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.
DAY 2 OF RICK SCOTT’S EDUCATION SUMMIT
Gov. Rick Scott has a few suggestions to make it easier for Florida students to graduate from college in four years.
Remove additional fees for online classes. Allow Bright Future scholarships to be used for summer classes. And make sure students get credit for college-level courses taken in high school.
The Naples Republican laid out his proposal at is Degrees to Jobs Summit at the Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. The two-day summit – which was sponsored by several organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Florida College System Foundation and Universal Orlando — has been billed as an opportunity to connect businesses and higher education leaders.
“My goal is that this is the state people want to live because they can get a good job and can get a great education,” said Scott. “I put a challenge out … to figure out how do we get our students out with a four-year degree in four years.”
The summit continues Thursday. While the morning is jam-packed with panel discussions, including ones about public private partnerships and recruiting Florida graduates, the afternoon session feature big name speakers.
Heading to the summit? Expect to hear from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam; John Sprouls, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks & Resort; and Gen. Lloyd Austin III, the former commander of the United States Central Command.
And don’t even think of leaving early. The last panel of the day is focused on leadership and team building and features Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher, Florida Coach Jim McElwain and Miami Coach Mark Richt.
ANDY GARDINER TOUTS CENTER FOR STUDENTS WITH UNIQUE ABILITIES AT EDUCATION SUMMIT via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The push to make sure Florida graduates can enter the workforce shouldn’t stop when it comes to students with intellectual disabilities. That was the message Gardiner sent during a speech at the Degrees to Jobs Education Summit … Gardiner used his speech to highlight the work the Legislature has done to make sure all Floridians receive a good education … also encouraged business and higher education officials to continue to work to make sure people with unique abilities have access to higher education opportunities and workforce training. “As you spend your time talking about degrees and what we want to have, I hope … you won’t forget about this population,” said Gardiner. “There are families all over this state, kids who want to be part of this system.”
TWEETS FROM THE SUMMIT
— @fineout: Uh oh. Speaker at @jobs summit says that today’s unemployment rate is “misleading” and things aren’t as good as they seem
— @ArekSarkissian: Attending @jobs summit includes Melissa Sellers, former Scott COS turned consultant
— @Fineout: Well this remains interesting – speaker from Gallup at @summit has questioned value of several stats Scott uses all the time
— @FLDEO: Florida’s STEM degrees are growing 3x faster among undergraduates and 6x faster among graduate students than non-STEM degrees. #degrees2jobs
— @rtemplin: am sure that the 3 football coaches at @higher Ed summit will have much to say about higher education. Some Professors next time?
— @JKennedyReports: In this ode to internships at @‘s ed/jobs summit, wonder how many companies attending pay interns.
— @KelliStargel: @FLGovScott challenge for our higher Ed..”finish in 4 & save more.” As a parent of 5 I’m a big fan. #Degrees2Jobs
— @ErikaDonalds: @FLGovScott gave a shout out to @fgcu at #degrees2jobs summit for the university’s freshmen year refund for 4year grads! #GoEagles #SWFL
— @DebbieMortham: Great quote by Rick Matthews of Northrup Grumman a #Degrees2Jobs panelist: “We live in a digital world, but leadership is an analog skill.”
— @KassieElekes: Senate President Andy Gardiner to #degrees2jobs attendees: Please don’t forget about Floridians with unique abilities.
TOP OP-ED – TURNING TODAY’S LEARNERS INTO TOMORROW’S EARNERS via Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce – Did you know that by the year 2030, half of today’s careers and occupations won’t exist? At the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we believe a quality education and workforce development system will enable Floridians to adapt to future disruptions and compete in the 21st century global economy. Sweeping changes in technology, automation, and robotics are reshaping Florida’s job market and driving advancements in key industries. If Florida’s education system fails to keep pace with these economic changes and focuses only on the jobs and industries of today, we are setting our students up for failure. Can you imagine a future in which countless jobs go unfilled because the next generation is unprepared? It’s closer than you think. With more than 269,000 jobs open and waiting for the right person, it’s clear that today’s employers have high-wage jobs available. Businesses get hundreds of applications, but very few applicants have the needed skills. Florida still has a talent gap problem. Will top companies remain in Florida if they can’t find the right talent?
TODAY’S SUMMIT LINE-UP
Event begins at 7 a.m. with breakfast.
