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.
HELLO, SPRING! ISN’T IT TIME WE START PAYING ATTENTION TO FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE RACE?
I can’t imagine that when The Associated Press hired Sergio Bustos away from the Miami Herald to serve as a politics reporters for its Miami bureau that the AP envisioned both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio being out of the presidential race before the first day of spring. The same can probably be said of the POLITICO editors who hired Marc Caputo. Of course, there are a thousand stories in the naked state of Florida, but the hiring of Bustos and Caputo and the newfound attention given to Floridicos (see what I did there: Floridians + politicos = Floridicos) like Ana Navarro was based, in part, on the possibility that the Biltmore Hotel would be the Southern White House.
Well, the best laid plans of mice and men did not work out and now we are left with an election cycle sans Jeb or Marco. What are we to do?
How about start paying attention to the race to replace Rubio?
On the Democratic side, with Patrick Murphy pitted against Alan Grayson, there is a Sunshine State version of Hillary vs. Bernie. It’s the establishment, moderate wing of the Democratic party versus the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
On the Republican side, it’s a five-way scrum that not only involves every facet of the Republican Party, but also almost every major Floridico political consultant. Carlos Beruff is essentially the 2016 version of the Rick Scott campaign; Congressman Ron DeSantis has the Jamestown crew and former RPOF executive director Brad Herold; U.S. Rep. David Jolly has Pat Bainter, Sarah Bascom, Adam Goodman, and Marc Reichelderfer; LG Carlos Lopez-Cantera has Rick Wilson; Todd Wilcox has Brian Hughes.
Looking for entertainment: Make a box of popcorn, sit back and watch some of those operatives’ Twitter feeds for their broadsides against each other and their candidates’ opponents.
Unfortunately, other than those on the campaigns’ payrolls, there isn’t much interest in the GOP primary. A recent survey from the Washington Post showed that none of the five Republican candidates received more than 6% support among GOP primary voters. The only answer doing better in the polls than Donald Trump is “Undecided.”
The race really should be DeSantis’ to lose. He is the leading fundraiser and he is the top choice of the organized grassroots crowd. He’s an attractive candidate with a polished resume. Yet he’s rarely, if ever, led in a poll.
Instead it’s been Jolly who has led in most polls. But the Pinellas Republican appears almost allergic to traditional campaigning. Despite the support of big-name donors like Mike Fernandez, he’s raised less money for his Senate campaign than what several state Senate candidates have raised for their district-wide races. Instead of debating the four other Republicans he must get past for his party’s nomination, Jolly has agreed to a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates against Grayson.
Still, Jolly is, at this stage, the de facto frontrunner, which is more than you can say for Lopez-Cantera. CLC has a big fundraiser this week in D.C. and he’s been endorsed by Pam Bondi and a slew of his former colleagues in the Legislature. But Manatee homebuilder Carlos Beruff‘s entrance into the race — backed by much of the same campaign team that worked on Rick Scott‘s gubernatorial campaigns — is a demoralizing blow for the loyal LG.
There remain at least two unknowns in the GOP primary, one a known-unknown, the other an unknown-unknown. The former is Wilcox, the combat vet and successful businessman, is nowhere to be found in the early polls, but he has the kind of personal story — and personal resources — that could catch fire on the campaign trail, especially during this kind of anti-establishment election cycle. The unknown-unknown looming over the Republican primary is Francis Rooney. As Florida Politics first reported in January, the former ambassador to the Holy See and major donor to the Bush family, has quietly been testing the waters for a potential run. But the sources who first clued FP to Rooney’s interest in running say he’s not much closer to making a decision.
As for the rumors that former presidential candidate Ben Carson might join the race, that’s simply wishful thinking for the scummy direct mail vendors who have made a small fortune from the fundraising racket they’ve built around the neurosurgeon’s appeal.
Normally a race for an open U.S. Senate seat would attract national interest, yet Florida’s has so far not generated much chatter among the Morning Joe crowd. But with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio back at home, it’s time to start paying attention to the best show left on the air.
DAVID JOLLY, TODD WILCOX TRADE JABS OVER “INSIDER” POLITICIAN CLAIMS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Jolly tried to ignite a mini-Twitter feud with Wilcox over who is the insider candidate in an election year that has so far been defined by who is the outsider candidate. Jolly started the skirmish accusing Wilcox of lifting parts of GOP presidential candidate John Kasich‘s budget plan and adopting it as his own. In a series of tweets, Jolly says Wilcox cannot take and “insiders” budget plan and call it an outsider plan: “Just read @ToddWilcox2016 “new” budget plan. Nice copy and paste job from @JohnKasich” Wilcox, a businessman, fired back, making sure to note that Jolly is a Congressman and a “Washington Politician” and even includes a little dig on being a K-Street insider: “Typical response from a Washington politician who has no plan and has been a part of the problem for two decades.”
