family members who are having hardships,” Bonilla wrote. “Therefore, Orange County is possibly looking at a large migration of Puerto Ricans over the next couple of months, possibly over 100,000.”

Gov. Rick Scott and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló take an aerial tour of San Juan, the capital, to view damage from Hurricane Maria. Scott said he directed the Florida National Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission “to stand ready to assist Puerto Rico as soon as the government identifies their specific needs.”

Teresa Jacobs seeking united help for Puerto Rican evacuees” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – In a memorandum to the county commissioners, Jacobs said she’s speaking with Gov. Scott and others to identify resources and issues, and is pursuing some specific ideas, like setting up a Puerto Rican evacuees assistance center at Orlando International Airport. Jacobs’ memo comes after several of the commissioners, notably Pete ClarkeEmily Bonilla, and Jennifer Thompson, have called for more help for Puerto Rico, where almost all of the 3.4 million residents living in stark conditions following Hurricane Maria. Many have family and friends in Central Florida, and large but unknown numbers are expected to come to Florida, at least temporarily, to live while the island undergoes what all expect to be a long and painful rebuilding process. “Please accept my sincere thanks for your continued input and efforts regarding Hurricane Maria relief, and for your heartfelt concern on behalf of our beloved American brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico,” Jacobs opened her memo.

In the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Maria drowned what Irma didn’t destroy” via Jeremy Peters of The New York Times– The one-two punch of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria 14 days later was especially cruel. In many places across the three major islands of this American territory, the second storm drowned what the first couldn’t destroy, ravaging what was once one of the Caribbean’s most idyllic landscapes. “Maria broke our spirit,” said Ian Samuel of St. John, who lost parts of the upstairs of his house to Irma’s wind and his downstairs to two and a half feet of water from Maria. “I was in a pretty bad car wreck. And it’s like that — when you get out of the car and you’re trying to figure out what’s happening.” The governor, Kenneth E. Mapp, said he expects that the hospitals on St. Thomas and St. Croix, the most populated islands, will have to be torn down and rebuilt. In St. Thomas, not far from where cruise ships have long unloaded vacationers, tarps and trash cans now collect dripping water from the ceiling of the emergency room, which has to evacuate any critical patients to the mainland. The 103,000 people who live in these islands are at the end of a long supply chain of relief that depends heavily on the ports in neighboring Puerto Rico — now crippled by Maria and unable to meet the needs of its own people.

— IRMA —

School’s back in session for some in the Florida Keys” via The Associated Press – The lights flickered off during the lunchtime rush and the principal had to use a cellphone light to make sure everyone got their food, but school is back in session at a Florida school that was a Red Cross shelter after Hurricane Irma. Wednesday was the second of three staggered school opening dates in Monroe County since Irma ravaged the Florida Keys Sept. 10. Principal Wendy McPherson tells the Miami Herald it felt “pretty darn good” to return to Marathon Middle and High School. For many students, being back in school is the only access they have to air conditioning. The free breakfast and lunch may be the only hot meals they’re getting. During first period, students filled out surveys on their needs – clothing, hygiene products and school supplies.

Hurricane Irma blows away low-cost housing in Florida Keys” via Jennifer Kay of the Orlando Sentinel – Mobile homes and recreational vehicles didn’t survive the storm’s 130 mph winds and storm surge. The losses hit people crucial to Keys tourism: service industry and blue-collar workers priced out of expensive Key West homes or newer structures meeting Florida’s stringent building codes. Officials are racing to find those workers housing to keep them in the Keys but still free up hotel rooms by Oct. 20, the opening day of the decadent Fantasy Fest and one of the biggest events on the Key West tourism calendar. The housing crunch affects all sectors of the community: About 50 city employees may need to relocate, Key West city spokeswoman Alyson Crean said. Keys firefighters who lost everything have moved into fire stations or the homes of friends and relatives. On Duval Street, bar and tour company owners said some shell-shocked employees just quit because of the damage.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam met with U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife personnel during a visit Thursday to the Monroe County Emergency Operations Center in Marathon.