— 9 a.m.: Breakout sessions: Florida 1st for Jobs for University Graduates; Florida 1st for Jobs for College Graduates; Public Private Partnerships; Florida 1st for Articulation Agreements; Florida 1st for Online Learning and Innovation; Collaboration with Your Local Education Institution Can Yield Big Dividends; Recruiting Florida Graduates; Degrees – Internships – Jobs.
— 12 p.m.: Lunch with Senate President Andy Gardiner.
— 12:50 p.m.: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
— 1 p.m.: John Sprowls, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks & resort.
— 1:15 p.m.: Gen. Lloyd Austin III, former Commander of United States Central Command.
— 2 p.m.: Panel on leadership and teamwork with football coaches Jimbo Fisher of the FSU; Jim McElwain of UF; and Miami’s Mark Richt.
— 3:15 p.m.: Awards ceremony and closing remarks from Gov. Scott.
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DAYS UNTIL: Federal candidate qualifying papers accepted – 10; Federal qualifying closes – 28; State candidate qualifying closes – 28; Domestic absentee ballots go out in primary – 60; Primary elections – 95; Deadline to register to vote in Primary Election – 66; Deadline to register to vote in General Election – 137; Absentees sent in General Election – 156; General Election – 166.
DONALD TRUMP: JEB BUSH WILL COME AROUND via the Sunshine State News – Trump insisted the former Florida governor will eventually support him in November even as he revisited his “low energy” attack on Bush … “He will get a burst of energy and he will do it” … But Bush, just like his father and his brother, has shown no signs of backing Trump. “The American presidency is an office that goes beyond just politics,” Bush noted. “It requires of its occupant great fortitude and humility and the temperament and strong character to deal with the unexpected challenges that will inevitably impact our nation in the next four years. “Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character. He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy,” Bush continued. “Hillary Clinton has proven to be an untrustworthy liberal politician who, if elected, would present a third term of the disastrous foreign and economic policy agenda of Barack Obama.”
TRUMP FIRES AIDE AFTER BLOW-UP WITH FLORIDA CAMPAIGN CHIEF via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Trump’s presidential campaign announced it had parted ways with its national political director, Rick Wiley, on Wednesday night — a move that appears to stem in part from an ongoing turf war atop the campaign. Wiley was the first high-profile hire by Paul Manafort, the veteran GOP operative who Trump brought on board in late March to help professionalize a campaign that had cruised through the GOP primary season with a skeleton staff. Sources in and around the campaign told POLITICO that Wiley was not responsive to (Corey) Lewandowski or other officials from the old regime, and that he had clashed in recent weeks with Karen Giorno, a Lewandowski ally who ran Trump’s campaign during the Florida GOP primary.
MYSTERY DONOR GAVE $13.5 MILLION TO ‘DARK MONEY’ GROUP SUPPORTING MARCO RUBIO via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – The donation was revealed in a tax document obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics, which unpacked how the money went to consultants with close ties to the Florida Republican, despite the Conservative Solution Project’s supposed independence. Immediate speculation focused on Norman Braman, who poured millions into a super PAC supporting Rubio. At the same time, Rubio had the backing of a number of wealthy GOP donors, some known and some who may have preferred to stay in the shadows.
DEMS DISCUSS DROPPING DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Alexander Bolton of The Hill – Democrats backing likely presidential nominee Clinton worry Wasserma
FLORIDA DEMOCRATS SNAG CORY BOOKER AS SPEAKER FOR BIG GALA via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Booker will keynote the 2016 Leadership Blue Gala June 18 in Hollywood … “As the largest swing state in the nation, Florida will play a determining role in stopping Donald Trump and returning the Senate to Democratic hands,” Booker said in a statement. “While we know the work ahead won’t be easy, I know Sunshine State Democrats are fired up and ready to deliver Florida for the third time in a row” … “As Mayor of Newark and in the United States Senate, Senator Booker’s leadership has brought Republicans and Democrats together to get things done without compromising on the values which make our party and our nation strong,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement.
ALAN GRAYSON USING TEMPORARY LOANS TO BOOST FUNDRAISING FIGURES via Kevin Robillard of POLITICO – In the first three months of the year, Grayson both loaned his campaign $200,000 and also paid himself back for a previous $200,000 loan. That boosted Grayson’s total fundraising to just over $1 million – but it did not actually add any money to his coffers. Grayson had raised just over $1 million in the first three months of the year and spent slightly more than $800,000, leaving him with $430,000 on hand. But a quarter of his spending went toward paying back that earlier loan. Other candidates in the past have used a series of recycling loans to artificially boost their fundraising and cash on hand numbers. Grayson’s primary opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, raised $2 million and had $5.6 million on hand.