JOLLY, WILCOX CLASH EARLY, OFTEN DURING TIGER BAY DEBATE IN TAMPA via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Wilcox was the early aggressor against Jolly in the first one-on-one encounter between the two aspiring Florida Republicans for the U.S. Senate, but Jolly more than held his own in a spirited debate at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club. Saying it was a contrast between one who represents the status quo and a candidate who represents a return to citizen voting, Wilcox labeled Jolly a “political insider, a career politician. Somebody who used the revolving door from K Street to Capitol Hill” … “Not sure that was the tone I expected you to start the day with,” Jolly riposted. “I was hoping to focus on the qualifications we both bring.” For Jolly, that meant showing off his expertise in Congress. Throughout the debate, he displayed a thorough command on the issues, and emphasized that he’s a conservative who gets results, not a bomb thrower who simply offers red meat to the base but ultimately doesn’t deliver. Wilcox repeatedly hammered home an anti-Washington message, seemingly the dominant mood among Republicans who are weary of “establishment” politics in 2016. Wilcox repeated that the Founding Fathers wanted a citizens-led government, not “aspirational politicians” to pad their pockets. Both men at times tossed off acronyms to demonstrate their knowledge. For Jolly it was on government procedures, for Wilcox it was business terms.
AMID ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT WAVE, PATRICK MURPHY TOUTS DC ENDORSEMENTS via Isadora Rangel of TC Palm – Despite the anti-establishment wave that led to the surge of Trump and Sanders, Murphy has made support from Washington, D.C., one of his campaign strategies in his Senate bid. Murphy’s campaign rolled out the endorsement of 46 Democratic U.S. House members … putting his total number of endorsements at 143, including President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Former Gov. Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator, is scheduled to make an announcement — potentially an endorsement … “He’s digging deeper and deeper in establishing himself as the establishment candidate,” said Murphy’s primary opponent Alan Grayson … While there’s debate on whether endorsements influence voters, some of Murphy’s supporters, such as Graham, are popular among Democrats and might swing some voters, said Jim Ferraro, a Miami trial lawyer and big Democratic donor who’s supporting Murphy. “I don’t think (an endorsement) affects the masses,” Ferraro said. “(But) if you’re a voter who always liked Bob Graham and Bob Graham endorses Patrick Murphy, you’re going to feel good.”
U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Grayson and the Communications Workers of America will make a campaign announcement at 11 a.m. at The Plaza Historic Beach Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach.
FIRST IN SUNBURN — MATT GAETZ TO ANNOUNCE CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN TODAY – The state Representative from Fort Walton Beach will announce this morning that he will run for Florida’s 1st Congressional District following the decision of Jeff Miller to forgo re-election. “When Donald Trump is President, Northwest Florida’s voice in Congress must ring loud and clear for bold, conservative reform. Mine will. … I’m ready to fight and win for Northwest Florida in Congress,” Gaetz will say, according to a first-look at the news release announcing his candidacy.
STAFFER FOR CORRINE BROWN ALSO WORKS WITH JTA, RAISING CONFLICT OF INTEREST QUESTIONS via Steve Patterson, Christopher Hong and Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union – Von Alexander is Brown’s community development director, a job that pays about $25,000 yearly and offers health and retirement benefits. At the same time, she has been a JTA subcontractor whose work regularly involves communicating with Brown’s office. JTA officials say Alexander performed community outreach and “provided credibility with our customer base” during sensitive undertakings like overhauling the city’s bus routes and adjusting senior-citizen fares. But thousands of pages of public records, including emails, contracts and invoices, show that Alexander was also essentially a go-between with Brown’s office. Alexander’s arrangement “definitely appears to be a conflict,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group. The conflict-of-interest policy “basically bans anyone like Von Alexander who is working for a congressional office to help someone get in front of … Congress,” he said. ”It’s important they follow the spirt of the regulation as well as the letter of the law.”
