Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — August 17

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch (Peter@FloridaPolitics.com; @SaintPetersBlog) with Phil Ammann (Phil@FloridaPolitics.com; @PhilAmmann) and Ryan Ray (Ryan@FloridaPolitics.com; @RyanRay_Fla).

Good morning and for those of you who are reading this via email, welcome to Sunburn 2.0. Faced with new competition for your attention each morning (we see you Marc Caputo), we thought it was time for an upgrade.

Assuming this all goes well — and thousands of these emails do not end up in spam filters — we are switching from Constant Contact to Campaign Monitor. This upgrade means more photos and social networking in the email version of Sunburn. This version will also include Bill Day’s award-winning editorial cartoons, as well as other interesting graphics that can help explain what’s really going on in Florida politics. Advertisers in Sunburn will also have a new vehicle for delivering their messages.

As always, your feedback is welcomed. Please email your constructive criticism to Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Onward!

DAYS UNTIL: Sine Die: 4 (maybe); FSU & UF’s first football games of 2015: 18; Labor Day: 20; First legislative committee meeting: 29; Special Session on Redistricting (state Senate maps): 65; Florida GOP’s Sunshine Summit: 87; First day of 2016 legislative session: 148; Iowa Caucus 179; Super Bowl 50: 175; New Hampshire Primary: 177; Super Tuesday: 188; Florida’s presidential primary: 212; Close of federal candidate qualifying: 264; Florida’s primary elections: 380; 2016 Election Day: 450.

PRO-JEB BUSH SUPER PAC SPENDING $10M-PLUS ON INITIAL TV CAMPAIGN via Thomas Beaumont of The Associated Press

The powerfully funded super PAC backing Jeb Bush will spend at least $10 million on television time in the earliest voting presidential primary states, the first salvo in a massive TV ad campaign to support the former Florida governor’s bid for the Republican nomination.

Officials with Right to Rise USA say they will buy time in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina TV markets and on cable television in the three states. Ads are scheduled to begin in Iowa and New Hampshire on Sept. 15, in South Carolina a week later and then run continuously through the end of the year.

The plan, shared by the group … prior to Monday’s buy, is the first evidence of Right to Rise USA’s major strategic spending of the roughly $100 million it had on hand last month. It’s also the first major move by the group, which was developed by Bush and longtime advisers including California ad maker Mike Murphy, to run alongside Bush’s own campaign organization, which is bound by federal fundraising limits.

The first ads will be positive spots promoting Bush in a field that includes 16 other major GOP candidates. They will resemble videos on the group’s website, promoting Bush and his accomplishments as Florida governor from 1999 to 2007. One such recent piece was taken from clips of Bush from the Aug. 6 Republican debate in Cleveland, Lindsay said.

BUSH PUTS UP A FIGHT IN IOWA via Eli Stokols of POLITICO

Bush … sweated his way through the Iowa State Fair decathlon – a soapbox speech, pork chops, fried Snickers on a stick, cold Budweiser, TV interviews, a press gaggle, selfies, handshakes, kissed babies and questions, questions, questions.

David Kochel … overseeing his early state strategy … “Do you know how hard this is? … Getting through three hours at the Iowa State Fair without any gaffes is just as hard as getting through a Europe trip without any gaffes.”

Bush might have to decide whether it still makes sense to campaign in Iowa … currently mired in the middle of the pack … in seventh place, with just five percent support from likely GOP caucusgoers here. As Donald Trump has surged, Bush and other contenders have trended downward, struggling to connect with an electorate animated by a deep anti-establishment fervor.

“Polls are irrelevant,” Bush told reporters … “Last time around, there were candidates who were winning at this point who never even made it to the starting line.”

When another man began arguing with Bush, pointing out that his brother brokered the Strategic Forces Agreement to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, Bush shot back … “Everyone knew the deal could have been modified.” … a hint of frustration over having to constantly disavow anything related to the George W. Bush presidency.

