Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – December 9

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: America’s most famous clown, Emmett Kelly, was born on this day in 1898. Before his retirement to Sarasota, Kelly had established himself as a circus legend who entertained millions with his “Weary Willie” hobo character in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Kelly died of a heart attack at his Sarasota home on March 28, 1979. Ironically, he shared a December 9 birthday with another entertainer who made her reputation as the polar opposite of a clown: Margaret Hamilton, most famously Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

HOW JEB BUSH, MARCO RUBIO, OTHERS FARE IN SOROS-FUNDED LIBERAL GUIDE TO 2016 GOP FIELD via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

American Bridge 21st Century, the liberal super PAC whose biggest donor is George Soros, has released a “scouting report” on potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

It’s a distillation of opposition research on 20 Republicans, including four Floridians — former Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of West Palm Beach and former Arkansas Gov.-turned-Panhandle resident Mike Huckabee.

Rubio’s section includes the headings “Credit Card Scandal,” “Shared Apartment With David Rivera” and “Illegal Campaign Contributions.”

Much of Bush’s career “can be attributed to the Bush family’s political prestige and deep connections to Republican Party donors and influencers,” the report says.

The order in which the candidates are listed isn’t explained, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie comes first, with Rubio sixth, Bush 11th, Huckabee 12th and Carson at number 19. Mitt Romney is listed 20th.

TWEET, TWEET: @gbennettpost: The hair! The clothes! Treasure trove of youthful pics of 2016 GOP contenders in @American_Bridge oppo dump

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HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE MARIA, ERR, I MEAN, MELISSA (SELLERS)? Full story here

For whatever reason, that wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein ditty, “How do you solve a problem like Maria” popped into my head after a lobbyist client wondered aloud how their firm should deal with Melissa Sellers, the hard-charging, 32-year-old, recently-installed Chief of Staff to Florida Governor Rick Scott. My advice to my client is the same I have been giving to all of my other clients, as well as political associates and even some friends who are state employees: Stay off of her radar screen.

And then think of the beautiful hills in “The Sound of Music,” while whistling, “She’s a darling! She’s a demon! She’s a lamb!”

Because, let’s face it, no solving a problem like Melissa.

She’s one week in and she’s got the entire apparatus of state government under her thumb. Actually, as we reported in late August, Sellers has been running Rick Scottworld for a while now. What’s changed — and the changes have been dramatic — is the roster of agency heads and high-level aides, all to bleach out any stain of (in retrospect, nice guy) former Chief of Staff Adam Hollingsworth’s tenure.

Never under the same governor has there been so much turnover (or turmoil) going into the second term. A well-placed source told me last week that there are more than 30 replacement hires that have already been made in the Governor’s Office. The single criterion that qualifies new hires for employment is that they are Friends of Melissa (FoM). The single criterion for selecting people for termination is that they had some sort of relationship, no matter how attenuated, with Hollingsworth.

The only major holdovers are general counsel Peter Antonacci, who is to Scott what Tom Hagen was to Michael Corleone, and Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! guy Gray Swoope. The rest have been subject to a Soviet-style purge. Some people are outright shot. Others are sent to the gulag (the Department of Children and Families) to live out their lives in a warren of cubicles. Geoff Becker is now out there, along with other pariahs like former cabinet affairs director Marc Slager.

Remember, these were people who supported and advanced the agenda of Rick Scott! One has to wonder if some of these supporters would have been better off had Charlie Crist been elected.

… or if Sellers had not left Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s orbit to shore up what was then a fledgling Scott administration/campaign. Sellers’ appointment as COS “complete a rapid rise to prominence that began when Scott hired her to be his chief spokeswoman a little more than two years ago,” notes the Tampa Bay Times Steve Bousquet.

JUDGE ALLOWS NEW COMPLAINT AGAINST GOV. RICK SCOTT ALLEGING HE INTENTIONALLY WITHHELD PUBLIC RECORDS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

A Tallahassee judge opened the door for a new complaint against Gov. Scott that alleges he intentionally withheld public records in violation of state law, a charge that could result in sanctions against the governor after months of delay in the case.

Leon Circuit Court Judge Charles Francis ruled at a hearing in his chambers that Tallahassee attorney Steven R. Andrews may amend his existing public records lawsuit against the governor because the governor turned over 197-pages from Scott’s private Gmail account after he and his attorneys previously told the court the records did not exist.

