Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.
DEBATE NIGHT IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
With four months until the primary, two U.S. Senate hopefuls are set to square off in a live debate at 7 p.m. In one corner, Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson. In the other, Republican Rep. David Jolly.
Both men consider themselves the frontrunner for their party’s nomination. A Pubic Policy Polling survey from March found Jolly led the Republican field with 26 percent of the vote while Grayson led his Democratic opponent with 33 percent. However, that same poll found that nearly half of respondents — 47 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats — said they hadn’t picked a candidate.
Could this debate change that? Hosted by the Open Debate Coalition, it may give a boost to what has been a ho-hum Senate primary. The crowdsourced debate is one of the first of its kind, and Open Debate Coalition officials said they’re hopeful the format can be used in other races from local school board to maybe even the presidential stage.
The group — made up of a hodgepodge of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and conservative and progressive activists — has been working on the format for years, even trying it out in a 2013 Massachusetts congressional primary. But that webcast debate seems to be long forgotten.
This time may be different. It’s a high-profile Senate race, with five Republicans — Rep. Ron Desantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff, Todd Wilcox and Jolly — and two Democrats — Rep. Patrick Murphy and Grayson — are vying to replace Sen. Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. Grayson is known as a liberal firebrand, who isn’t afraid to speak his mind; while Jolly has gained national attention in recent weeks for a proposal to ban members of Congress from personally asking for campaign cash.
And then there are the questions. More than 800 questions were submitted by Sunday afternoon, and more questions are expected to pour in. Anyone can submit a question, and anyone can vote on which ones should be asked. But moderators will only ask questions that receive the most votes from Floridians.
And what are those questions, you ask? Among other things, Floridians indicated they wanted to hear Grayson and Jolly’s positions on keeping Social Security and Medicare strong; how they’ll make renewable energy more affordable and whether they would accept climate change is the “single greatest threat” the world faces.
It’s unclear how many people will tune in. The moderators — The Young Turks and Independent Journal Review — both have big followings; The Young Turks’ YouTube channel boasts more than 3 billion views while the Independent Journal Review’s Vine news channel has 30 to 40 million unique monthly views.
Jolly and Grayson are billing this as a fight for Florida’s future. In a statement last week, Jolly said the debate is “intended to present two contrasting visions for the future of the country.”
In a separate statement, Grayson agreed and said the Open Debate Coalition debate “helps ensure we actually respond to the will of the people.”
But will it work? There’s only one way to find out: The debate starts at 7 p.m. and will be webcast on www.floridaopendebate.com.
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MARCO RUBIO SAYS HE PLANS TO SIT OUT REST OF GOP PRIMARY via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rubio told Univision’s new Al Punto Florida show that he has no imminent endorsement or campaigning plans. “For now, I don’t plan on getting involved in the contest that’s still going,” he said. “I ran my own race, it didn’t end in victory, and I’m going let voters decide what’s going to happen. But I will support the Republican nominee.” In his final days as a candidate, Rubio had wavered on backing front-runner Donald Trump, but the Florida senator has no longer sounded reluctant in recent interviews. He told Al Punto Florida co-host Ambrosio Hernández — who made Rubio the brand-new show’s first guest — that Trump had a “pretty overwhelming” victory in last week’s New York primary. “If he keeps winning delegates like he did the other night in New York, I think he’s going to reach that number,” Rubio said of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. “But let’s see. There are still other states to go.”
WANT TO BE A DELEGATE TO THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION? via Blaise Ingoglia in an op-ed for the Miami Herald – Delegates are regular voters who all have one thing in common: They’re grassroots Republicans, volunteers and activists who are passionate about our party and the future of our nation. They are not pre-screened for ideology or for whom they would vote for in an open convention, but rather elected for their commitment to our party. This year in Florida, we will send 99 delegates to the convention to represent our state: 81 of them are elected within their congressional district by the three local Republican leaders of the counties that make up that district (county chairs, state committeemen and state committeewomen); 15 are at-large delegates, suggested by the chairman and elected by grassroots leaders that make up our executive board. The remaining three of the delegates are “automatics” who are members of the RNC (state party chairman, national committeewoman and national committeeman). Regardless of delegate counts, the Florida GOP and I are committed to our nominee and to complete transparency in what can be a confusing process. That is why we have details online on the delegate and convention process to ensure that all voters have access to this information. We believe in giving the grassroots a voice. We’re not going to allow “superdelegates” a chance to coronate a nominee like we’re seeing on the Democratic side. Whoever emerges as our nominee, the Republican Party of Florida will be ready to assist and rally behind. Period.