FEMA rules about gated communities muddle cleanup of Irma debris” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel – FEMA rules have muddled the slow-moving cleanup of hurricane debris in Central Florida, where some officials, including government leaders in Orange County and Orlando, fear the agency may not reimburse the costs of hauling storm debris from gated communities … FEMA views gated communities as private property and generally won’t reimburse local governments for disaster work performed on private property. Despite that policy, in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, FEMA has said it may fund the cost if debris “is so widespread that it threatens public health and safety or economic recovery of a community.” But it’s no guarantee. Orlando, for example, “is following FEMA rules and not using contractors to collect from private property, like gated communities,” city spokeswoman Heather Fagan said in an email. “City crews will continue to service these areas.”

Irma battered South Florida. Now at least one part of the state may be grateful” via Jenny Staleovich of the Miami Herald – If South Florida undergoes another hot winter — 2016 stands as the hottest year on record — they worry that too much dead seagrass from Irma could overload the bay. “My concern is as this continues to decay, this material is going to continue releasing nutrients that could cause another algae bloom,” said Everglades Foundation wetland ecologist Steve Davis, who organized the outing to examine Irma’s damage. “We just need to be vigilant.” Just after the storm, Davis flew over Cape Sable and photographed vast mats of floating dead seagrass. But from the air, it was hard to tell exactly what kind, and where the grass may have come from. On the water this week, Davis found seagrass beds looking healthy, suggesting that they may have survived the storm’s powerful Category 4 winds, and the bay teeming with life. In fact, there’s reason to believe both grasses and fish that evolved over eons of hurricane seasons could actually benefit from the storm. Florida International University marine ecologist Jim Fourqurean said some scientists believe the bay suffers from too little circulation, allowing dead material to pile up. Cut off from historic overland flows, the shallow bay also tends to get too salty because water evaporates faster than rainfall or run-off can replenish it. “So a big hurricane that causes a big displacement of water could also be good because it will freshen up the bay,” he said.

Irma was the ‘most trying storm’ ever for cruise lines. How well did they respond?” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald – Irma, at one point a Category 5 storm, had already left behind devastation at top Caribbean ports and was taking dead aim for the cruise capital of the world — South Florida — where the three largest lines are based. That meant that lines had to focus on not only rearranging cruise schedules and keeping passengers out of the path of the storm but doing the same for their thousands of employees in Florida … And yet, the response was in many ways organized and proactive, a strong departure from how cruise lines handled storms a decade ago. “It was kind of a defining moment in terms of really how the business has changed since Wilma [in 2005] and other storms,” said Mike Driscoll, editor of the trade publication Cruise Week. “In the past they were not very reactive to consumer complaints — they tried to downplay.” But across the three major lines — Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International — one response was universally celebrated: How they used their resources to offer relief, either through rescue missions, donations or the delivery of supplies.

Coral Gables to study multimillion-dollar plan to move power lines underground after Irma” via Lance Dixon of the Miami Herald – Coral Gables leaders moved to pursue moving power lines underground and may sue FPL in order to speed up negotiations. Gables officials have been talking about moving lines underground since Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida in 2005, but delays in power restoration after Irma revived the discussion. The work could cost more than $250 million and potentially lead to an increase in taxes. “We’re sitting here 12 years later and we want the same thing. I think the only difference is we’ve got to take matters into our own hands,” Commissioner Frank Quesada said. Gables leaders think the plan and the costs are worthwhile if they can prevent the kinds of power outages the city experienced. FPL attributed the severity of the outages to falling branches and trees from the city’s large tree canopy, while the city placed the blame on aging infrastructure.

Syd Kitson: Proud to be a Floridian” via Florida Politics – Storms are a fact of life for the 20-plus million that call ourselves Floridians. Mother Nature reminded us of this when Hurricane Irma made her one-two punch – the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005. Before and after Irma’s impact, Floridians responded. Law enforcement, first responders and direct service providers quickly jumped into action to protect and serve. Utility providers from Pensacola to Key West pre-staged – joined by more than 30,000 linemen from throughout the United States and Canada – and immediately began restoring power to more than 6.7 million homes and businesses that were in the dark after Irma’s wrath. Perhaps most importantly, Floridians embraced their neighbors from all walks of life to lend a helping hand. Democrats, Republicans, people of different races and religions came together to help each other in a time of desperate need. As was the case in Houston, this unity was on full display when Irma engulfed Florida with its fury. Wouldn’t it be great if this caring, respect and compassion lasted long after the impact of Irma begins to fade?  Unfortunately, politicians are trying to use this disaster for personal gain and are already fanning the flames of partisanship and extremist views rather than focusing on what is most important – the actions that were taken to ensure the safety of Floridians from Irma’s wrath. After all, these heroic efforts should make us all proud to be Floridians.