JEB BLOWS HIS DIET IN IOWA via Eliza Collins of POLITICO

Bush blew his paleo diet at the Iowa State Fair — big time … deep-fried Snickers bar … calling it “a Snickers bar done right” … 445 calories and a whopping 29 grams of fat … Later in the morning, he munched on some pork on a stick (344 calories, 19 grams of fat) … a Budweiser beer (145 calories, no fat) …

The Iowa State Fair, a proving ground for presidential contenders trying to show off their Average Joe and Jane bona fides, is the enemy of the campaign diet … a sea of funnel cakes, corn dogs, and deep-fried butter, hawked by more than 90 vendors, and it would be downright rude to not sample the local eats.

The event is the ultimate manifestation of the perpetual struggle for candidates who want to project an image of being lean, fit and presidential, but have food thrown at them at every campaign stop. Not only do they wreck their diets, but they risk being caught on camera in not-so-flattering poses as they stuff their faces … but eating a local delicacy wrong can be problematic.

Bush isn’t the only one indulging in the rich food … Martin O’Malley ate his own pork chop on a stick … Rick Santorum posted a periscope of him slurping a milkshake … 16-ounce vanilla milkshake comes in at 512 calories and 14.4 grams of fat … Santorum tweeted, “Why does my staff keep sending me to these places? #milkshakes #campaigndiet.”

SPOTTED: The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners’ Slater Bayliss, enjoying a hot serving of deep fried Oreos.

BUSH SELECTIVELY RECOUNTS DETAILS OF IRAQ AND ISIS via Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact

In a major foreign policy speech … Bush forcefully argued that the current problems in Iraq … are due to President Barack Obama, supported by his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

But Bush’s look back at U.S. failures in Iraq doesn’t tell the whole story … he leaves out some key turning points.

“That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill – and that Iran has exploited to the full as well. ISIS grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat.”

… A very selective reading of the facts about Iraq … the timetable to leave was in place when Obama took office. We also know elements of ISIS existed long before the U.S. troop withdrawal … when President George W. Bush launched the Iraq war. Finally, Clinton’s role isn’t nearly as clear-cut as Jeb Bush suggested … It wasn’t until after American forces left at the end of 2011 that ISIS grew into the threat the group is today … the precursor to ISIS was certainly already there … go back to 2004, when a Sunni extremist named Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi established Al-Qaida in Iraq. The National Counterterrorism Center said al-Zarqawi’s group was also known as the Islamic State of Iraq, and later called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

HERE’S WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN BUSH’S PRIVATE ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ MEETING via Dana Liebelson of the Huffington Post

A Las Vegas campaign event for … Bush came to a sudden end this week as activists, unhappy with how Bush addressed a question on racial injustice, chanted, “Black Lives Matter.” After the confrontation … the candidate had privately met with advocates for the movement before the event, an assertion that appeared in multiple articles about the disruption.

But that description is misleading … There was a meeting, but no activists from the Black Lives Matter movement participated. Instead, Bush met with a local elected official, a GOP lobbyist and a staffer from an anti-poverty organization.

Kevin Hooks, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Urban League … set up the meeting at the Bush campaign’s behest … he would not characterize the people at the meeting as Black Lives Matter activists. “It’s a little disingenuous,” he said.

There were three people at the table … North Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Goynes-Brown … Sean Fellows, a registered lobbyist for a communications firm who once ran as a Republican candidate for state assembly.

TOP TALKER — FIVE REASONS WHY JOHN KASICH-MARCO RUBIO IS THE RIGHT 2016 TICKET via Myra Adams of the National Review

Republicans are flunking Electoral College math, but Kasich-Rubio could pass the test … Kasich does not scare independents, moderates, and conservative Democrats … Because of Obama, experience matters more … A demographically balanced ticket … can unite the party, they could win with a ticket of trust … a Kasich-Rubio ticket could be the GOP’s best chance of breaking that barrier and acquiring the 270 votes needed to win the presidency.