MY TAKE: WHEN WILL RICK BAKER TAKE THE SHOT? via Florida Politics – Charlie Crist is in Baker‘s sights, but when will the former mayor take the shot? That’s the question on many politicos’ minds in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Like Iceman in “Top Gun,” Baker appears to have his target lined up, but just “can’t get the angle.” There’s little doubt in my mind that Baker will eventually run in CD 13. Not that the former St. Petersburg mayor is telling me much. He knows that my wife and I are close to Crist and so we’ve both agreed that when it comes to this race, I’m definitely not going to be on the inside. Under any other circumstances, I’d be urging Baker to run, run, run, but in this race I am conflicted. That said, I speak with Baker enough, as well as those close to him, to know that he’s eager to run. More important, I believe Baker will run for Congress against Crist because he can’t run in 2017 against current St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, which I believe is what Baker would really like to do. So when does Baker take the damn shot? There would be no better time for Baker to announce than right after the first fundraising quarter ends March 31. But here are a couple of considerations that may be forcing Baker to switch to guns … Baker should look at what happened to his friend Jeb Bush on the presidential trail as a cautionary tale … Bush was not ready. Baker better be … The question will be what kind of support Baker receives AFTER he’s an official candidate. And what kind of support will he receive in October and November? To be honest, this is the blindside of Baker’s political intelligence – the side that led him to endorse Herman Cain for president in 2012. He’s just too darn optimistic. Yet the biggest question mark for Crist and Baker has nothing to do with either man: It’s who will be at the top of the ticket for the Democrats and Republicans. What does Baker do with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket? House Democrats are staking much of their campaign strategy on the belief that Trump would repel female and minority voters, … and help [Ds] begin to dig out from deep in the House minority. Baker, the pragmatic, principled conservative faces a hard decision about how close he wants to stand next to Trump. For his part, Crist is almost sanguine about a possible Baker candidacy. “I think anybody who wants to run should run,” he said. “That’s what democracy is all about. And so we’ll see how that plays out.” In other words, take the shot Iceman or, as Maverick said, get the hell out of there.
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HOUSE MEMBERS EYE TOM LEE’S SENATE SEAT via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Lee … is again talking about not running for re-election in the new district he’d have to move to under the newly redrawn Senate districts. That would open up District 20, which covers the corners of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties, and likely draw attention from several state House members. The district leans GOP and has a majority of its voters in Hillsborough, so those most being talked about are Republican Reps. Shawn Harrison … Dan Raulerson and Ross Spano … all of whom live in or very near the district. Harrison and Raulerson said they could be interested if the opportunity arose; Spano, who Lee said has talked to potential backers, couldn’t be reached.
WITH SESSION OVER, JEFF BRANDES PLANS ‘BREWS WITH BRANDES’ EVENT via Florida Politics — The St. Petersburg Republican invites friends and supporters to enjoy his latest “Brews with Brandes” Wednesday, March 30, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Green Bench Brewing Company, 1133 Baum Avenue. Billed as a relaxing evening with the senator, the fundraising reception will feature food and discounts on several Green Bench craft beers.
DEMOCRAT JUMPS IN RACE FOR NANCY DETERT’S SENATE SEAT via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Frank Cirillo may be young, he may not have deep connections in Sarasota County or any campaign experience beyond some volunteer work, but the University of South Florida senior says he expects to run a competitive race for the state Senate seat being vacated by Venice Republican Detert. The 21-year-old Democrat filed for the race earlier this month. He already has a website and more than $1,000 in donations but won’t start campaigning full time until he graduates in May and moves to Sarasota, a community where he attended elementary school for five years and where his mother lives. “Obviously people are going to be very skeptical of the fact that I’m so young, but I feel like I have a good handle on the practical side of state policy,” said Cirillo, noting he spent part of his freshman year of college in Tallahassee interning for the Florida Senate. Cirillo, who is double-majoring in economics and political science, is not plugged in with Sarasota County Democrats, but he is starting to make the rounds.
GARRETT RICHTER ENDORSES KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO FOR HIS SEAT via Arek Sarkissian of Political Fix Florida – Richter announced his endorsement of Passidomo in her bid for his Senate seat … So far, Passidomo and Rep. Matt Hudson – both Naples Republicans – are vying for Richter’s seat. Richter said he has known Passidomo for years and worked with her on many legislative projects. “She has been a great colleague of mine in the Legislature … She and I share similar values and priorities … She will be a fine senator and I look forward to helping her with the race.”
GREGORY MACKAY RUNS FOR DEBBIE MAYFIELD’S OPEN FLORIDA HOUSE SEAT via TC Palm –Vero Beach gastroenterologist Mackay has launched a bid to represent Florida House District 54. Mackay is board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology and is affiliated with Indian River Medical Center. He received his medical degree in 1985 from Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania and performed his medical training at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. In 2011, Mackay was named a Health Care Hero for community outreach by Treasure Coast Newspapers and Treasure Coast Business Journal.
SAVE THE DATE: Republican MaryLynn Magar is holding a fundraising reception Thursday, March 31, for her re-election campaign to House District 82. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at J.J. Taylor Companies, Inc., 655 A1A in Jupiter. RSVP at info@MaryLynnMagar.com or Rosemary_Jones@JJTaylor.com.