EMAIL I HAD TO OPEN via the David Jolly campaign: “Lice. Cockroaches. Nickelback.“
FIRST MONTH ON SENATE CAMPAIGN, CARLOS BERUFF RELIES HEAVILY ON HIS OWN MONEY via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Nearly half of all the money Beruff raised during his first month on the campaign trail came from his own checkbook … raised $111,790 from donors, but chipped in another $101,192 of his own, new campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show. And more could be coming. Asked if he could put more in, Beruff said: “Oh yeah.” Beruff would not say how much he’d commit, but his allies have said they wouldn’t be surprised if he put as much as $10 million into it. Beruff said he has no qualms about committing his own money to the race. “I’m betting on myself,” said Beruff, a homebuilder who has never run for office before. “I’ve always been a believer that if you don’t bet on yourself, why would you ask anybody else to bet on you.”
MEET SNIPER, CIA OFFICER, GREEN BERET MILLIONAIRE TODD WILCOX, A CANDIDATE FOR FLORIDA’S OPEN SENATE SEAT via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – The contest has been overshadowed by Donald Trump and the presidential race, and so far none of the Republicans appears to be gaining traction. But Wilcox has been generating considerable buzz and enthusiasm below the radar, as the candidates quietly make the rounds of local party picnics and monthly business meetings. “When he spoke at the last Hillsborough Lincoln Day Dinner — my gosh, when he was through, people were standing and cheering,” said Judy Wise, a Plant City Republican activist who recalled only polite applause for the other Senate candidates speaking that night. “I think it’s because this is the year of the outsider. He’s not a politician,” Wise said of the enthusiasm for Wilcox among conservative activists. “He is the whole package.” The core of his campaign message is much like Trump’s: Politicians are on the verge of destroying America. He kicked off his remarks in Tampa noting that the Declaration of Independence says that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. “Well, I for one am withdrawing my consent,” Wilcox declared. His campaign website details a platform that calls for launching an “all-out assault” on ISIS, including leading a coalition of forces to occupy ISIS-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq and deploying forces to Iraq.
— “How Alzheimer’s became an issue in the Republican U.S. Senate primary” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
MATT GAETZ KICKS OFF U.S. HOUSE CAMPAIGN WITH “FIGHT WASHINGTON” BUS TOUR via Florida Politics – In his “Fight Washington Bus Tour” over the weekend, Gaetz seized on the visceral frustrations many voters — particularly Republicans — have expressed in the 2016 Presidential primaries. “It almost seems like sometimes it doesn’t matter which party wins national elections,” said Gaetz. “The politicians come to Washington, D.C. and basically become valets, catering to the whims of the same powerful interest groups … That is not who I am.” Gaetz said he voted for Donald Trump in the Florida GOP primary, and repeatedly sounded notes similar to the New York real estate mogul’s populist-tinged brand of politics. “In northwest Florida, the most conservative candidate wins and I’ve got the most conservative record in this race without question.”
— “Anti-Washington rhetoric will dominate race to replace Jeff Miller” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida
AL LAWSON QUALIFIES BY PETITION FOR CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 5 BID via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Lawson is now officially qualified to be on the ballot … after qualifying by petition in the race to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown. Brown has until June 24 to either submit enough petitions to qualify or pay the required fee. She and Lawson are the well-known names among those currently vying for the seat. “I have always thought that the voice of the people was the most important. I am very honored to have their support, and will continue to look out for the interests of North Florida,” says Lawson, “It’s a privilege to have their backing.”
WSJ MOVES ON, RANDY PERKINS CLEAR DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE IN DISTRICT 18 RACE via Florida Politics – In the race to replace Patrick Murphy — while the GOP side has a slew of contenders and someone could be forgiven for forgetting one of them — on the D side, there are only two: attorney Jonathan Chane and businessman Randy Perkins. But the Wall Street Journal either thinks so much of Perkins or so little of Chane, it failed to even mention Chane’s presence: “In the 18th District in southern Florida, a seat now held by Murphy, the Democratic Senate candidate, the partisan composition didn’t markedly change. But the GOP is hoping a strong contender will emerge from the current pack to challenge Democrat Randy Perkins, a wealthy businessman capable of self-funding his race.”