Marco Rubio won’t seek Foreign Relations chairmanship” via Seung Min Kim and Elana Schor of POLITICO Florida – Rubio said that he has no interest in seeking the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, clearing the way for Sen. Jim Risch to claim the gavel in the next Congress. The committee’s current chairman, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, announced he would not seek re-election in 2018. Risch is next in seniority on the panel, although Rubio — a former presidential candidate who has made foreign policy a major part of his Senate portfolio — could have made a play for it as well. But Rubio responded “no” when asked whether he was interested in vying for the chairmanship in 2019. “Jim Risch wants to be chairman,” Rubio said Wednesday. “I’ll support him.” Democrats are privately wary of Risch taking the gavel given his scant record of action at the helm of the Foreign Relations subcommittee overseeing the Middle East and counterterrorism. Risch’s subcommittee has not held any hearings so far this year.

Rubio expresses optimism in tax reform bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Speaking to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Rubio expressed confidence that the Senate will pass Trump‘s tax reform plan but also expressed concern about the details. Appearing by Skype at the chamber’s Future of Florida Forum luncheon in Orlando, Rubio raised concerns about the bill coming in “under modern conditions, today’s standards” and noted it will be complicated. “Obviously, there are some individual impediments we have to work through,” Rubio said, without specifying what individual impediments he meant. “But by and large we have the votes we need for a forum that simplifies the tax code, makes us globally competitive, gives assistance to working families … I am generally optimistic.”

NRSC thumps Bill Nelson over Hurricane Irma fundraising email” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –The NRSC said Nelson‘s Senate campaign staff sent out a fundraising email tied to the storm. In it, Nelson tries to raise some political dollars off the fact that he urged major airlines to not raise ticket prices in connection with the coming storm. The email includes a survey on the issue, and a link that allows people to contribute to the campaign. The NRSC says the airlines were capping airfares before Nelson sent his letter. “Bill Nelson is spending time blasting out fundraising emails, while countless Floridians are recovering from Hurricane Irma’s devastation,” NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin said in a statement. “Bill Nelson’s DC elitist behavior is always self-serving, but this kind of out of touch behavior reaches a new low.” Nelson’s campaign said the senator had suspended his campaign before, during and after the storm.

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An ideal venue for Ron DeSantis to join governor’s race? Not so fast” via the Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s the Volusia County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner Sunday, Oct. 8, in Daytona Beach. DeSantisshares top billing on the program with Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro, and the congressman’s wife, Jacksonville TV personality Casey Black DeSantis, is the night’s mistress of ceremonies. There’s even a “Trump fan zone.” Not so fast, says Brad Herold, a DeSantis spokesman. Herold said, “late October or early November” is a likely time window for DeSantis to declare his candidacy, adding that the congressman is “very seriously” looking at running, but “he has not fully made a decision yet. It‘s probably a month away.” Herold said DeSantis has to make up his mind that there’s room for a real “constitutional conservative” in the race. “If he got in, he would be the conservative in the race,” he said.

Brevard Sheriff endorses Ashley Moody for Attorney General” via Florida Politics – Sheriff Wayne Ivey is endorsing Republican Ashley Moody as Florida’s next Attorney General. “There is no better choice to serve Floridians as our next Attorney General than Ashley Moody,” Ivey said. “Her strong and reasoned approach to the criminal issues that plague our state will have a lasting impact on the safety of our communities. “I’m proud to endorse her and hope you will join me in ensuring Ashley Moody is Florida’s next Attorney General.” “A strong voice in support of law enforcement and our constitutional rights, Sheriff Ivey has proven to be a successful and beloved leader in his community,” Moody responded. “He is devoted to his deputies and the people he serves. I’m humbled and honored to have his support.”