FOURTH REPUBLICAN FILES IN GOP-HEAVY HD 54 via Florida Politics — Gregory Mackay [is] joining fellow Republicans Lange Sykes, Erin Grall and Dale Glading in the race for the Indian River County seat. Mackay will have some catching up to do, and since he’s running against three other Republicans, he’ll only have five months to do it.
CONTRACTORS GROUP ENDORSES HD 60 GOP CANDIDATE REBECCA SMITH via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics –Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Florida Gulf Coast Chapter is endorsing Smith for the House District 60 seat in Hillsborough County. “Today, we are pleased to offer our endorsement of Rebecca Smith to become the District 60 Representative to the Florida State Legislature,” said Steve P. Cona III, president and CEO of the group. “Rebecca has been a long-standing business leader in the Tampa area for more than three decades. The success of her construction management company, A.D. Morgan Corporation, demonstrates her understanding of the importance of the construction industry in Florida and the jobs that are created by our industry.” Smith is founder and president of A.D. Morgan Corp. in Tampa, which she founded in 1989. She’s also on the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, and announced her candidacy two weeks ago.
SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Holly Raschein is holding a kickoff party Wednesday, March 30, for her re-election to House District 120. Hosted by Tolley & Hill, PLLC, the event begins 5:30 p.m. at 102411 Overseas Hwy. in Key Largo.
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— EPILOGUE —
JEB BUSH KEPT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AFLOAT WITH PERSONAL LOAN via The Associated Press –Bush kept his struggling presidential campaign afloat with a $250,000 personal loan — barely enough to keep the campaign from plunging into debt … the former Florida governor raised about $1 million in February, which was to be his final month as a Republican candidate … his campaign wrapped up with $13,127 more in cash than debts.
DEBRIEFING MIKE MURPHY via Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard – Murphy, one of the most storied and furiously quick-witted political consultants of the last three decades, has lately been cast as the Titanic skipper who steered Jeb’s nine-figure colossus smack into an iceberg. That donor loot helped buy Jeb all of four delegates before he dropped from the race, returning to a quiet life of low-energy contemplation. The Los Angeles Times called Right to Rise “one of the most expensive failures in American political history,” which is among the more charitable assessments … Murphy bellows a greeting and introduces me around to his crew, who are packing and tying up loose ends, such as calculating pro-rata donor refunds for what’s left of the money (about $12 million). The office will be vacated by the following week … The primaries countdown clock is now permanently set to zero. And next to it hangs a large Donald Trump piñata that is fitted with real Marco Rubio ankle-boots … In a box nearby are the severed heads of previous Trump piñatas. Right to Rise was pilloried by conservative media types for not going after Trump hard enough. But staffers have clearly been squaring accounts behind closed doors. We take a seat in Murphy’s office, as he apologizes for the knockabout furniture, which he says has worked out great after they procured it from a crime scene and scraped the blood off. Even outside his window, the bell seems to be tolling. Surveying his decommissioned troops, the 53-year-old general sighs with mock-wistfulness: “These people all used to have great careers in politics … Now we’re going to Kinko’s to print off some résumés. We understand there’s a job fair at Quiznos.”
THE BEST PARAGRAPH FROM THAT STORY (IT’S ABOUT DAVID JOHNSON) — “As we knock back drinks, passing shared plates of fried everything, we watch the returns come in. It’s Trump’s night yet again, as he bags seven more states. Cruz nabs three. Rubio, already doing the dead man’s float, only pulls lonely 17-delegate Minnesota. ‘Please clap,’ sneers David Johnson (DJ), still nursing a Rubio grudge, as he lifts his old boss’s desperate quip from the campaign trail, when Jeb hit an applause line and there was none to be heard. DJ describes himself as a ‘senior adviser to Mike Murphy — I tell him he’s a handsome man.’ DJ is a Jeb loyalist and old Florida hand who is one of Murphy’s favorites. Murphy says DJ will never be famous, ‘but he makes the army run.’ With DJ’s long memory and grudge-holding capabilities, Murphy adds, ‘He could’ve been the mayor of Cleveland in 1931.”
MARCO RUBIO SUPER PAC RAISED $25 MILLION LAST MONTH via Fredreka Schouten of USA TODAY – Conservative Solutions PAC, a super PAC backing Rubio‘s campaign, collected a whopping $25 million last month as some of the country’s richest people rallied to make the first-term senator voters’ alternative to Trump. The super PAC drew $5 million from Arkansas poultry magnate Ronnie Cameron and another $5 million from companies tied to former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg in February … Other seven-figure donors last month included Oracle’s Larry Ellison and billionaire hedge-fund executives Paul Singer and Ken Griffin. In all, the group spent more than $50 million to boost Rubio, who dropped out of the race this month.