PAT NEAL COULD MAKE CFO BID via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Lakewood Ranch developer Neal … was floated to replace CFO Jeff Atwater in 2014 when Atwater was in contention to become president of Florida Atlantic University. The university job didn’t work out and Atwater remains CFO, but he’s halfway through his second and final term. Neal appears to be gearing up for a run at the statewide elected post when Atwater leaves in 2018. Neal has contributed large sums in the last year to a political action committee called Floridians for a Conservative Future, which is spending the money on a high-profile political consultant. That consultant — Meredith O’Rourke — is a top GOP fundraiser who has raised huge sums for Rick Scott and his political committee. Could Neal be trying to lock down one of the state’s leading GOP operatives more than two years before the 2018 election? He won’t say. Neal declined to comment about the PAC. But sources say he is exploring the CFO race. Neal’s business success, financial pedigree, experience in state politics and deep connections as a Republican donor will help him stand out if he decides to seek the CFO job.
ANTI-MEDICAL MARIJUANA CAMPAIGN PREPARES TO RAISE MONEY via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The Drug-Free Florida Committee, a political action committee associated with … Mel Sembler, will begin raising money shortly with hopes to do battle again with … John Morgan‘s United For Care. Sembler … was shooting for $10 million this year, which would be more than the $7 million-plus the group raised in its successful 2014 campaign, which sent United For Care’s medical marijuana amendment to defeat at the polls. Tre’ Evers of Consensus Communications, which is representing Drug-Free Florida Committee, said the fundraising goal will be higher for this campaign if for no other reason than because radio, TV, newspaper, and other advertising costs are much more expensive during a presidential election year. “The fundraising will start pretty quickly here for the “No on 2″ campaign, and our goal certainly will be higher than two years ago,” Evers said. It also may be a tougher sell this year, requiring more campaign money, because presidential elections tend to draw larger and younger electorates.
WHOOPS! FLORIDA LAWMAKERS FORGET TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENT via Noah Pransky of WTSP – Some lawmakers who endorsed candidates in the Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) didn’t vote in that primary … Legislators who didn’t vote in the 2016 PPP include four from Miami-Dade County: Republican Rep. Erik Fresen, Democratic representatives Daphne Campbell and Cynthia Stafford, and Democratic State Senator Gwen Margolis. Representatives Ben Albritton … Halsey Beshears … and Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda … also failed to vote in this year’s presidential primary … he 96 percent voting rate by state lawmakers is much higher than the 90 percent recorded in 2012 when only Republicans went to the polls in the PPP.
HEATHER FITZENHAGEN APOLOGIZES FOR CAMPAIGN EMAIL SNAFU via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Fitzenhagen apologized for a breach of her official House email account after the address was used to send an invitation to a campaign fundraiser … the email was not sent from a state computer on a state account. House staff said it was sent from a third party email. After Fitzenhagen was elected in 2012, she converted an email program used during her campaign into one to keep constituents informed. When that happened, she switched the email address associated with the newsletter to her official state account … Fitzenhagen asked a former campaign worker — who previously had access to the old account — if she would forward an invitation to a fundraiser to some of her contacts. House staff said the woman logged into the program and sent an email blast using the old campaign account. Fitzenhagen said she was unaware the woman still had access to the account and didn’t direct her to use her state email address. Fitzenhagen quickly sent out an apology and told House staff she plans to cancel the event and have it at a different time and location out an abundance of caution.
CITING POTENTIAL DISNEY ‘SMEAR CAMPAIGN,’ SARASOTA ATTORNEY PULLS OUT OF STATE HOUSE RACE via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Sarasota attorney Sara Blackwell has dropped out of the race for a state House seat covering northern Sarasota County … her political campaign has been “hindering” her efforts to “save American jobs.” Blackwell is suing Walt Disney World over the company’s use of visas to bring in foreign workers. Blackwell said in the press release that “I was informed that Walt Disney World would launch a large smear campaign against me which could taint the public’s image of me in the lawsuits.” Additionally, she said some of her legal clients have questioned her “motives” for seeking public office. “Instead of being in office to help the American victims; the American victims are afraid I am using them to help with a political career,” Blackwell wrote. “The terminated American workers are my No. 1 priority.”
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HAPPENING TODAY: State Sen. Jeff Brandes will speak at a meeting of the Downtown St. Pete Republican Club beginning at noon at Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg, 123 Fourth St. South.
HAPPENING TONIGHT: Darryl Rouson will be holding a kickoff fundraiser for his Senate District 19 campaign at the home of Bob Devon Jones and Jim Howell, 1627 Beach Dr. SE. in St. Petersburg. RSVP and more information at 727-459-4562 or VoteRouson@gmail.com.