GRAYSON, PATRICK MURPHY ACCUSE EACH OTHER OF LYING via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – Murphy is hitting Grayson again at his most sensitive point – Grayson’s hedge fund – as Grayson hit back on questions about Murphy’s Gulf cleanup experience and the embellishment of his academic credentials … Murphy’s campaign highlighted several details in the report to allege that Grayson lied about receiving a management fee for running the fund … In an interview with office manager Carla Coleman, Coleman states that Grayson asked to be paid $4,079 in management fees plus $200,000 in an incentive fee allocation. That was transferred from a brokerage account to the fund, “and then Alan would take his money from there.” Grayson also said that the last investors cashed out “dollar for dollar” and Grayson and his family are the only remaining investors. Grayson called Murphy’s campaign “farcical” and said “all they have is ‘let’s tear down Alan Grayson.'” In a separate statement … Grayson’s campaign highlighted Murphy’s admission that he earned one bachelor’s degree, not two – the Murphy campaign said it was unintentional – and a report in the Tampa Bay Times that questions Murphy’s role in the Gulf coast cleanup after the BP oil spill.
U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Carlos Beruff will be in Miami. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will be in Miami-Dade County. Todd Wilcox will be in Orlando and Tampa.
GROUPS MOUNT PARALLEL EFFORTS ON ENERGY AMENDMENT via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO – Early last month, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Lori Berman said they were launching a campaign in support of Amendment 4. They are involved with Florida for Solar Inc. Two weeks later, Floridians 4 Lower Energy Costs quietly was incorporated with the state — in support of the amendment — by Tory Perfetti of Tampa. Perfetti is chairman of a political committee that backed a failed constitutional amendment on solar energy in 2015. Brandes said Wednesday his group is focused on the overall coordination of efforts and raising money for advertising for the amendment. Perfetti said his new group is focused on “grassroots” efforts to organize supporters. “Our only goal is to pass Amendment 4,” Brandes said of the combined efforts. “Where we agree, we will work together. And where we disagree — we don’t just talk about it.”
KEN SUKHIA RECEIVES ENOUGH SIGNATURES TO QUALIFY IN CD 2 via Jenna Buzzacco of Florida Politics – Sukhia announced Tuesday he had received enough signatures to qualify for the Congressional District 2 race. Sukhia thanked his supporters for their help to gather the signatures. “I was the last person to enter this race and I’m proud that it took our team just weeks to accomplish what other candidates needed months to do,” he said Wednesday. “As I meet with voters across the Second District, one thing is certain — they want to send someone to Washington who has a proven record of fighting for conservative issues.”
SNEAK PEAK AT SUKHIA’S FIRST TV AD
MATT CALDWELL PASSES ON CD 19 RUN via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Caldwell believes he can best serve Florida from a position in the Florida House. “As I told many this weekend, my overwhelming desire is to have a Congressperson that was competent on the issues and committed to serving our community. For me, two issues stand out about above all others for this office: the Everglades and term limits,” Caldwell said. “Considering the candidates in the race today, I believe the citizens of Southwest Florida already have a choice of at least one candidate that understands and supports these positions.” So far, Sanibel Island Republican Chauncey Goss and Naples Republican Francis Rooney have announced congressional bids.
— “Orange County teachers’ union endorses Rick roach in SD 13 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
HAPPENING TODAY: State Rep. Jake Raburn is holding a re-election fundraiser for House District 57. Event begins 4 p.m. at the Governors Club Library, 20 2 ½ S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.
HAPPENING TONIGHT: State Rep. Ross Spano is holding a fundraiser for his House District 59 re-election campaign. Event begins 6 p.m. at the home of Ron and Stephanie Pierce, 810 Centerbrook Dr. in Brandon.