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HOW MUCH TAX RELIEF DID THE LEGISLATURE DELIVER IN 2016? via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – After several rounds of negotiation, the House and Senate settled on a solution of reducing the rate of property taxes and supplementing spending with more money from state coffers. They passed their compromise as part of the overall budget … [Sen. Don] Gaetz said, “We were able to provide $428 million worth of property tax relief.” The Legislature approved an increase to local school funding while cutting a key millage rate used to calculate the Required Local Effort. That will keep property tax collections essentially the same. The $428 million is an infusion of general revenue cash that will cover the boost in the education budget. We could quibble with Gaetz referring to this as “tax relief,” because the plan is altering future collections, instead of cutting current collections. But property owners are shielded from shouldering the burden of increased education spending, so we rate this statement Mostly True.
HOW CORPORATE INTERESTS WHO INVESTED MILLIONS IN LEGISLATURE FARED via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – It was a lucrative year for Florida legislators who collected more than $28.5 million for their political committees in the six months before their annual session and when it was over, many of the special interests that raised the money — from sugar farmers and utilities to marijuana farmers and charter school companies — could point to tangible rewards. For others, like the gaming industry, which spent more than $3 million on legislators and the governor, or the oil and gas industry, which spent nearly $500,000 trying to authorize fracking, their priorities landed in the ditch. A proposal to ratify the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Scott was left incomplete amid industry infighting over how far to let the pari-mutuel industry expand. And a plan to regulate fracking and prevent local governments from banning it also hit the skids amid intense community opposition in an election year … for legislators who all must run for re-election this year there is an upside to killing a bill feverishly sought by deep-pocketed interests. Failure is rarely permanent for the most powerful in Tallahassee, and the delay provides an opportunity for lawmakers to collect more cash from those interest groups before Election Day.
SESSION ENDS WITH NO FIX FOR CHARITY CAMPAIGN via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – The legislative session ended without a fix for Florida’s troubled state worker charity campaign, which has been sending more money to the company that oversees it than the charities it’s supposed to serve … Earlier this year, Sen. Bill Montford and members of the Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability said they would try to hammer out a solution for the Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign. But it never materialized. In the last days of the session, Rep. Alan Williams … sponsored a measure that would have shelved the campaign for the time being. As part of his proposal, the Department of Management Services would have studied ways to create a new campaign that would cap how much proceeds could go to whoever oversees it. His proposal came in the form of an amendment tacked onto a government accountability bill that passed overwhelmingly in the House. However, the bill, along with Williams’ proposal, died in the Senate on the last day of session. Nonprofit officials worry that if nothing changes, the campaign, which used to raise nearly $5 million a year for charity, will die.
GLADES CHILDREN’S CHOIR FEELS STING OF VETO PEN via Frank Cerbino of the Palm Beach Post –For the past 13 years, Palm Beach County children from 7 to 18 years old have participated in a Kravis-Center-based performing choir known at the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches. The 350 kids who sing in this group of eight choirs must be selected through an audition process and have parents willing to pay the $700-per-season tuition. Two years ago, the Young Singers started a Belle Glade-based choir for the Lake Okeechobee-area kids who live too far from the coastal choir and can’t afford to pay that kind of tuition. State legislators from both parties approved a $100,000 grant this month to help fund the Choir in the Glades — enough money for the group to hire a musical director who lives in the Glades, pay for the bus transportation and the after-school snacks for the kids. That funding was a minuscule sliver of the $82.3 billion state budget, and one of the $256.1 million of legislatively approved expenditures that Scott singled out for veto this past week. The governor’s office explained the veto of the Glades choir money by saying that the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches “will receive state fund though another competitive grant program.”
LAWYERS GIVE PENDING ALIMONY LAW MIXED REVIEWS via Morgan Watkins of the Gainesville Sun – Critics have called for Scott to veto recently passed legislation that would overhaul Florida’s divorce policies, but local lawyers say judges still could have some flexibility in alimony and custody issues even if the bill becomes law. One of the key elements of the measure is that it would jettison lifetime alimony payments. Judges instead would use formulas based on the length of the marriage and the difference in the divorcing spouses’ incomes to determine how much alimony should be paid and for how long. If the judge deviates from the formula, he or she must explain why in writing. The Florida National Organization for Women has called for Scott to veto the bill because it would negatively affect alimony recipients, around 97 percent of them women. Florida NOW and the bill’s other critics also are concerned about a custody-related provision requiring that deliberations begin with the premise that children should split their time roughly equally between with their parents, although judges could adjust the plan. Some local attorneys say using a formulaic approach to alimony and making 50-50 child-sharing the norm are ideas that have gained traction in recent years. Scott vetoed a similar alimony bill last year, largely because it called for the changes to be retroactive. The newly passed law is not retroactive, although it allows for the alimony agreements to be modified in some cases.