Happening tonight:José Javier Rodríguez inks fundraising agreement with Congressional Hispanic Caucus” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The state senator set up a joint fundraising committee, which is a mechanism for candidates and committees to share fundraising resources. That committee, Bold Democrats, has its own agreement with CHC Bold PAC, the fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The caucus, which is chaired by California Rep. Tony Cardenas, officially backed Rodríguez, making him one of just a handful of Democrats across the country that the group is officially supporting. The CHC Bold PAC currently has $3 million cash on hand, and has raised $4 million so far in 2017. Last month it gave $10,000 directly to Rodríguez’s campaign, before the new joint fundraising committee was established.“

Bobby Olszewski raises $55K in latest HD 44 report, has $27K for special election” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Olszewski raised $55,000 including about $24,000 in in-kind services from the state party after winning an Aug. 15 primary and had about $27,500 left for his contest with replacement Democratic nominee Eddy Dominguez … Olszewski also received 21 $1,000 checks from business interests since that primary, including from various political committees representing the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Walt Disney World, the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, and Rosen Hotels. Several of those groups supporting Olszewski had backed Newstreet in the primary. That money helps Olszewski to prepare for an Oct. 10 special election that initially was to be against Democrat Paul Chandler.  Chandler withdrew two weeks ago and last week the Orange County Democratic Party selected Dominguez, a businessman from the Dr. Phillips community, to be a replacement candidate. Chandler’s name remains on the ballots, but Dominguez will collect those votes.

Details matter: Questions arise in Ruta Jouniari HD 72 filing” via Florida Politics – Division of Elections records show a possible issue with Jouniari’s official Candidate Oath, which was signed and notarized Sept. 19, one day before its effective filing date. That timing could be crucial, since it can be argued that an individual who has not yet filed as a candidate cannot technically execute a Candidate Oath. This paperwork snafu could prove problematic for Jouniari. In addition, records also show Jouniari submitted her filing fee by way of a personal check, something expressly prohibited by Florida law. A recent Florida Department of State memo points this out in no uncertain terms: “Qualifying fees must be paid by a properly executed check payable to the Department of State or Secretary of State and drawn upon the candidate’s campaign account … Personal checks, cashiers’ checks, cash, and money orders are not valid for qualifying.” With only 48 hours before qualifying starts, it is reasonable to assume the DOE has notified Jouniari of her check problem, giving her enough time to take care of it before Friday.

– “Pat Schroeder endorses Anna Eskamani in HD 47 race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

– “Pro-Confederate group heats up HD 58 race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

David Straz forming committee to explore possible run for Tampa mayor in 2019” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – Banker, philanthropist and patron of the arts Straz said he soon will announce the formation of an exploratory committee to help him decide whether to run for mayor of Tampa in 2019. Straz also plans to open a bank account to help the committee in its work, but says it will be months before he announces whether he’ll run. “I’m thinking about it now,” Straz told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m exploring the possibility. I won’t have a decision on that until about the first of the year.” Straz said he’s had a lot conversations about the idea of running, and “all of the comments have been very, very positive,” though he was cautioned that he needed to understand that being mayor was an all-consuming, 24/7 job. “What I get is, ‘Why would you ever want to do something like this? Your time won’t be your own,’ ” he said. “I say I’ve given back to my city financially, and now I want to give back some time and talent.”


Editorial:Rick Scott’s appointments, secrecy undercut his Irma performance” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board – With two months left in hurricane season, Scott has appointed a 29-year-old political operative with virtually no experience to head the Division of Emergency Management. Wes Maul graduated from law school just four years ago, worked as a travel aide on the governor’s re-election campaign and spent time as “special assistant to the governor” before becoming chief of staff to the departing emergency management director a year ago. Now Maul will run the department responsible for preparing and responding to hurricanes? This is a disaster waiting to happen. Maul is no Craig Fugate, who had the job when four hurricanes cut through Florida in six weeks in 2004 and went on to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And he’s no Bryan Koon, who had emergency management experience in the federal government and at Wal-Mart and has had the job since 2011. Yet Scott often chooses political loyalty over experience. He’s not the first governor to park campaign operatives in high-paying state jobs without worrying about their qualifications. But his default is personal connection even in high-profile jobs of great responsibility, and his circle of friends is small …  after nearly seven years as governor, he has yet to understand that government is the public’s business.