HAPPENING TONIGHT: A fundraising reception for state Rep. Ross Spano’s House District 59 re-election campaign begins 5:30 p.m. at the Shrimp Boat Grill, 1020 Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico.
***Escape the office this week and enjoy lunch at The Edison! City and state workers receive 15% off lunch on Mondays, and 10% off lunch Tuesday-Friday before 12:30 p.m. Take the lunch break you deserve and make your reservation today.***
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT HALTS ABORTION WAITING PERIOD, FOR NOW via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – The 5-2 decision comes two months after an appeals court allowed the law to go into effect. It was immediately praised by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which is suing on behalf of a Gainesville clinic to block the law. “Women should not suffer this burden while there is an ongoing challenge to this unconstitutional law. Forcing women seeking an abortion to make multiple visits that are medically unnecessary especially burdens poor and working women, and is potentially dangerous,” said Nancy Abudu, legal director of the ACLU of Florida. “This law was about the legislature creating needless burdens to limit a woman’s access to reproductive care.” The ACLU says the Florida Constitution protects the women’s private medical decisions … Scott signed the waiting period into law last year … joining at least 26 other states with similar laws. “We will review it,” said Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz.
NONPROFIT DECRIES POSSIBLE SHUTDOWN OF PRISONER RE-ENTRY PROGRAM via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO – The prospect of the state shutting down a prisoner re-entry program in Broward County has the nonprofit that runs it concerned about what will happen to those who participate in the program when the contract expires May 16. Bridges of America, the nonprofit that runs the work release transition and substance abuse program, sent a letter to the Department of Corrections … saying it was “devastated to learn that the Department will end this critical program in one of the most populated areas of our state and implores the Department to reconsider this drastic decision.” The DOC was short on answers as to why it was not going to reissue the bid for the contract to run the program or what would happen to those in the program. But in a statement, the department said “any speculation or accusation that the Department is reducing its re-entry efforts is inaccurate and misguided. There will be no lapse in the provision of re-entry services.” Bridges has scheduled a news conference in Fort Lauderdale to “decry the Florida Department of Correction’s shutdown order on the longest-running, and one of the most successful” re-entry programs in the state. A lawyer for the company said in the letter that a DOC lawyer told him the department “has recently decided to shut down or otherwise terminate the [re-entry program] as of May 16, 2016.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Community leaders, Bridges of America, and rehabilitated offenders will hold a 10:30 a.m. news conference to decry the Florida Department of Correction’s (DOC) shut down order on the longest-running, and one of the most successful, Work Release Transition/Substance Abuse Transition Re-Entry Programs in the state. Event is at Bridges of America Broward, 5600 NW. Ninth Ave. in Fort Lauderdale.
NEW ON THE INTERWEBS: KeepTheBridgeOpen.com
MORE HEADACHES FOR DOC — PRISON WHISTLEBLOWER DETAILS CLAIMS OF CONTINUED RETALIATION IN COURT DOCUMENTS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – The unprecedented number of investigations gave grounds for the agency to reassign the investigator, Doug Glisson, move his office to what agency staff calls a former broom closet, take away access to his past emails and work files, and then conduct an investigation that lasted months — without interviewing alleged witnesses or verifying many facts. When Glisson, a supervisor who has a 20-year career in law enforcement, protested in a six-page letter to his supervisors, he was subjected to a verbal tirade from Inspector Brian Falstrom so loud and filled with invective that it scared the other office staff who overheard it all. “It was very scary for me,” said Stephanie Land, who worked in the office next to Glisson in the agency’s Office of Internal Audits. “He yelled a lot.” When asked in court if she was in “fear of being retaliated against” because of her testimony, she responded: “A little, yeah.” Glisson is suing the agency, seeking a formal review process in which he alleges his rights have been violated.
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE DRAWING FIRE FROM GUN SUPPORTERS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – The Department of Revenue announced that fingerprinting services, including those done digitally, are subject to the state’s six-percent sales tax. That has drawn the ire of gun advocates and gun show operators who use the services to help people obtain concealed weapons permits. Anyone seeking a permit must submit their fingerprints as part of a criminal background check. Florida currently has more than 1.5 million people with a concealed weapons license. Renee Watters, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the law has been on the books since 1992 and that the agency just sent out a reminder about it. “The department’s administration of this law has not changed,” Watters said in an email response. But other state officials say this isn’t true. They said that the agency has not been requiring those who offer fingerprinting services to collect and pay sales taxes. One state senator got a complaint from a gun show operator who estimated he would wind up paying as much as $100,000 a year due to the tax.