“It’s a violation of the public records laws to wait 18 months to produce records … and then two years after we request them they suddenly produce emails,’’ Andrews told the court.

Since Andrews filed the complaint against the governor in November 2013, the governor and his lawyers said in legal documents that they could prove the governor had produced all the records. They also claimed that the governor did not use an IPad to conduct public business and used his Gmail account only for private communications.

On Nov. 24, the governor’s office turned over documents that showed dozens of emails from his private account in which the governor discussed vetoing legislation, health care policy, university tuition, school testing, luring companies to Florida, choosing a lieutenant governor replacement, and other sensitive issues using his Gmail account and via an I-pad.

The documents show that the governor’s claims — that he could prove he turned over all relevant records as part of Andrew’s public records request — were wrong.

“We now we know they can’t prove that,” Andrews said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Ag. Commissioner Adam Putnam will present Gov. Scott, Attorney General Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Atwater with Florida-grown Christmas trees at 8:30 a.m. outside of the Executive Office of the Governor, Plaza Level of the Florida Capitol.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: CFO Jeff Atwater joins Gov. Scott, Ag. Commissioner Putnam and AG Bondi, Florida firefighters and families of fallen firefighters, for groundbreaking of the Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial. 9 a.m. in the Florida Capitol Courtyard.

. Sessions involve matters such as protocol, rules, ethics and legal requirements as well as the committee process.

SHOULD AMENDMENT 1 MONEY TO GO LEAKY PIPES? ENVIROS SAY NO via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Environmentalists are wary of early reaction by legislative leaders to the water and land conservation amendment, overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters last month including 85 percent of those in Palm Beach County.

The measure would set aside one-third of the state’s existing real estate transaction tax, raising millions of dollars for such conservation programs as Everglades restoration, Florida Forever land purchases and freshwater springs protection.

But lawmakers also seem to be eyeing to make a broader menu of projects eligible for the amendment’s more than $600 million in first-year cash.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said city water and sewer projects – basic repair, maintenance and expansion work that lawmakers spent $88.5 million on this year – could be among those aided by the Water and Land Legacy campaign dollars.

“It fits into the purview of the intent of the amendment, it certainly does,” Crisafulli said.

Although environmentalists and their attorneys drafted the ballot measure, Crisafulli pointed out, “Now it’s up to us to interpret the intent.”

That reality worries some in Florida’s conservation community.

HOUSE SPEAKER ANNOUNCES COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

The Florida House published its new list of committee chairs and members.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said the chairs “represent every region of our state” and will bring “fresh ideas and common-sense solutions to government.”

“Our committee and subcommittee chairs will lead the House with a strong focus on jobs and our economy,” Crisafulli wrote in a statement. “Our state is in recovery and whether it is through education, healthcare, the environment, or public safety, a strong Florida means better jobs and a better environment for our citizens to prosper.”

READ HERE WITHOUT DOWNLOADING: House committee assignments for 2015-16

SMART TWEET, TWEET: @DannyBurgessFL: Looking forward to serving my constituents on the following committees… pic.twitter.com/vE9bg3rABe

TWEET, TWEET: @DaneEagle: Honored, humbled, grateful to be named Chairman of Energy&Utilities Subcommittee by Speaker @SteveCrisafulli. Ready to get to work!

TWEET, TWEET: @JimmieTSmith: I am honored to have been appointed as Chairman of the Veteran & Military Affairs Subcommittee. Looking forward to supporting our veterans!

TWEET, TWEET: @RepMannyDiazJr: I am honored to be appointed as Chair of Choice & Innovation subcommittee in @MyFLHouse, Thx 2 @SteveCrisafulli for his confidence in me.

REGARDING INCOMING FLORIDA HOUSE REPUBLICANS, REPORTER KATHLEEN MCGRORY MAY NEED A REFRESHER ON THE DEFINITION OF “DIVERSE” Full story here

The incoming class of Florida House Republicans deserves recognition for, as the Miami Herald‘s Kathleen McGrory notes, not fitting the national GOP stereotype.

But to label the freshmen GOP as “diverse,” as McGrory did, is beyond a stretch.

“New Republican lawmakers reflect Florida’s diversity,” reads the headline of McGrory’s piece in the Herald. This assessment is based on the fact that four of the 19 new members are Hispanic. That’s in line with the latest Census figures about Florida’s population.