— “Marco Rubio looks to make his move” via Juliann Hattem

MEANWHILE … DONALD TRUMP TO TAKE BREAK FROM CAMPAIGN TRAIL FOR JURY DUTY via USA Today

Trump’s status as the Republican presidential front-runner can’t keep him from jury duty.

Trump is taking a break from the campaign trail Monday to appear for jury duty in New York City. He says he’s “looking forward to appearing.”

The New York Daily News reported in June that Trump had ignored five jury summonses since 2006. A judge fined the billionaire $250.

FOX NEWS POLL: TRUMP STILL LEADS GOP FIELD

A new Fox News poll finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential field nationally with 25%, followed by Ben Carson at 12%, Ted Cruz at 10%, Jeb Bush at 9%, Mike Huckabee at 6%, Scott Walker at 6%, Carly Fiorina at 5%, John Kasich at 4%, Marco Rubio at 4%, Chris Christie at 3% and Rand Paul at 3%.

TOP SECRET HILLARY CLINTON EMAILS INCLUDE DRONE TALK via Bradley Klapper and Ken Dilanian of The Associated Press

Neither of the two emails sent to Hillary Clinton now labeled by intelligence agencies as “top secret” contained information that would jump out to experts as particularly sensitive, according to several government officials.

One included a discussion of a U.S. drone strike, part of a covert program that is widely known and discussed. A second conversation could have improperly referred to highly classified material, but it also could have reflected information collected independently … Still, it’s looking increasingly likely the issue of whether Clinton mishandled classified information on her home-brew email server will have significant political implications in the 2016 presidential campaign.

… (S)pokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri stressed that Clinton was permitted to use her own email account as a government employee and that the same process concerning classification reviews would still be taking place had she used the standard “state.gov” email account used by most department employees. The State Department, meanwhile, stressed that it wasn’t clear if the material at issue ought to be considered classified at all.

ON THE ROAD WITH HILLARY CLINTON AS SHE SURPRISINGLY CONNECTS WITH VOTERS via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

What you may not realize … is that the cautious candidate so often depicted as cold and distant connects quite well with voters … News coverage of Clinton‘s Exeter appearance focused on her reaction to “offensive, outrageous” Trump, rather than her interaction with the mother of a 5-year-old girl battling cancer or the young man drowning in college loans and unable to find a job.

That voters at a partisan presidential campaign event would say nice things about the headliner candidate is hardly surprising … What is striking is that so many people who see Clinton in person say they had a generally negative impression of her beforehand … countless voters still don’t know her except as a calculating caricature … (but) not an entirely new phenomenon for the guarded and private former New York senator.

STEVE SCHALE IS READY TO WORK FOR JOE BIDEN via Jonathan Martin of The New York Times

Vice President Joe Biden would have to create much of his campaign organization on the fly if he decides to enter the presidential race, but one Democratic operative from a crucial state is not waiting to be asked.

Steve Schale, who helped direct President Obama’s two general election victories in Florida, wrote in an email: “I’m #ReadyForJoe.”

“I’d love to see him take the jump,” Schale added. “I would be there if they’d have me!”

He said not enough Democrats were engaged in the campaign and predicted Biden’s entry would ignite more energy among grass-roots activists because his shoot-from-the-hip style “could strangely be the perfect tonic in this bizarre year.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks, a trusted provider of industry-leading communications and networking services to businesses of all sizes, from startups to large, multi-site organizations. Our Enterprise Solutions provides the fiber connectivity, cloud and managed services  today’s large organizations demand, while our Business  Solutions team works with small- to mid-size companies to ensure they get the right services to fit their needs and their budget. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more at brighthouse.com/business.***

— INSIDE THE LINES —

MAP OF MIAMI CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT IS STILL A PROBLEM, VOTING GROUPS WARN via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

A coalition of voting groups sent a warning shot to Florida lawmakers Friday, claiming that their proposal for revising Miami-Dade’s most competitive congressional district appears to have been designed to boost the chances of freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

In a letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida suggested that shifting 35,000 black voters from Congressional District 26 into Congressional District 27, has a “partisan effect” that violates the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution.