LOST IN TRANSLATION: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO AMENDMENT ONE? via Roger Williams of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly – Although the language of Amendment 1 orders that the monies not be used for other purposes, only about a third of more than $650 million collected this year has been channeled directly into land purchases and water conservation projects defined as strictly Amendment 1 uses. And in the first year of the program, legislators put only about $17.5 million of what could have been more than $200 million into land acquisition — through a program called Florida Forever Land Acquisition — and managed to reinterpret how Amendment 1 should be understood, their critics say … legislators have found ways to divert money away from land acquisitions in large part, the critics say: They’re paying for older land purchases and programs already established on which debt remains; they’re paying for maintenance of equipment and current water systems as well as salaries of managers; they’re paying private landowners not to develop their land — at least not now while they’re being paid not to; and they’re even paying to help Scott satisfy his $700,000 penalty in a lawsuit for violating public records law … The governor took $445,000 out of the Department of Environmental Protection monies to help pay the fine. Meanwhile, environmental conditions are rapidly declining, as last winter’s devastating algal blooms and dirty water both east and west of Lake Okeechobee attest.
RISING NUMBER OF FLORIDA CHILDREN SKIPPING OUT ON SHOTS via The Associated Press – New data sent to the state’s 67 school districts … showed that nearly 93 percent of kindergarten students and 90.6 percent of seventh-graders had their required immunizations this year … the lowest vaccination level in a decade … the department advised that school districts should not admit any students from other states or countries if they don’t have a valid immunization record. Students who move from one county to another in Florida may be given 30 days to provide proper documentation.
WAVE OF BATHROOM BILLS HAS FLORIDA’S TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY WORRIED IT’S NEXT via Anna Phillips of the Tampa Bay Times – In ways large and small, the latest wave of anti-LGBT legislation sweeping through the South is weighing on the minds of transgender people in Florida, many of whom feel they have become a fresh target for social conservatives angered by the legalization of gay marriage. In the spring of 2015, they became fearful when Florida Rep. Frank Artiles … tried to pass a bill that would bar transgender people from using bathrooms that did not match their gender at birth. His efforts failed, but only after the bill passed through two House committees. Later that year, they watched as the same message took on new life in Houston, the first major U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor, where after a yearlong battle voters decided to repeal its broad anti-discrimination ordinance. Opponents of the law warned it would allow men to enter women’s bathrooms, preying on women and girls under the guise of being transgender. Their slogan was simple and effective: “No men in women’s bathrooms.” With each announcement of a new bill, the community’s anxiety has increased. Many worry that Florida lawmakers will feel emboldened by conservatives’ success elsewhere, and will launch renewed efforts to pass similar legislation next year. The community also is experiencing more harassment … seen an increase in discrimination complaints and phone calls from worried parents or students who say they’re being bullied.
FBI TAPES PROVIDE EVIDENCE OF BRIBERY, EXTORTION IN OPA-LOCKA via Michael Sallah and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald – In one of the most compelling public corruption cases in Miami-Dade in years, [Frank] Zambrana taped secret meetings while he paid cash bribes to public officials in City Hall, at remote parking lots and even in a popular nightspot, according to confidential sources. Zambrana is among the lead figures in a grand jury investigation that could result in the indictment of at least a dozen people, including [Commissioner Luis] Santiago and City Manager David Chiverton, on racketeering charges … “I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was that bad,” said Steven Barrett, a former vice mayor who once sued the city over questionable billing practices for water and sewer services. “This city is run like the mob.” So pervasive were the underhanded methods at City Hall that other Opa-Locka business owners outraged over being extorted joined Zambrana and became informants for the FBI … the current FBI probe represents a far more extensive corruption case that touches on nearly every level of government.
PERSONNEL NOTE: DENVER STUTLER TAPPED TO LEAD “FLORIDIANS FOR BETTER TRANSPORTATION” via Florida Politics – The group’s president, Matthew Ubben, made the announcement … Stutler is CEO of Polston Applied Tech and succeeds John Lewis, who formerly headed LYNX, central Florida’s regional transit Agency. Lewis took a similar position in North Carolina. Stutler’s career “includes a unique combination of both public and private service,” Ubben said. He served as Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and as Chief of Staff for former Gov. Jeb Bush. He began work for Bush as Chief of Staff for the Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) after serving on the gubernatorial transition team. Ubben: “I look forward to working closely with Denver and all our transportation partners to promote dedicated transportation funding, support our strategic objectives, and expand our membership base.” FBT advocates for and supports the efforts of the Florida Department of Transportation. “In order to meet Florida’s mobility needs, public and private stakeholders have committed to ensuring a strategic intermodal system to move people and goods into, through and around Florida,” Stutler said.