RICHARD CORCORAN SEEKS IDEAS TO IMPROVE BEST AND BRIGHTEST TEACHER BONUSES via Jeff Solochek of the Miami Herald –Incoming Florida House speaker Richard Corcoran has made no secret of his desire to grow the state’s Best and Brightest teacher bonus program, which he helped shepherd into the state budget for a second straight year. Corcoran says getting education “right” for Florida’s children is the key to improving their futures, and putting the best teachers in their classrooms is critical to that end. As part of his effort, Corcoran has sent … a survey to the 5,200 inaugural recipients of the bonus, asking them their thoughts about the program. The document asks seven questions … Among them: Do you believe that past test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, are an accurate indicator of the ability of teachers to verbalize lesson plans in a way that gets great results for their students? Do you think Florida should pay good teachers more money than mediocre teachers or just pay everyone the same based on seniority? (Pay good teachers more / Pay everyone the same based on seniority). If you could change one thing about the Best & Brightest Scholarship program, it would be?
LATEST ON THE LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by LobbyTools
On: Erika Flores is the new legislative assistant for Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz.
Off: Carlos Ramos is no longer Cruz’s legislative assistant.
On: Christian Schultze is Cruz’s new district secretary.
Off: Janice Browning is no longer district secretary for Pensacola Republican Rep. Mike Hill.
On: Charles Withers is Hill’s new district secretary.
Off: Mary LaFollette is no longer the district secretary for the Valrico Republican Rep. Jake Raburn.
On: Haley Pitts is the new legislative assistant for Delray Beach Democratic Rep. Irv Slosberg.
Off: Morgan Miller is no longer the district secretary for Eustis Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan.
FLORIDA STATE WORKERS TO BE RELOCATED DUE TO HEALTH CONCERNS via The Associated Press –Workers from seven Florida agencies will be moved to empty offices at other complexes because of mold and air quality concerns at one of the buildings where the state rents space. Inspectors discovered bat feces last week in the area right above the ceiling of Ken Lawson‘s office. Lawson is secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation … they hope to have all state employees, except for a handful of critical office staff, out of the building and moved to three different locations within the next two months. The move impacts approximately 1,500 workers. In the new budget signed by Scott … lease payments to the affected offices stop July 1.
THE EDUCATION OF JULIE JONES: OUT OF RETIREMENT AND INTO THE FIRE AS FLORIDA’S PRISONS CHIEF via Julie Brown and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald –During the past year, Jones has faced some of the toughest challenges of her 31 years in state government. She has been interrogated by state lawmakers, dressed down by veteran corrections officers and overwhelmed by complaints, grievances and lawsuits filed by the families of inmates who allege that prisoners have been beaten, medically neglected and mentally and sexually abused. “There are a lot of situations, day to day, that are scary,’’ said Jones, in her most comprehensive interview … since she was coaxed by Scott to come out of retirement to try to right the agency’s sinking ship. Jones is the fourth secretary in five years, and the first woman to head the agency, which is the state’s largest, with a $2.4 billion budget. She may be the only woman in a men’s club, but she marches into a prison compound like a general; the officers and inmates often stand at attention, even though she always tells them to go about doing what they were doing. “If you walk prisons in the summertime with no air conditioning, you’re in the trenches,’’ Jones said. “I have not limited where I go based on anything. You have an officer in a dorm with 142 people, then I’m with them; if I expect them to be in there, then I will be in there.’’
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE INTERESTING: EVALUATING THE APPLICANTS FOR FLORIDA INSURANCE COMMISSIONER via Florida Politics – Replacing Commissioner Kevin McCarty … is shaping up to be a challenge. Dozens of candidates, offering what can be called (charitably) a broad range of credentials, have thrown their names in the hat. So the process of choosing a new OIR leader, now that it is well underway, will prove — if anything — interesting. With that, here is the “Good, the Bad, and the Interesting: The Good … Jeffrey Bragg … since 2003 he has served as the Director of the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program. Richard Ford … Chief Examiner at the Alabama Department of Insurance. Bill Hager … Former Iowa Insurance Commissioner, current member of the Florida House representing District 89, and former President & CEO of NCCI, the national workers’ compensation advisory association. Belinda Miller … long-standing General Counsel and current Chief of Staff of OIR. Chlora Lindley-Myers … Currently Deputy Commissioner for Tennessee’s Insurance Department, and formerly employed by the NAIC and Kentucky Department of Insurance. James Schact … A Northwestern real estate graduate, Schact likely qualifies, although his application is abbreviated. John Rollins … A well-respected actuary and the current Chief Risk Officer of Citizens. The Interesting: Wilbur Martin … former Farmers and Bankers insurance executive, who left the latter company due to its “new direction,” wins the award for most interesting cover letter. Andrew Persac … notes that he does not qualify, but still submitted an 84-page application including a research paper where he purports to “explain the G-12 Cell Vision in general, the Vision and how it relates to More Than Conquerors, the concept of ‘The Ladder of Success,’ and most importantly, how to use this strategy to reach out to and win the lost to Jesus.” Not sure OIR is his platform. Andrew Wolf … currently resides in Mexico. He is looking is “looking to take on one mission, work with one employer and better utilize [his] talents and [experience].”