But that’s where the reflection of Florida’s diversity ends.

Only two of the 19 incoming lawmakers are women (51 percent of Florida’s population is female).

Only one of the 19 incoming lawmakers is black (17 percent of Florida’s population is black).

In other words, the incoming class of Republican legislators, pictured to the right, is as white as Wonder Bread.

EMAIL ‘ATTABOY’ MAY POINT TO ILLEGAL WORK BY REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Hundreds of pages of documents ordered made public by the Florida Supreme Court in the state’s redistricting fight now include an email congratulations to a top Tallahassee consultant from a national Republican Party official.

Tom Hofeller, a Republican National Committee consultant who also works for the party’s congressional campaign committee, sent an April 2012 email to Rich Heffley, a Florida GOP consultant praising his work on redrawing state Senate district boundaries.

“Congratulations on guiding the Senate through the thicket,” Hofeller wrote in the document released by justices.

Heffley responded, “Thanks. Big win.”

The email goes on to underscore the advantage the new Senate map maintained for the Republican Party over the Democratic Party.

But Heffley’s role “guiding the Senate” violated the Florida Constitution, according to the state’s League of Women Voters and other groups suing the Legislature over its redrawing of political boundaries two years ago.

Voters groups told the court in new filings that the Heffley email and “atta-boy” he received for work on the Senate map — which opponents also plan to challenge — supports their case that “the same collusion occurred with the congressional redistricting plan.”

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersblog: So consultant Rich Heffley did in the redistricting process what he’s always done: Win for his clients. What’s the problem w/ that?

BILL FILED TO REPEAL DUKE ENERGY’S NUCLEAR ADVANCE FEE AND FORCE REFUNDS via Ivan Penn of the Tampa Bay Times

A bipartisan pair of Tampa Bay area lawmakers have filed legislation to repeal the nuclear plant construction advance fee and to require Duke Energy Florida to refund billions it has collected for failed nuclear projects.

Rep. Amanda Murphy and newly elected Rep. Chris Latvala are making good on campaign pledges to take action against Duke for money the utility has collected from its 1.7 million customers without delivering any electricity for it.

State lawmakers created the Nuclear Cost Recovery Clause or so-called nuclear advance fee in 2006 as a way to hasten construction of new nuclear plants.

Duke proposed to build two new reactors in Levy County but canceled the project last year as natural gas prices plummeted, making nuclear a more costly alternative.

The Tampa Bay Times detailed in a report how a natural gas plant would be less costly than the Levy project under virtually any scenario.

Even so, Duke spent $1.5 billion of ratepayer money through the advance fee for planning and development of the project, including $150 million it pocketed. In addition, Duke used the advance fee to bolster power at the now shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant, but that money also was lost in a botched upgrade of the plant.

With advance fees and other spending on the two projects, customers are paying Duke about $3.2 billion without receiving a single kilowatt for the money from Levy or Crystal River.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY – DUKE ENERGY’S NEW HIRE HAS HIS WORK CUT OUT TO REHAB THE COMPANY IMAGE via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

Could there be a bigger political pariah in corporate Florida than Duke Energy?

I bring this up now because I notice Duke, largest power company in the country — the one whose aggressive inertia probably did more to threaten Gov. Scott’s re-election than the Florida Democratic Party — has hired Selim Bingol as its new senior vice president.

I have high hopes for this new exec.

Bingol will direct Duke Energy’s communications strategy and services, “such as internal and external communications support for business units, media relations, and executive communications,” a PRWeek story explains. He will report directly to Jennifer Weber, executive vice president of external affairs and strategic policy.  And he’s expected to have some visibility in Florida.

Bingol stepped down as General Motors’ senior vice president of global communications and public policy in April. He had overseen the automaker’s corporate, global products, and brand communications and its federal, state, and international government relations and public policy work. He was also chair of the GM Foundation. Bingol has a reputation as something of a makeover guru. A Mr. Fix-It, I hear tell. He’s been to such corporations as GM and ATT&T what Stanley Kubrick was to Hollywood.

I hope I’m right, because in Florida, Bingol will need all his magic — everything he can pull out of his hat — to prove Duke Energy can be a good citizen and actually has some respect for ratepayers.

He can begin by waking up Jennifer Weber and the Duke board to just how badly the company bungled its foray into the Sunshine State.