The letter by League of Women Voters President Pamela Goodman and Common Cause Chairman Peter Butzin didn’t name Curbelo but singled out his District 26. Curbelo’s re-election bid is being challenged by Democrat Annette Taddeo in 2016.

“This move obviously undermines both the letter and spirit of the Fair Districts Amendments, violates the prohibition of intentional partisanship and incumbent protection and constitutes a failure to follow the Florida Supreme Court’s holding,” Goodman and Butzin wrote. “We are confident you can find an alternative.”

CAN FLORIDA DRAW AN UNBIASED POLITICAL MAP? via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

As Florida legislators struggled last week to draw a congressional district map that meets a court mandate, it became clear that what they would end up with would be far from perfect.

“Bring me a redistricting commission or something, for goodness sakes,” exclaimed state Sen. Tom Lee as lawmakers convened for the second special session to revise a congressional redistricting plan that had been rejected by the court. “Bring me something that works!”

Redistricting reformers thought they had found a better way when they persuaded 63 percent of Florida’s voters in 2010 to approve the “Fair District” amendments to the Florida Constitution that outlawed gerrymandering and banned lawmakers from intentionally drawing districts that favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties.

But taking politics out of the most political of acts turned out not to be so easy.

HOUSE POISED TO CONSIDER TWO CONGRESSIONAL MAP ALTERNATIVES via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida House … will consider two proposed changes to the congressional district map, one of which has already been thrown out under legislative rules … state Reps. Julio Gonzalez … and Mike Hill … had filed amendments by the noon … deadline to be considered by the full House.

Gonzalez’s amendment follows the lead of state Sen. Nancy Detert … who proposed changes to keep Sarasota County and the eastern part of Manatee County represented by one member of Congress, currently U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican.

The original “base map” drawn by House and Senate staff split Sarasota County into two seats, which upset many locals.

Hill’s proposed change would revert to an older congressional map already ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court. But the House Select Committee on Redistricting disposed of the amendment before voting on it … because it technically falls outside the proclamation for a special session.

REDISTRICTING KARMA IN FLORIDA FOR DEMOCRAT CORRINE BROWN, REPUBLICAN DAN WEBSTER? via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

When veteran U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, and Daniel Webster, an Orlando Republican … blasted the latest proposed congressional boundaries, they were really talking about a political wave poised to sweep across Florida. The partisan balance … isn’t likely to change much in the 2016 elections, using the new map. Some see Democrats picking up one seat.

But the future of some individual lawmakers … could be in for big changes.

Tom Lee … said the 2010 constitutional amendments designed to reduce the role of politics and personality in redistricting … Two of Palm Beach County’s four congressional districts … Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch … would be dramatically realigned under the map expected to be approved by state lawmakers … Other changes may recast longstanding political boundaries for Tampa Bay … North Florida and Central Florida districts also will be reshaped, putting the future of some incumbents in jeopardy.

Webster, too, is endangered – a victim of what might be seen as political karma … Twenty-three years ago, he guided outnumbered Republican legislators into an alliance with black lawmakers that led to court-drawn district lines resulting in Brown … Alcee Hastings … and the late U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek … becoming the first black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction.