’Stand your ground’ immunity won’t block civil suit, Florida Supreme Court says” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – The issue facing justices involved criminal charges and a civil lawsuit filed against Nirav Patel after he struck Ketan Kumar with a cocktail glass in 2008 at a nightclub, permanently damaging Kumar’s eye. Using the “stand your ground” law, Patel successfully argued in circuit court that he should be shielded from criminal prosecution because he struck Kumar in self-defense. He also contended that the finding of self-defense in the criminal case should prevent the civil lawsuit filed by Kumar from moving forward. The 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Patel. But in a unanimous opinion Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned the appeals-court ruling and said a finding of “stand your ground” immunity in a criminal case could not be used to block a civil lawsuit.

“Environmental lawsuit over ‘Amendment 1’ funding set for trial” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Tallahassee judge has set a trial week in a lawsuit over the state’s environmental funding under a constitutional amendment passed almost three years ago. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson scheduled a weeklong bench trial for next July 23-27, with a pretrial conference set for June 15, court records show. Discovery in the case was ordered finished by May 25. Environmental advocacy groups had filed suit over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The constitutional change, approved by voters in 2014, mandates state spending for land and water conservation … Advocates—including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club—sued the state in 2015, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

“DEP seeks $50M for Florida Forever” via News Service of Florida – A request is on the desk of Gov. Scott to replenish the state’s most prominent land-preservation fund. The Department of Environmental Protection‘s wish list for the 2018-2019 fiscal year—presented to Scott last week as the governor’s office crafts budget recommendations for the Legislature—includes $50 million for the Florida Forever program. “It’s a bigger number, it’s a different focus than what we’ve had from DEP for six or seven years,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida and a prominent environmental lobbyist. The department’s proposals also include $50 million for programs to improve water quality and drinking water quantity. Another $50 million would go to support state parks. Department spokeswoman Lauren Engel said the Florida Forever funding is expected to help the state “acquire rare and sensitive lands that will benefit our communities and environment.”

“Swearing-in for Annette Taddeo set for Oct. 10” via Florida PoliticsTaddeo, who was elected in Tuesday’s special election for Senate District 40, will be sworn in 9 a.m. Oct. 10 in the Senate chamber. Taddeo, a Democrat who also ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist in 2016, won this week’s hotly-contested election for the open seat against former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Republican, and no-party contender Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth. Taddeo received almost 51 percent of the vote. With Taddeo’s swearing in, the Senate Democratic Caucus grows to 16 in the 40-member chamber. 

Greg Evers memorial highway proposed in Senate” via the News Service of Florida – Mirroring a proposal in the House, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala filed a bill that would name a stretch of road in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties as “Senator Greg Evers Memorial Highway.” The bill (SB 358), which is filed for the 2018 legislative session, comes after Evers, 62, died Aug. 21 in a single-vehicle accident near his home in Okaloosa County. The Latvala bill and the House version (HB 171), filed by Rep. Jayer Williamson would provide the memorial designation to part of State Road 4 between Munson Highway and State Road 189 in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.

“Joe Gruters files ‘political’ hate crimes bill” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A House member has filed proposed legislation to add violence based on “political affiliation or beliefs” to the state’s list of hate crimes. Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, first filed his 1-page bill Thursday. The bill is being redrafted to correct some technical errors and will be re-filed shortly, he said later in the day. The measure as filed (HB 201) would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to gather information on such “criminal acts” in addition to those “based on race, religion, ethnicity, color, ancestry, sexual orientation, or national origin” under existing law … As of this March, at least four other states prohibited “bias-motivated violence or intimidation” against someone because of “political affiliation” or “political opinions,” either under a hate crime law or under general law.


On: Jonathan Capps became a legislative analyst for the Senate Majority Office.

Off and on: Staff director Jennifer Hrdlicka has moved from the Senate Criminal Justice to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development. Lauren Jones replaces Hrdlicka on Criminal Justice.