PLANNING FOR THE BIG ONE: ELECTION EXPERTS GATHER IN CLEARWATER via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – County supervisors of elections are meeting at a beachfront hotel in Clearwater, discussing how to improve voter outreach, adapt to better technology and reduce the potential for political mischief. One of the first panel discussions was entitled “Long lines, long ballots and long hours — a presidential year.” The Clearwater conference follows Florida’s record turnout in the March 15 presidential preference primary, which has prompted state officials to predict that statewide in November could exceed 80 percent in a year when congressional and state Senate districts have been redrawn. Secretary of State Ken Detzner will soon roll out a voter education toolkit that will ramp up the use of social media to connect with voters. The unprecedented chaos that followed the 2000 presidential election in Florida has taught supervisors to be on alert in anticipation of what could go haywire. In a presentation to supervisors, Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections, described one “unusual” aspect of this year’s election. It’s a proposed constitutional amendment by the Legislature, dealing with a solar energy tax break, that will appear on the Aug. 30 primary as Amendment No. 4. (The other lower-numbered amendments will all appear on the November ballot). “It may create some confusion for your voters,” Matthews said. “You’re going to have to expect that one.”
CANDIDATE DALE GLADING TO TRANSGENDER WOMEN: “GET THE HECK OUT OF THE LADIES ROOM!” via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm – “Hey buddy, get the heck out of the ladies room!” reads the subject line of an email Vero Beach state House candidate Glading‘s campaign sent to voters earlier this month … The ordained Baptist minister and self-proclaimed underdog has made social issues a platform in his bid for state Rep. Debbie Mayfield‘s open seat. He’s proposed banning abortions after 18 days of conception and urged his opponents to sign a pledge against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Glading’s topic du jour is the Obama administration’s guidelines issued this month directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. “Folks, we are morally decaying from within,” reads another Glading campaign email on the issue. Glading has an uphill battle ahead of him. He faces three fellow Republicans in District 54, which covers all of Indian River and a small part of northern St. Lucie counties.
“G-FUNK” RUNNING FOR BROWARD COUNTY COMMISSION via Red Broward – Gervan Moise wants to be the Democrat candidate for the Broward County Commission District seat currently occupied by Dale Holness. On Tuesday, the Haitian-born actor/singer announced his campaign on his Facebook. Moise, who goes by several nicknames including “G-funk” and “G-Money,” said he wants to make a difference. Moise wrote, “When you want to make a difference in your community. So you run for office. I am a Broward County Commissioner candidate. Took me a while but I got my name in the hat. It’s Time to make a change.” Sounds great, but just one problem: Moise doesn’t live in District 9. In his campaign paperwork filed with the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, Moise claims to be living in Sunrise.
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RICK SCOTT SILENT ON OTHER SURGEON GENERAL APPLICANTS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott announced interim state surgeon general Dr. Celeste Philip would take on the job full-time, but he and his office won’t say whether they sought other applications for the job. Asked whether he considered other candidates, Scott did not directly answer the question in a conversation with reporters … “Dr. Phillips has done a great job at the Department of Health, and she did a great job there while John Armstrong was there,” Scott said. “And so I appointed her the interim when John left, and she’s done a great job.” Scott can hire anyone who meets basic requirements — like being a medical doctor with public health experience — as surgeon general and secretary of DOH, and there is no public component of the hiring process. The Senate has final confirmation authority and must act on Philip’s appointment by the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.
AARON BEAN TO TRY AGAIN WITH “COLD CASE” LEGISLATION via Melissa Ross of Florida Politics – Duval County alone has more than 1,200 unsolved murders dating back to 1970. Jacksonville resident Ryan Blackman, who lost his father to an unknown killer, has set up an online database in an effort to make sure these many forgotten victims find justice. And Blackman’s Project Cold Case has an ally in State Sen. Bean. “We’ve got to give families hope,” said Bean, who co-sponsored a bill last year aimed at helping to solve cold case murders in Florida … Scott vetoed $50,000 that would have created a Florida cold case task force. The vetoed proposal was based on a similar effort Colorado enacted in 2007. Look for Bean to try again to reintroduce the legislation.
HOTELS GROUP SAYS AIRBNB REAPING MILLIONS IN ILLEGAL SOUTH FLORIDA REVENUE via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics – The American Hotel and Lodging Association says Airbnb “landlords” raked in some $76 million on gray or black market transactions last year in Miami alone … In one South Beach ZIP code, the AHLA reported, some 1,427 Airbnb listings were recorded between October 2014 and September 2015, a substantial number of those by “full-time operators” who list their properties more than half the year. The group’s concern … was not the homeowner who occasionally rents out their homes to gain extra income, but the de facto landlords who operate multiple units as unregulated hotels. A spokesman for Airbnb, however, took issue with the new findings. This factually inaccurate study, which was paid for by the hotel industry, is the latest example of the industry’s attempt to mislead and manipulate to stifle competition,” said Christopher McNulty. “The AHLA is out of touch with the increasing number of consumers and cities embracing the tremendous benefits of home sharing. Vacation rentals have always been a driving force in Miami tourism and now home sharing is broadening that impact and bringing visitors’ dollars to new neighborhoods and small businesses.”