Helped by court rulings that pushed for more minority representation, Webster also benefitted in 1996 when redrawn legislative districts cleared the way for him to become the first Republican House Speaker in Florida in 122 years … Webster’s District 10 is sharply altered in the latest map, gaining more than 280,000 minority voters from Brown’s District 5 …

— “South County feeling politically neglected” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The House takes up HB 1B, the proposed congressional redistricting plan filed by Redistricting Chair Jose Oliva. Session begins at noon in the House chamber. Also at noon, the Senate Reapportionment Committee will address prospective amendments to SB 2-B, the congressional redistricting plan filed by committee Chair Bill Galvano. Meeting is at Room 412 of the Knott Building in the Capitol.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates, one of the most successful political and public affairs consulting firms in Florida and the nation. Jamestown produces victories for our clients by creating TV, radio, mail and digital advertising that gets the voters’ attention and their votes. Persuasive ads. Personalized attention. Detailed review of demographics, past election results and history. Understanding the client. Understanding Florida. Single-minded focus on winning. Jamestown’s work has been recognized with 50 Pollie and Reed awards. See how we can help you win. Visit JamestownAssociates.com***

— SUNSHINE STATE —

HAPPENING TODAY: PLANNED PARENTHOOD TO RESPOND TO RICK SCOTT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) … released a report saying that clinics in St. Petersburg, Fort Myers and Naples were performing second-trimester abortions when only licensed to perform first-trimester abortions.

Planned Parenthood … responds to that report when they host news conferences in both Tallahassee and Sarasota … Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida CEO Barbara Zdraveckyhas already criticized AHCA’s report, claiming it’s false and stems from the agency “ignoring its own rules and definitions of gestational periods.”

“Nearly a decade ago, state officials made it clear that Planned Parenthood is operating fully within the law, and nothing has changed … This only underscores that Governor Scott’s sham investigation of Planned Parenthood health centers was motivated by politics rather than a legitimate public health concern.  AHCA’s unprecedented position that these procedures — accepted as first trimester procedures for nearly ten years — are now second trimester procedures is disingenuous and constitute a wholly unwarranted political attack.”

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE WANTS YOU TO READ — FLORIDA ECONOMISTS PROJECT CONTINUED GROWTH IN STATE MONEY via The Associated Press

Preliminary forecasts show that Florida’s economy is continuing to grow.

State economists are meeting Friday to draw up new forecasts to predict how much the state will collect in taxes.

The forecasts will be used to draw up a three-year outlook for the state budget.

Preliminary estimates show that economists expect the state’s main budget account to grow around 2 percent during the fiscal year that ends in June. But they are predicting growth as high as 4.8 percent in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

If the forecasts are adopted it would give legislators nearly $2 billion extra in state money for next year.

But Medicaid expenses are rising and the state is expected to lose additional federal aid next year. Those expenses could shrink the size of any surplus.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ — RICK SCOTT GOT ‘BAD ADVICE’ ON OPEN GOV’T LAW, LAWYER SAYS via The Associated Press 

A Tallahassee attorney says … Scott was a “novice politician” who got “bad advice” that led him to ignore the state’s public records law … paid $700,000 to Steven Andrews to settle seven lawsuits that contended that Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and other officials flouted Florida’s public records law.

It’s believed to be one of the larger payments ever approved in an open government case in Florida … Andrews also closed on the purchase of a piece of property near the Governor’s Mansion. It was a dispute over the property that led to the public records lawsuits.

ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE: “Governor Scott Congratulates America’s New Grill Star Floridian Jose Juarez”

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE WEEKEND via Jack Latvala: “Silver Airways. Never. Again!”

PAM BONDI BALKS AT PAYING FULL COST OF FLORIDA’S FIGHT AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE via Anna Phillips of the Tampa Bay Times

Attorneys who worked to defeat the marriage ban said they have not come up with the exact amount they are owed.

However, one suggested that it could be in the realm of $500,000.

“It’s ludicrous,” said Elizabeth White, a Jacksonville civil rights attorney who helped bring one of the cases that challenged the state’s gay marriage ban. “Quite frankly, the state vigorously litigated this. Now they’re saying we lost, but we don’t want to pay.”

Bondi objected to a motion concerning legal fees from lawyers who represented gay couples seeking to have their marriages recognized in Florida. In response, she wrote that because Florida voluntarily dismissed its appeal after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right to same-sex marriage nationwide, the state should not have to cover the cost of the lengthy appeals process it initiated.