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THREE LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS ENDORSE TRAVIS HUTSON IN SD 6 SPECIAL ELECTION Full story here

Citing his conservative record, State Rep. Travis Hutson received endorsements today from three prominent local elected officials in the Senate District 6 special election.

Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson have each thrown their weight behind the Elkton Republican in the GOP primary set for January 27.

“I believe Travis would be an excellent addition to the Florida Senate,” Larizza said in a statement. “He is a dedicated, fiscally-responsible Conservative Republican, and I believe he would work tirelessly in Tallahassee to protect and defend our constitution.”

Johnson added that Hutson is a Republican leader concerned for all citizens of his district.

“He cares about the well-being of the First Coast, and the people in it,” he said. “I know he will work to protect their rights and make sure they are heard.”

Shoar noted that Hutson would focus on growing the job base, improving the education system and reducing government spending and waste.

“Northeast Florida needs Travis and his Conservative values fighting for us in the Senate,” he said.

JOE GRUTERS AIMS FOR STATE GOP POST via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Sarasota Republican Party chair Joe Gruters is once again trying to increase his influence in state Republican politics.

Gruters has announced he is running to become vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida. Gruters said he wants to be able to contribute more to helping a Republican candidate win the 2016 presidential race in Florida.

It won’t be Gruters’ first bid at a state party post. In 2011, Gruters lost a vote to become chair of the party.

Gruters was initially considered a potential candidate to run for chair again in 2015, but Gov. Rick Scott last month strongly endorsed Clay County Republican Leslie Dougher for that post instead.

Because of Scott’s endorsement, Gruters opted instead to run for the second-highest ranking post in the party. Gruters has been the Sarasota GOP chair since 2009.

GOP activist will meet in January to set their slate of leaders.

DUVAL COUNTY GOP SHAKEUP: RICK HARTLEY AND KIM CRENIER STAND DOWN – WHY NOW? via A.G. Gancarski for SaintPetersBlog

The last two weeks have seen seismic change in the Duval County GOP. In the wake of Duval County Republican Party Secretary Kim Crenier’s explosive tweets on her personal account on the Ferguson verdict and aftermath, with one of them ending up crossposted on the @JaxGOP Twitter account, two Republican Party Officers have decided to stand down instead of seek reelection.

The first one to stand down, logically, was Crenier herself. Embattled with calls for her resignation from everyone from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to Republican Mayoral Candidate and former City Council President Bill Bishop, who told this reporter that her comments were “deplorable” and did not reflect the Republican Party as he knew it, Crenier maintained that she would stay in her position for days after the scandal broke, with national news coverage and protests at GOP headquarters not moving her.

This changed last week. Crenier went on a local radio show and announced her intention not to run for reelection. According to the Times-Union, Crenier said that critics had “been calling for my head and calling for me to step down,” she said. “[Local party chair Rick Hartley] doesn’t need to fire me. My term has expired. Leave Rick Hartley alone.”

She said she was leaving because she didn’t want to be a “distraction.” And she wasn’t the only one exiting the official Party hierarchy.

The Times-Union reported that Duval County Republican Party Chairman Rick Hartley likewise would be standing down. Hartley, who maladroitly handled the Crenier scandal, insists that he’s not standing down because of the controversial Tweets (which he told this reporter would not be cause for his or her resignation from the Party hierarchy). Robin Lumb, current City Councilman and Hartley’s endorsed successor, told the T-U that the resignation “does not have anything to do with any of the recent dust up over the twitter messages.”

That said, the forces demanding change in the party hierarchy because of the insensitivity of Crenier’s tweets have gotten what they wanted, with the departure of both the GOP Secretary and the Chair who attempted to protect her identity from being exposed to the public, saying to this reporter that “we’ve asked her not to talk to media because she would get emotional,” Hartley told me. “It’s better that she be disconnected.”

In about a week, neither Hartley nor Crenier have to worry about media outreach again.

“NAKED CITY” JACKSONVILLE ART EXHIBIT MOBILIZES SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE POLITICIANS via A.G. Gancarski for SaintPetersBlog

Jacksonville is a city that has changed drastically in many ways over the last quarter century, with the influx of new corporate capital and the migration patterns that begets making the city more liberal on many issues. Despite this, some things remain the same. One of which is that socially conservative politicians, and the arguments they make about culture, still carry some weight.