FLORIDA INSURERS REQUEST RATE HIKES UNDER FEDERAL HEALTH LAW via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press – Nearly a dozen health insurers are proposing rate increases averaging 13 percent for 2017 Florida plans sold on the exchanges created under President Barack Obama‘s health care law … but that won’t necessarily mean big consumer price hikes. State insurance officials, meanwhile, estimated the average increase at closer to 18 percent, but neither state nor federal officials would say how they arrived at their figures other than to say they were both weighted. The largest increase is a whopping 44 percent requested by one Humana plan. Aetna wants a 29 percent increase for a plan, with AvMed requesting 26 percent and Coventry seeking 17 percent. Florida Health Care Plan requested modest increases for many of its products with most around only 2 percent, according to data released by federal health officials … However, those figures only apply to specific plans in certain regions. Some may have only have 50 enrollees and are not representative of what consumers will actually pay.
INDEPENDENT REVIEWER WARNS OF ‘POTENTIALLY ILLEGAL CONDUCT’ AT BROWARD HEALTH via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Broward Health, the beleaguered hospital district that settled federal health care fraud allegations last year and is currently under investigation by the state inspector general, was put on notice earlier this month that “potentially illegal conduct” continues to permeate the health care system. In a May 10 letter, J. Scott Newton, an attorney who was retained to conduct an independent review, alleged Broward Health Chief Compliance Officer Donna Lewis has refused to release requested documents that are needed for the review. In a six-page letter to Broward Health Interim Chief Executive Officer Pauline Grant and Rocky Rodriguez, chairman of the board of commissioners that has oversight over the health system, Newton wrote that “the individual misconduct would seemingly defy logic” for a system which less than a year ago reached a significant settlement. “Simply stated, the highest standards of compliance and ethical conduct should be expected by [Broward Health], particularly because it is a public institution playing such an important role in the community,” wrote Newton, a former Federal Bureau of Investigations special agent, federal prosecutor who is now an attorney at Baker, Donelson, Bearman Valdwell & Berkowitz in Jackson, Mississippi.
PAUL HAWKES JOINS BUCHANAN INGERSOLL ROONEY’S LOBBYING TEAM via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Hawkes begins immediately, according to John “Mac” Stipanovich, head of the firm’s state government relations team. “Paul is an outstanding addition,” Stipanovich said. “We had been pursuing him for some time. No one in Tallahassee is smarter or more experienced in every form of government relations.” Hawkes, 58, has been a prosecutor, a GOP legislator for Citrus County, and a top aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush and two Republican House speakers, Dan Webster and Tom Feeney. He’s also a close friend of House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, the Land O’ Lakes Republican who takes the reins at the end of this year.
KEN PRUITT MOONLIGHTED AS LOBBYIST FOR INDIAN RIVER COUNTY via George Andreassi of TCPalm – Pruitt is the region’s only constitutional officer with a lucrative private-sector job, much less two: He co-owns a lobbyist firm and a real estate investment firm. As property appraiser, his salary was half his combined income from those two jobs, but the elected position boosted his annual state pension by nearly 400 percent — for life. Not only does the job give him inside knowledge that could benefit his real estate investment firm, he also lobbies for Florida Crystals, a sugar producer some of his constituents see as an obstacle to stopping Lake Okeechobee discharges that pollute the Indian River Lagoon. When Pruitt filed for re-election in April, the newspaper began this investigation, which uncovered another conflict of interest. Pruitt dropped his re-election bid.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Billy Adams: Southern Equipment Dealers Association
Travis Blanton, Jon Johnson, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Disability Examiners of America
Jean Bernard Chery: Law Office of J. Bernard Chery
Brian Cherry, Tanya Jackson, Adams St. Advocates: EndGame Strategy; Florida Public Guardian Coalition,
Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: Accenture LLP
Jason Lazarus, Holland & Knight: Helena Chemical Company
Douglas Manson, Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn: Plants of Ruskin
Lisa Miller, Lisa Miller & Associates: Adjusters International
STATE DROPS CHARGES AGAINST ‘CAPITOL PITBULL DUDE’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Prosecutors have dismissed the criminal case against the man known as “Capitol Pitbull Dude” … charges of trespassing and resisting an officer, both misdemeanors, were dropped last week against 35-year-old Antonio Ringo Davis. Davis first became known as “Capitol Pitbull Dude” and “Capitol Bulldog Guy” after he and his dog were escorted out of a Senate committee hearing this past session … Davis was first diverted to Veterans Court, a special tribunal for military veterans that offers “substance abuse, mental health and holistic well-being” services. His service information wasn’t disclosed. But he was sent back to regular criminal court after telling court officials he “did not wish to receive (any) services.” Davis caused a scene at the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee Feb. 16. Lawmakers were considering a proposal by Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner that would have bumped up lawmakers’ annual salaries from $29,600 to $50,000. Amateur smartphone video captured him — and his dog, which appears to be a pit bull — shouting about how Florida nonprofits had ruined his life.