… Bondi wrote that opposing lawyers “are not entitled to appellate attorney’s fees.” She did not contest the likelihood that the state will be required to reimburse the attorneys for their work at the lower court level. A spokesman for her office declined to comment.

STATE INVESTIGATING THREAT AGAINST BONDI via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

Florida law enforcement officers provided around-the-clock security for Bondi for six weeks this year due to a threat that is still under investigation.

Authorities had not previously acknowledged the threat until Friday. That’s because a new report released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement showed the state had spent more than $216,000 on providing security for Bondi this past year.

FDLE officials would not provide any details about the threat but called it “credible.” They provided security for Bondi from late May until early July.

Bondi in a statement called it a “serious threat” that caused her many “sleepless nights.”

STATE OFFICIALS SAY EVERGLADES WATER POLICY, BMP REGIME ARE WORKING via Florida Politics

The South Florida Water Management District was joined by Republican elected officials Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Rep. Matt Caldwell this week in saying tighter restrictions on agriculture in the Everglades Agricultural Area are unnecessary because best management practices, or BMPs, are working.

Levels of harmful phosphorous — a product of agricultural runoff into the ecologically sensitive area — are down 79 percent according to recently released state data.

“For a milestone 20th year, water flowing from farmlands in the Everglades Agricultural Area achieved phosphorus reductions that significantly exceed those required by law,” read a release from the South Florida WMD.

“Over the program’s 20-year compliance history, the overall average annual reduction from the implementation of BMPs is 56 percent, more than twice the required amount.

“Two decades of successfully meeting and exceeding phosphorus reductions to improve Everglades water quality is a great accomplishment,” said Daniel O’Keefe, chairman of the district’s Governing Board. “South Florida’s agricultural communities are clearly demonstrating a long-term commitment to restoration efforts.”

Putnam, a key member of the state’s four-member Cabinet, said he heartily agrees.

“Farmers and ranchers throughout our state are looking toward science and data in order to protect Florida’s waterways and manage farms more efficiently, and today’s announcement shows that Best Management Practices are working,” said Putnam. “I thank the farmers and ranchers in the EAA for their continued commitment to being good stewards of the land.”

OFFICE OF INSURANCE REGULATION SAYS FLOOD RATES IN FLORIDA MAY BE UNFAIR via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has responded to state Sen. Jeff Brandes’ request to study the methods used to determine National Flood Insurance Program policy rates … agrees that with the limited information available to regulators, the rates may be “unfairly discriminatory.”

According to a letter from OIR Commissioner Kevin McCarty, his NFIP experience suggests the flood loss ratio from 1978 until 2012 was just 28.3 percent.

“This is not an alarming loss ratio, and does not seem to suggest that dramatic increases are needed for Florida risks,” McCarty wrote. “We share your concern about the need for transparency in the ratemaking process utilized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the National Flood Insurance Program and we have publicly expressed those concerns.”

McCarty said his office would ask NFIP and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the “actuarial study including all data and models used.” … 30 zones each in two separate categories, one more coastal than the other. NFIP averages those together to charge one rate across the country.

“The averaging together of zones with different costs and charging one rate would be considered unfairly discriminatory from an actuarial perspective, which would not pass scrutiny under Florida law.”

FLORIDA OFFICIALS WANT NEW CHAPTER IN PANTHER PROTECTION via The Associated Press

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials … have no intention of seeking to remove the Florida panther from the endangered species list or changing any protections … they believe it’s time to rethink some of the criteria set by federal officials about what it would take for the panther to be taken off the list and what the state agency’s responsibilities are.

Chief among those is loosening a requirement for Florida officials to establish panther populations outside of southwest Florida, where they are concentrated currently, according to a revision of a draft policy paper … voted on by commissioners … Florida’s panther population has been growing during the past 20 years and stands as high as 180 adults. The Florida panther was listed as endangered in 1967, when the population was as low as 30 animals … new draft removes language that said current panther populations were “straining and currently exceed the tolerance of landowners, residents and recreationists in the region” as evidenced by the killing of livestock on ranches and crashes with cars on roadways.