A recent example of such happened in November, when City Council President Clay Yarborough emailed the mayor’s chief of staff, Chris Hand, complaining about an item in an exhibit of Angela Strassheim’s photographs in the atrium of Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The portrait he objected to – “Janine (Eight Months Pregnant)” – depicted a nude woman, reclining on her couch in front of an open window.

Council President Yarborough’s email described a “large picture” of a “woman with bare breasts exposed and lying in a questionable position” as an “inappropriate, pornographic display.” He demanded that the mayor pull the funding from MOCA for the current fiscal year or “explain how this will be addressed within 24 hours.”

Hand bounced the question to the city’s legal counsel, who explained that case law prohibited rescinding of funding for the museum and that the city had no jurisdiction to remove the work, even if it offended community members. A week later, Mayor Alvin Brown reiterated that position on official letterhead, claiming that the action Yarborough sought “would likely violate First Amendment rights and could subject the city to injunctive action and financial sanctions.”

This happened one day before local activists mounted a protest of Yarborough’s attempted censorship at the monthly Art Walk downtown, a protest that included a rally and protest on the steps of City Hall and a support demonstration at MOCA. A couple of hundred people were in attendance, and emotions ran high, with people chanting, regarding funding, to “double it.” The city’s Cultural Council, meanwhile, sent out an email blast decrying Yarborough’s stance on the offensive art, “defending the artistic and curatorial choices” of Cultural Council grantees.

A happy ending for arts partisans in Duval County? Not quite. At least one city councilman, Robin Lumb, took issue with the email overstepping the Council’s boundaries, and linking to an editorial in Folio Weekly, a local publication for which I have written a column for over a decade.

FLORIDA UNIVERSITIES’ BIGGEST SPORTS DONORS? STUDENTS Full story here

A records analysis by The Associated Press shows UCF and seven other public universities in Florida with NCAA-sanctioned teams get between 36 percent and 75 percent of their athletic funding from student athletic fees, which are among the highest in the nation. Furthermore, those fees have grown 31 percent over the past five years.

The only outliers are the state’s marquee programs, the University of Florida, which gets only 2.2 percent of revenue from fees, and Florida State University, which gets 14.5 percent from fees. Both play in conferences with monster TV contracts for football and basketball and have large football stadiums that are usually packed.

School officials say the fees are needed to fund competitive sports programs, which make universities more attractive to prospective students. However, experts say the fees, which began as a way of ensuring equal athletic opportunities for men and women, have morphed into a way to keep athletic departments solvent as they compete for revenue elsewhere.

In Florida, student athletic fees are collected on a per-credit basis. Increases must be approved by a committee, with half the members being students. With the exception of UF and FSU, those fees typically range between $350 and $480 per academic year.

In 2009, Florida schools collected more than $76 million in athletic fee revenue; that increased to nearly $100 million for the fiscal year that ended in June 2013, the most recent year reported to the NCAA and Department of Education.

The extra money has allowed for recognizable growth and on-field success in some cases. One of the most notable examples is UCF’s football team – which moved to the NCAA’s top division in 1996. That move helped UCF attract private donations to build an on-campus football stadium, which Florida Atlantic and Florida International have also done recently. Last year, the Knights won the Fiesta Bowl and finished with a Top 10 national ranking for the first time.

But those successes are largely the exception, and it hasn’t stopped student subsidies from increasing statewide. At UCF, nearly half of its $41 million in sports revenues came out of students’ pockets in 2013. In return, the students get free entry to every UCF athletic event. Those subsidies are unlikely to end anytime soon, said UCF athletic director Todd Stansbury.

UBER EXPANDS THROUGHOUT FLORIDA, STILL FACES LEGAL BATTLES IN SOUTH FLORIDA via Kenny Malone of WGCU

From Pensacola to Key West, the ride-sharing company Uber announced that its app-based service — specifically its lower cost “uberX” service — will now be available in dozens of new locations around Florida including Naples, Sarasota, Fort Myers and the Florida Keys.

“Now we’re nearly everywhere in Florida,” an announcement claimed on the company’s blog. “As of today, over 82 percent of Floridians have access to Uber!”

Uber often faces an uphill legal battle when moving into a new market. Broward County has made headlines recently with its hard line against Uber and its competitor Lyft. Commissioners warned that drivers’ cars will be impounded if they continue to operate in the county.