REAPPOINTED: Aida Bao-Garciga, John Ehrig, and Miguel Rodriguez to the Board of Architecture and Interior Design. James Watson to the Board of Athletic Training. Fran Poppell and Jared Sutherland to the Board of Cosmetology. Byron Shannon and Richard Williams to the Board of Opticianry. Kenneth Todd and Vivian Boza to the Board of Professional Engineers. Donna Howertonto the Central Florida Regional Planning Council. Dr. Thomas Kinchen to the Commission for Independent Education. William “Brian” Cathey to the Construction Industry Licensing Board. Natalia Martinez and Genean McKinnon to the Florida Commission on Community Service (Volunteer Florida). Lorene J. Thomas to the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council. Helga Van Eckert, James “Jimmy” Johns and John Drew to the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council.
IT’S ALWAYS HUNTING SEASON FOR LOBBYISTS via Peter Schorsch for the Tallahassee Democrat – For the hundreds of lobbyists whose professional lives revolve around the 60 days the House and Senate are gaveled into order, this is the so-called offseason. The reality is there are two kinds of lobbyists: on one hand, there are those who think there actually is an offseason; on the other hand, there are successful lobbyists. “The offseason is becoming more rare as we head into longer and longer campaign seasons,” notes Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig. The end of the legislative session is really just the starting bell for a different kind of lobbying: executive branch lobbying. It’s worth remembering that the Legislature and its staff represent a tiny fraction of all the workers in state government; probably less than 1 percent. That means the other 99 percent of state employees are out there applying policy and affecting billions of dollars in private sector interests on a daily basis. The interpretation of legislation sometimes occurs by formal agency rulemaking, but more often than not how legislation plays out in the real world largely depends on the daily informal decisions made by lower-level state officials and the biases they bring to the process. Summer is also the best time to build relationships with legislators outside the pressure-cooker environment of the legislative session. Seeds are planted by visiting legislators in their home districts and as the primaries and general election play out, walking door-to-door for favored candidates. Fortunately, most lobbyists recognize there is life outside of session and the campaign trail.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to St. Petersburg City Councilman Ed Montanari and Corcoran & Johnston’s Amanda Stewart. Celebrating today is Rep. David Richardson, Democratic political consultant Tom Alte, our friend Brian Lowack, Kristen Seidel Lamb, and progressive activist Susan Smith.
SPOTTED at the City of Tampa’s new Fourth Friday on the Riverwalk: Alex Sink, Ashley Bauman, Chris Berg, Kyle Simon, Katherine and Adam Smith, and Ian Whitney.
IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL: DISNEY CRUISE SHIP SNAGS THREE CUBAN FUGITIVES via Megan O’Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – A Disney cruise ship … rescued three people clinging to a capsized boat 40 miles north of Cuba … U.S. officials believe the trio were escaping credit card fraud charges in the United States and fleeing to the Communist-led island. Credit card fraud is one of the more common scams, in which the Florida-based rings clone stolen credit card numbers, encode them onto new cards and then travel the country, buying merchandise and gift cards at big-box retailers. The gift cards are then sold at a discount on the black market for cash.
TAMPA BAY TIMES SELLS ST. PETERSBURG HQ, WILL REMAIN IN BUILDING AS TENANT via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Times Publishing Company, which produces the newspaper … sold its St. Petersburg headquarters to 490 First Avenue Owner LLC, a venture of Convergent Capital Partners and Denholtz Associates. The sale price was $19 million. The newspaper has a 15-year lease and will remain a tenant of the building, occupying nearly half the building. The building will continue to bear the paper’s name. “With this sale, we are able to continue contributing to the vitality of downtown St. Petersburg. We are very pleased that the Times will remain a tenant and maintain its significant presence in the area,” said Times CFO Jana Jones in a statement. “Convergent is excited to make another significant investment in downtown St. Pete. The construction and redevelopment activity is continuing to strengthen the city’s position as a place to live, work and play,” said Santosh Govindaraju, CEO of Convergent Capital Partners.