Off and on: Tempie Sailors replaces Karen Manning as administrative assistant in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.

Off and on: Vincent Aldridge went from attorney to deputy staff director for the House Ways & Means Committee.

Off and on: Shirlyne Everette has moved from administrative assistant to the Senate General Counsel to again become Senate committee administrative assistant to the Senate Committee on Community Affairs.

Off and on: Michelle Perez has moved from being committee administrative assistant in Senate Education to administrative assistant to the Senate General Counsel; she will also serve as Public Records Coordinator, replacing Tessa Wagoner who enrolled in FSU law school.

Off and on: Jay Ferrin is out and Diana Caldwell is in as staff director for Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability. Caldwell will also be staff director for the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities.

On: Tamra Redig, the committee administrative assistant for Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability, joins Caldwell on both the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability and Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities committees.

On: Tonya Kidd is a new deputy staff director for Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Off: Courtney Pickus is no longer a legislative assistant for Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation.

On: La’Toya Sheals is now legislative assistant for Democratic state Sen. Daphne Campbell of North Miami Beach.

Off: Elizabeth Fetterhoff is no longer legislative assistant for Port Orange Republican state Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

On: David Ballard is now legislative assistant for Brandon Republican state Sen. Tom Lee.

Off: Kayla Lott is no longer legislative assistant for Republican state Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville.

On and off: Clint Streicher is the new legislative assistant for Boca Raton Democratic state Sen. Kevin Rader. Kathleen Roe is no longer Rader’s legislative assistant.

Off: Jamesha Cox is no longer legislative assistant for state Rep. Thad Altman, and Indialantic Republican.

On: Kristin Fulwylie is the new legislative assistant for Ocoee Democratic state Rep. Kamia Brown.

On and off: Karen Riggien is now legislative assistant for Jacksonville Democratic state Rep. Kim Daniels. YuVonda Steward has stepped down as Daniels’ legislative assistant; George Davis is her new district secretary.

On: Kathleen Larsen is now district secretary for Cape Coral Republican state Rep. Dane Eagle.

Off: Justin Gendler is no longer district secretary for Democratic state Rep. Katie Edwards of Sunrise.

On and off: Chesten Goodman is now legislative assistant for Jacksonville Republican state Rep. Jay Fant. Jake Farmer is no longer the legislative assistant for Fant.

Off: Kimberly Simon is no longer a legislative assistant for Republican state Rep. James Grant of Tampa.

On: Lauren Williams is now legislative assistant for Pensacola Republican state Rep. Clay Ingram.

On: Jackie Gomez-Tejeda is now district secretary for Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Winter Park.

On: Karly Humphrey is the new district secretary for Palm Harbor Republican state Rep. Chris Sprowls.


Deaf inmate’s release rejected in 1981 murder” via the News Service of Florida – A deaf man convicted of murder more than three decades ago will remain behind bars after a parole hearing at the Florida Commission on Offender Review. The commission did not change the presumptive parole release date of August 2025 for Felix Garcia, who is serving a life sentence in the 1981 murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr, at a Tampa motel. Supporters argue Garcia did not commit the murder and was unable to understand the evidence against him at trial because he was not provided a sign-language interpreter. Tallahassee attorney Reggie Garcia (no relation) told commissioners that Felix Garcia had an alibi at the time of the murder and should never have been convicted. Three of Tramontana’s sisters spoke at the hearing, arguing against moving up Felix Garcia’s release date. “As far as I am concerned, there is no question about guilt in this case,” said Richard Davison, vice chairman of the commission. “It was fully litigated in our judicial system, with a jury finding a determination of guilt. The issue that I’m dealing with is simply what has he done since his incarceration, that would move him toward parole, if at all.”

Tax credit scholarship program students more likely to attend college, study shows” the Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – According to The Urban Institute’s latest research, the college enrollment rate for tax credit scholarship students is about 15 percent higher than those who do not participate in the program. For students who participate in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for four or more years, the number increases – those students are 40 percent more likely to attend college compared to similarly disadvantaged students in public schools. Florida Tax Credit Scholarship participants are also more likely to earn degrees than their peers — according to the study, students who entered the scholarship program in their elementary school years and were on the scholarship for four or more years were 29 percent more likely to earn an associate degree than similarly disadvantaged students in public schools. The Urban Institute studied Florida’s tax-credit “voucher” program for six years from 2004-2010 and compared college enrollment, “persistence” and attainment rates of Florida students participating in the program.