The company has yet to claim Fort Lauderdale among its Uber-ized cities. Its website does, however, list Miami even though an effort to reform taxi laws and legalize the Uber business model has stalled in Miami-Dade County.

APPOINTED: Maureen Canada and Sheela VanHoose to the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners.

***This year the Florida Smart Justice Alliance is hosting their 4th Annual Smart Justice Summit on January 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. Over 300 policymakers are expected including state legislators, judges, sheriffs, police chiefs, state’s attorneys, public defenders, county correctional officers, probation & parole, DCF/DJJ/DOC employees, behavioral healthcare providers, policy experts, and others on panels discussing  successful evidence-based practices in the criminal justice arena. The goal is to maintain public safety while insuring that taxpayers get the best bang for the dollar. Keynote Speaker – Bexar Co., TX Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, first female sheriff for San Antonio. To get a 10% savings on registration click here.***

CONTEXT FLORIDA: ROLLING STONE, MELISSA SELLERS, MARCO RUBIO, SOUTHERN DEMS AND GROWLERS

On Context Florida: Rolling Stone Magazine alleged a gang rape at the University of Virginia and now doubts its own report. David Swanson says he has no knowledge of the matter, but he believes victims need to understand that they are not to blame, that their community supports them, and that those responsible are sorry for what they have done. Peter Schorsch says it is time for Melissa Sellers, Gov. Rick Scott’s new chief of staff to turn on the charm. Marco Rubio is at it again, writes Daniel Tilson. In writing and speechifying about our ever-worsening American income inequality crisis, Rubio remains incredibly lacking in credibility, and profoundly unworthy of the “working class hero” status he desperately seeks. With the loss of Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana’s run-off election last weekend, Southern Democrats have just about gone extinct. As a Southern liberal, Adam Weinsteinsays, “Good. America will be better off without them in the long run.” For several years, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association has supported lifting the restriction on 64-ounce growlers. But as most observers know, the Association originally tied its support to the larger discussion of direct brewer to consumer sales. That was then, writes Florida Beer Wholesalers Association Executive Director Mitch Rubin. And this is now.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

FORMER ACTION NEWS ANCHOR TO OPEN MAPLE STREET BISCUIT CO. LOCATION IN ST. AUGUSTINE via Roger Bull of the Florida Times-Union

Maple Street Biscuit Co. continues to expand. It addition to an opening planned in north St. Johns County next month, restaurants are in the works for Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine. No locations have been chosen yet, but the company has partners lined up to invest in and run the new restaurants.

Michael and Morgan Burden will open in Fernandina Beach.

In St. Augustine, it will be husband and wife Bryan Baker and Lynnsey Gardner,

Gardner was a morning anchor on Action News in Jacksonville until she and four others were let go earlier this year. Baker was a reporter for Action News until he left last January. Baker, who’s been working in the Murray Hill store for two months, will run it while Gardner will be active in the store but is still looking at other options.

Baker said he was looking for a new career after leaving TV news and considered teaching. But he got to know the people running the Jacksonville Beach restaurant, started talking to Moore and now he’s going into the biscuit business.

“The food and atmosphere are unique,” he said. “There’s a Southern family feel and I like how positive everyone is.

“That’s why I got out of news, it’s all negative.”

JAMEIS WINSTON NOT A HEISMAN FINALIST THIS YEAR via Kareem Copeland of the Associated Press

Reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston is not a finalist for this year’s award.

When the Heisman trust announced the finalists, the Florida State quarterback’s name was not called. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama receiver Amari Cooper are the candidates heading to New York.

So Winston will not join former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only players to win the Heisman Trophy twice.

Winston’s omission from group of finalists wasn’t a total surprise as voters may have been put off by his off-field distractions.

The Heisman Trust mission statement says, “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

Winston’s “off-field stuff” includes completing a university hearing last week to determine whether he violated any or all of four sections of the student code of conduct: two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment stemming from a sexual assault allegation.

Winston’s off-field reputation, however, has resulted in him being linked to several reports of wrongdoing, though many haven’t been proven. There were reports indicating Winston may have been involved in a point-shaving scheme and or selling autographs during the season, though no legal action was taken against Winston. He was also criticized after he pushed an official during a game, but was not flagged or reprimanded by the ACC.

On the field, Winston has done nothing but win.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Beth Lerner and, my man, Richard Reeves.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.