FLORIDA NEEDS A LIONFISH KING OR QUEEN – IT COULD BE YOU via Joanna Klein of The New York Times – Ladies and gentlemen, behold an opportunity to become maritime royalty. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hosting the Lionfish Challenge, a statewide hunting competition intended to encourage divers to capture, kill and eat the beguiling beauties, which have been invading western Atlantic waters and gobbling up native species for at least two decades. The title of Lionfish King or Queen goes to whoever captures the most lionfish by Sept. 30. Anyone can enter, as long as the fish are captured off Florida’s shores. During the first weekend, participants brought in more than 14,000 of the eye-catching but unwelcome fish — about five times as many as during the same weekend last year, according to the organizers. Participants may do as they wish with the captured fish.
FLORIDA SIXTH-GRADER WINS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BEE via The Associated Press – Twelve-year-old Rishi Nair of Seffner … won the top honors Wednesday at the 28th annual Bee in Washington. Nair clinched the win by correctly answering “Galapagos Islands” to the question: “A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in which archipelago in the Pacific Ocean?” Nair gets a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.
REPORT: MAGIC KINGDOM WORLD’S TOP THEME PARK, DRAWING 20 MILLION via the Associated Press – Disney World’s Magic Kingdom continues to be the top amusement park draw in the world with 20.5 million visitors in 2015, according to a report released Wednesday. Disneyland in Anaheim, California, was No. 2 with an estimated 18.3 million visitors, followed by Tokyo Disneyland, which had an estimated 16 million, according to a report from AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association. Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld all saw a jump in attendance in 2015 over the previous year, according to the report. Epcot was sixth in the world in attendance with 11.8 million, a 5 percent increase from 2014. Disney’s Animal Kingdom drew 10.8 million, also a 5 percent increase, and Universal Orlando saw the biggest increase, with a 16 percent jump to 9.9 million visitors.
SOUTH FLORIDA GETS THE SUPER BOWL BACK AND LOOK AT HOW IT HAPPENED via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – “Super” news … NFL owners voted in spring meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina to return the Super Bowl to South Florida. The 2020 biggest game of the professional football year has been awarded to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium … Now I’d like you to celebrate the occasion with a thought … With a reminder of the ironic twist this story has taken. It certainly knocked my socks off. Remember the night of Sine Die 2013? Remember when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, in a fit of temper, issued a vicious statement because he didn’t get his stadium funding approved? It was all House Speaker Will Weatherford’s fault, if you’ll recall. Championship football in South Florida was doomed. Doooomed. Untold millions in February tourism dollars were about to be lost. So, what was predicted as doom and disaster in 2013 is now triumph and celebration, am I right, Mr. Ross? You stepped up to the plate (pardon the cockeyed sports metaphor) and paid for the $450 million in upgrades. As you could have done all along. Good for you, sir. Now you’re a real owner. But the story does have this ironic twist. Which is the thought I want to leave you with: By any estimation, it’s Will Weatherford who is Our Hero. That’s right. Weatherford saved more than his face three years ago. Turns out he saved Florida taxpayers $450 million.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of, if not THE brightest minds in Florida politics, Marian Johnson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Also celebrating today is U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent and our friends Mike Fischer, Dan Krassner, and Jason Wilson.