The worst story you’ll read today – “State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – It was sweltering in the bedroom of the Largo mobile home the day a child welfare case manager visited in July. Yet she left 8-month-old William Hendrickson IV there with no air conditioning and in the care of an erratic father who had been refusing to take his medication, a newly released state investigation found. A state investigation into the death of the infant found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system that left the boy in a room where police investigating the death recorded temperatures of 109 degrees. They include: The case manager who visited the home one day before the boy’s death failed to take necessary action; the abuse hotline operator failed to code an abuse report as “immediate,” which would have sent investigators to the home within four hours; the case manager and her supervisor failed on several occasions to escalate the case to the State Attorney’s Office when it was clear their safety plan had broken down. The jailing of the mother was another missed red flag, according to the state investigation. She had been regarded as the more protective parent but now the two children were only in the care of the father, who had stopped cooperating with child welfare workers. While she was there, he refused an offer of a window air conditioner unit for his bedroom.

“Making it rain: Spectacle at Tallahassee City Hall” via Jeff Burlew of Tallahassee DemocratErwin Jackson, a local businessman who’s long accused city officials of a litany of misdeeds, went a step beyond his usual criticism, tossing thousands of dollars at Tallahassee city commissioners and telling them it was a bribe. “This is not a gift, not a loan,” Jackson said during his three minutes of speaking time at the end of a long City Commission meeting … Jackson didn’t toss Monopoly money — he used real cash, giving each commissioner ten $100 bills paper-clipped together. City Commissioners Scott Maddox and Nancy Miller responded by tossing their cash over the dais and onto the floor … Jackson alluded to a complaint he filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics accusing City Manager Rick Fernandez of taking a $5,000 “bribe” in the form of a catering discount from the city-backed Edison restaurant. Fernandez has said he welcomes the commission’s review and is looking forward to a “positive outcome.”

“Morgan & Morgan sued on false advertising claim” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Philadelphia law firm has sued the Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan law firm in federal court, saying its well-known ads are “misleading” potential clients. Those ads, well known from billboards and sides of buses in the Sunshine State, wrongly give the impression that the firm “actively litigate(s) claims in Pennsylvania” when its personal-injury practice there is actually “non-existent or minimal,” the suit said. Morgan & Morgan began in Florida and now has offices in 10 other states, including Pennsylvania, according to its website. The complaint was filed last Friday in federal court in Philadelphia by the competing Rosenbaum & Associates personal injury firm, and its co-owners, brothers Jeff and David Rosenbaum. It also names firm founder John Morgan as an individual defendant, along with wife Ultima and children Mike, Daniel and Matt, all of whom practice in the firm and have been featured in ads.


Former Florida DEM Director Bryan Koon moving to security consulting firm” via the News Service of Florida – Koon, Florida’s departing emergency-management director, has been hired as a vice president of IEM, a North Carolina-based security consulting firm. IEM announced the hiring two days after Gov. Scott said Koon would exit the job leading the Florida Division of Emergency Management, effective Sunday. Koon will work as vice president of homeland security and emergency management for IEM. “Mr. Koon is a recognized leader in emergency management who has worked throughout his career to save lives and protect communities,” IEM President and Chief Executive Officer Madhu Beriwal said in a news release. “Mr. Koon’s leadership style, diverse background, and dedication to public service will benefit the communities where IEM works.”

Former foes David Jolly, Patrick Murphy take show on the road” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – Former Florida congressmen Jolly, a Republican, and Democrat Murphy — political rivals who also faced off in a race for U.S. Senate — have teamed up for a roadshow. The pair are bringing their “Why Gridlock Rules Washington” talks to college campuses in the Sunshine State, and hold another edition at Georgetown University in D.C. Oct. 16 … USA Today commentary editor and columnist Jill Lawrence will moderate the event. A town hall at the University of Central Florida in Orlando Tuesday, Oct. 17 has also been added to the tour. While the University of South Florida town hall, which was postponed due to Hurricane Maria, has been rescheduled for Thursday, Oct. 12. “This is a worthwhile effort to educate Floridians and build broader support for reforms that would encourage more bipartisanship and consensus-building to tackle the nation’s most pressing challenges,” recently wrote the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board about the town hall tour.