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE INTERESTING: APPLICANTS FOR FLORIDA REVENUE CHIEF via Florida Politics – Unlike the Office of Insurance Regulation, the top job at Department of Revenue does not have statutory qualification requirements. While the list has many ambitious, hardworking folks, most — but not all — appear to be simply out of their wheelhouse: Ivory Avant … an attorney currently working as the Lead Appeals Referee at DEO. She does not appear to have leadership experience or experience in accounting. John Blomstrand … He reports a working knowledge of the legislative process, rulemaking and the budget process. His application states that he would like to leave his current state of Illinois due to the unfriendly business climate. With an attitude like that, he may find an ally in Scott. Nikki Allison… Currently a Program Specialist at Dept. of Education … responsible for allocating $300 million in Bright Futures Scholarships to institutions throughout the state. Richard Adeline … a self-employed CPA, who at first glance seems to have some impressive private sector financial experience. A closer look at his resume shows a 25-year gap in employment. James Marsh … oversees felony prosecutions for the Region Legal Service of the Southeast of the United States Navy. Jason Smith … Currently a merchandiser for Frito-Lay, working 15-20 hours per week. Terry Sanderson … Most recently served as a Senior Consultant for a company that worked with the state of Pennsylvania to modernize their unemployment benefits system … also been involved in efforts to upgrade the Florida retirement system … If the Cabinet is looking to improve the Department of Revenue, Sanderson may be just the ticket. J. Clifton Cox — Stetson undergrad, Vanderbilt law school, and UF for a Masters in Taxation are just an appetizer for this hefty resume … Cox’s is one to put near the top of the pile.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference to highlight job growth at 10 a.m. at Lufthansa Technik, 3102 Commerce Parkway in Miramar.
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— THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST MOTHER NATURE —
LAKE OKEECHOBEE FLOOD CONTROL CREATES ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER via Leonora LaPeter Anton and Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The rains poured down in late January. Twelve inches in all, 11 inches more than normal. Clewiston and Belle Glade flooded, as did thousands of acres of sugarcane and vegetable fields. Lake Okeechobee reached 15 feet, then 16, threatening to break free of an aging dike. The Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates lake levels, knew it had to do something drastic to protect Clewiston and other small towns to the south. On Jan. 29, the corps opened wide the gates holding in the lake. Billions of gallons of polluted water gushed down the St. Lucie River to a brackish estuary on the Atlantic coast, where it began killing oysters and sea grass and threatening coral reefs. Billions more spilled west through the long and winding Caloosahatchee River, past cattle ranches and sugar fields and orange groves, beneath a swing bridge and Interstate 75 … The water wreaked tremendous damage on both sides of Florida. Fish and tourists fled. The governor declared a state of emergency. And communities around the lake and along the rivers began blaming each other. But this is not a problem that just popped up following a two-day rainstorm. It has been decades in the making, and it appears, for now, there is no way to stop it from happening again. The destruction is mounting, both environmentally and economically.
MAJOR FISH KILL REPORTED IN INDIAN RIVER LAGOON via Tyler Vazquez and Chris Bonanno of FLORIDA TODAY – … Reports of a major fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon, involving some 15 different species of fish and stretching from Titusville to the Pineda Causeway area. The fish floated around the area of the no-motor zone of the Merritt Island Refuge to State Road 520. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s website, 100 puffer and sheepshead fish were reported dead at Watts Park on Merritt Island Friday. A strong smell that could be associated with dead fish was present at the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary Friday evening.