MEANWHILE … WILDLIFE COMMISSIONER PART OF GROUP SEEKING PERMIT TO ‘TAKE’ PANTHERS via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida wildlife commissioner who pushed to loosen the state’s official panther policy is also part of a group seeking a federal permit to kill a certain number of panthers if they get in the way of plans for their land … Florida’s biggest landowners have spent more than a decade working on this plan, which will set the rules for development on 177,000 acres in Collier County. The land stretches from the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest on its northern end to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve to the south.

They envision a new town in the middle of panther habitat … mining, oil exploration, agriculture and, on some acreage, preservation to benefit panthers. The plan has the backing of some environmental groups but has drawn opposition from others.

If approved by federal officials, the plan would allow … “incidental take” of endangered species in that area … not only panthers but scrub jays, red-cockaded woodpeckers and Everglades snail kites. Under the Endangered Species Act, “take” means “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” a certain number of those animals.

THE RITCH WORKMAN UBER BEAT 

Even state reps can drive for Uber” via Matt Reed of Florida Today; “Florida Rep. Ritch Workman moonlights as Uber driver” via Matt Galka of Capitol News Service; “Florida Taxicab Association has a few questions for Uber drive/state Rep. Ritch Workman” via SaintPetersBlog; “House Rules Chair is an Uber mensch” via Jim Ash of WFSU

TWEET, TWEET: @MattCaldwell_FL: Riding into the Capitol with Florida’s newest @Uber driver @RitchWorkman

CABS NEED REGULATION, NOT UBER AND LYFT via Chris Ingram for the Tampa Tribune

Despite a recent setback in court, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission continues to insist it has the authority … to regulate online ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft.

The need for government regulation exists from time to time … taxicabs in Tampa fall into this category … Most of the cabs operating on our streets are old, beat up, dingy and reeking of cigarette smoke.

Yes, this is an industry that needs regulating. Why isn’t the PTC focusing on the cabs instead of Uber? Two words: campaign contributions.

Now consider my experience with Uber … is not an industry in need of government regulation.

The need for Uber and Lyft drivers to have background checks overseen by the PTC is preposterous … companies check their employees already … no one has a greater interest in their drivers not having a criminal background than Uber or Lyft.

Taxicab companies and their paid-for politicians on the PTC — Crist alone has taken over $5,000 in contributions from public transportation interests … falsely claimed that Uber and Lyft don’t have adequate insurance. This claim is absurd. Both companies provide coverage when a passenger is in the vehicle. What they don’t do is provide blanket coverage for their drivers whether or not they are “on call” and accepting passengers … Both arguments are fact-less, emotional and nothing more than red herrings.

WHAT BUDDY DYER IS READING — ORLANDO OVERTAKES CHICAGO AS NATION’S TOP MEETING DESTINATION via Caitlin Dineen of the Orlando Sentinel

Orlando was named the country’s top-ranked meeting destination between July 2014 and June, according to Cvent, Inc., a cloud-based event management company.

The Central Florida destination reclaimed the No. 1 spot, a position last held in 2013. Chicago took the top rank in last year’s survey while Orlando had ranked second.