“Personnel note: Thomas Hobbs joins Ramba Consulting” via Florida PoliticsHobbs is the newest lobbyist with Ramba Consulting Group, and will become Chief Pilot and Operations Manager for Capital Air Service, according to a Thursday press release. Hobbs, a captain in the Florida Army National Guard, is just back from National Guard duty in the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma, and less than six months after a deployment in Iraq. “We could not be more excited to have Thomas joining our team,” said David Ramba, founder of Ramba Consulting Group … Hobbs is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and Future Operations Planner for the 1-111th Aviation Battalion of the Florida Army National Guard, based out of Cecil Field in Jacksonville.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James’ topic: “Manatee-Sarasota Chapter Black Nurses Rock” with nurses Shakeye LovettShauniece Lee and Melanie Franklin.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look At  politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include former Florida Democratic CFO Alex Sink; PolitiFact deputy editor Katie Sanders; USF professor of Government and International Affairs Susan MacManus; andRepublican Connie Gee-Abate of the Strategic Initiatives-Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: The topic is a discussion on affordable housing options throughout the Orlando and Tampa metropolitan areas. Guests are U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, Osceola County Commissioner Peggy ChoudryDick Batchelor of the Orlando Housing Authority Board and Trey Price, Executive Director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Al Ruechel interviews Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum about his campaign for Florida governor. Topics to be covered are what Gillum wants to do if elected, the challenges he faces on the campaign trail and in fundraising as other candidates, both Democrat and Republican, compete for the top spot in Florida. Ybeth Bruzual and Alison Graves from PolitiFact examine a statement made by Sen. Marco Rubio about the Affordable Care Act, and why Florida health care insurance standards would protect Floridians if Obamacare was repealed.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore speak with League of Cities President Gil Ziffer.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week, a roundtable on the reasons behind the NFL protest with Gil Smith, a 20-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office; Fred Matthews, former president of the local NAACP; Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police; Octavius Holliday, State Attorney’s Office, chief of newly formed Human Rights Division and Bishop John Guns of “Save Our Sons.”

— ALOE —

“UberEATS launches in Jacksonville” via Florida Politics – The Uber ride-booking service, which expanded to food delivery, will officially launch the UberEATS Jacksonville app at 12:01 a.m.Thursday. The coverage area includes downtown, San Marco, Arlington, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach. Customers will have access to menus of more than 100 restaurants. In honor of the launch, Uber will be donating $25,000 to the “First Coast Relief Fund” to help residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Irma. The donation will be presented at a live demonstration at European Street Café, 2753 Park St. in Jacksonville at 12 noon.

You can now pay $350 to control your phone with a jean jacket” via Mike Murphy of Quartz – Two years ago, Google and Levi’s showed off conductive yarn to be sewn into denim, which allowed users to control a smartphone by moving their fingers across the material. A year later, the two announced that they would collaborate on an actual garment that could wirelessly control a smartphone. It was a jean jacket, based on Levi’s “Commuter” line of products aimed at people who bike to work, that could skip songs, pause music and answer calls, just by tapping and swiping on the sleeve of the jacket. And now, Levi’s is making the jacket available to anyone who would like to part with $350. That’s roughly the same price as a brand-new Apple Watch Series 3, which can do everything the jacket can do, and doesn’t limit you to wearing the same jacket every day to commute. It also presumably would be far harder to accidentally skip a song or hang up the call you’re on if someone brushed up against you when you’re using a wearable rather than this touch-activated jacket. The regular, non-touch version of the Commuter jacket costs $148, which means you could buy this jacket, a pair of Apple’s AirPods headphones (for $159) or Beats X headphones (for $150) and still save money over the connected version of the jacket.

Happy birthday to David Bishop, Brian Graham, Steve Schale, and Zach Thorn.

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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