$500 M BILL WOULD BUY LAND SOUTH OF LAKE OKEECHOBEE TO CURB DISCHARGES TO ST. LUCIE RIVER via Bartholomew Sullivan of TC Palm – U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson wants the Interior Department to buy land south of the lake for water storage … introduced the Everglades Land Acquisition Act … would set aside $500 million for the Interior Department to buy the land in the Everglades Agriculture Area in Palm Beach County after a study, also authorized in the bill, determined the right location. The Interior Department would conduct the study. “We’ve been looking at this for a long time,” Clawson said. “We wanted to see what the state was going to do before we decided what we should try to do in D.C. New money to buy land is an uphill fight but we can’t give up.” Clawson said many people assume the land available for storage purposes is owned by the sugar industry, but he said there are other options. “Let’s let the experts make the call on that,” he said.
ALGAE THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE DEATHS OF MANATEES, DOLPHINS AND PELICANS ARE BACK via Dinah Voyles Pulver of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – Murky algal blooms have returned to Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River Lagoon system, turning the water hues of brown and green, prompting new fears about the beloved waterways and spurring more calls to action to save them. Throughout Mosquito Lagoon, boaters, fishermen and others say conditions are the worst they’ve ever seen. The same algal species plagued the lagoon in 2011 and 2012, causing massive blooms that killed more than 47,000 acres of sea grass and set off a chain reaction that has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of dolphins, manatees and pelicans. The lagoon, which spans two climate zones on Florida’s East Coast between Ponce Inlet and Jupiter Inlet, has long been considered one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in the world. Scientists have documented more than 4,300 species of marine life and plants in its waters and along its shores. But now, coupled with problems on the southern end of the system, where polluted water from Lake Okeechobee and a regional canal system are being pumped into the lagoon, [Edgewater fisherman Bob] Chew said the “whole 156 miles of the lagoon is in pretty serious condition.”
WAR ON LIONFISH: FWC UNLEASHES NEW WEAPON TO FIGHT INVASIVE SPECIES via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post – The newest weapon by Florida fish and wildlife officials to encourage the removal of the invasive species is a state records program that will recognize divers and fishermen who catch the biggest, smallest, heaviest and lightest lionfish. Cash rewards may be added to the program, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Nalley … “We definitely don’t claim that we will ever be able to eradicate the species … The possibility of eradicating them is pretty small. But what we want to encourage is control of the population.” Lionfish, which first appeared in Florida during the 1990s, seem a nearly unconquerable predator. Females lay nearly 2 million eggs during a lifetime and their venomous spines keep unfriendlies away. The lionfish’s ravenous appetite has caused some native fish populations nearly to disappear in the Atlantic. Think of lionfish as the state’s aquatic equivalent of the Burmese python, which has become the Everglades’ king predator with devastating impacts on native animal species.
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FOURTH ANNUAL LIST OF THE 25 MOST POWERFUL POLITICIANS IN TAMPA BAY #25-16 via Florida Politics – #25 – John Legg … Legg’s legacy on education policy will be extensive when he calls it a career in Tallahassee. #24 – Janet Long …Though not a high-profile public servant, Long has been a vocal Democrat in the Tampa Bay area. #23 – James Grant … political strategist Barry Edwards said Grant is … a “smart young turk who believes in the power of new ideas.” #22 – Amy Foster …Her rise to power isn’t just about her ability to get things done from the dais. She’s also a community leader. #22 – David Gee … Political analyst Chris Ingram calls Gee one of the “top-notch truth tellers” that he’s ever met in his life in politics. #20 – Sandy Murman … At times, 2015 proved a bumpy road for Murman, the Davis Islands-based lawmaker. #19 – Dennis Ross … Ingram describes Ross as a “hidden gem” among the Florida congressional delegation. #18 – Arthenia Joyner … “Senator Joyner is thoughtful but tough who doesn’t bow to special interest,” said Democratic strategist and lobbyist Ana Cruz. #17 – Ken Welch … Welch is likely to be a Pinellas County staple for some time. #16 – Janet Cruz … Among those who sing her praises are her daughter Ana, a Democratic Party strategist and lobbyist who gave birth to her daughter when she was only 16.
PODCAST: ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda checks in on Rubio’s return to the halls of Congress after his disappointing second-place finish in Florida’s primary election. With Gov. Scott’s signing of the state’s record $82 billion budget, Florida Policy Institute Executive Director Joe Pennisi tells Gomes the spending plan still lacks adequate investments in health care, public education, prisons and other state services. Gomes also chats with Florida NOW lobbyist Barbra DeVane about her strategy to get Gov. Scott to veto a bill (HB 1411) that could restrict access to reproductive health care. The Rotunda podcast is available each Monday via iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Rep. Larry Metz, Jacob Engels, Bill Helmich, Sal Nuzzo, Aakash Patel, and Melissa Ross. Celebrating today is Rep. Paul Renner, Amy Yeagle Donovan, TECO’s Chuck Hinson, our great friend Francis Haasch, and the legendary Mary Repper.