… The list ranks the top 50 convention destinations based on total room nights available, number of profile views, awarded room nights, percentage of qualified meeting venues, awarded requests for proposals and unique requests for proposals received.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: INNOVATIVE CHARTER SCHOOLS, DONALD TRUMP AND SOCIAL SECURITY’S BIRTHDAY

On Context FloridaJac Wilder VerSteeg writes that charter schools claim to innovate because they are freed from some of the stupid bureaucratic rules that plague traditional public schools. A couple of charter schools in Broward County are taking advantage of a “rule break” in a way the VerSteeg calls truly “innovative.” They don’t have to pay their bills.  According to the professional prognosticators: Donald Trump is a carnival barker riding the presidential primary process for an eventual deal that would boost his business margin. The Donald is out to make “America Great Again” — for himself. Chris Timmons is not disputing any of those notions. U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham wishes a happy 80th birthday to Social Security. You’ve paid into Medicare and Social Security all your life, and Graham says she is dedicated to making sure the government lives up to its end of the bargain.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

***On September 17-18, Florida CHAIN will host its 1st Annual Conference, Moving Forward Together in a New Era of Health Care. It’s an opportunity to join national experts, advocates, consumers, navigators, health care providers, policy makers, and other stakeholders to learn about pressing health policy topics, acquire new skills, and network with other participants dedicated to improving the health of all Floridians. In addition to two plenary sessions, a keynote address, engaging workshops, and interactive training, an exciting awards dinner will be held the evening of September 17th. Learn more and register today at www.MovingForwardFlorida.org.***

–MORE FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL–

CHARLIE CRIST UPDATE via Patrick Mantiega of La Gaceta

Charlie Crist tells us he feels very positive about the first proposed map of the 13th Congressional District. He is close to announcing.”

FLORIDA LEAGUE OF CITIES AFFIRMS ITS OPPOSITION TO SOLAR POWER AMENDMENT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Floridians for Solar Choice aims to place an amendment before the voters that would allow homeowners and businesses to sell up to two megawatts of solar power and prohibit the state from erecting any barriers to a rooftop solar market … an assortment of government and industry leaders fiercely oppose that measure, with some filing a legal brief urging the state Supreme Court to reject the measure. One group is the Florida League of Cities, which alienated some elected officials … 16 mayors and/or city council members penned a letter to the League, calling for a vote at its annual meeting … that would have the organization withdraw its legal brief.

Ron Sachs, spokesperson for the League, says about 40 people authorized to sit on the committee participated in a voice vote, with (Pinecrest Mayor CindyLerner being the sole vote opposing the League’s action. “There was a robust discussion,” he said. “Everybody who wanted to speak had a chance to speak, including the mayor, and a vote was taken, and other than the mayor’s single vote in dissent, the resolutions committee supported the League’s filing, and voted down any effort to withdraw it.”

UNITED FOR CARE SEEKS SUPPORT FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA AMENDMENT via Christine Sexton of POLITICO

The advocacy group United For Care held rallies in 13 counties across the state … collecting signatures from registered voters in hopes of getting a medical marijuana amendment on the ballot in 2016 … in heavily populated counties such as Miami-Dade, Orange, Broward and Pinellas. The effort came one day after state Rep. Greg Steube … filed a bill for consideration in the 2016 session that would broaden the state’s current medical marijuana law, which allows low THC marijuana use for children … broaden the number of people who currently qualify for the drug.

United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara said Steube’s efforts have been “courageous” but said the constitutional amendment is still necessary because the bill does not go far enough to help those who need relief from pain and suffering … Pollara said … there is no guarantee the Legislature will agree to hear the bill (HB 63).

PALM BAY DEMOCRAT CHRIS DUNCAN TO RUN AGAINST BILL POSEY FOR CONGRESS via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY

Christopher Duncan Jr. knows his candidacy for Congress might be perceived as an uphill battle, running as a Democrat against fourth-term Republican incumbent Bill Posey in a Republican-leaning district. But it’s something he is used to.

Duncan, a 30-year-old resident of Palm Bay, became blind in August 2012 after a battle with a rare form of glaucoma … the eldest of his four daughters is a 10-year-old cancer survivor.

He will use those experiences and the challenges that came with them as a key component when addressing health care, one of the issues he intends to focus on in his campaign. Other issues he’ll tackle: the economy, education, the environment, immigration reform, protection of the rights of minorities related to race and sexual orientation, and women’s rights, as well as issues involving senior citizens and veterans.

“You build a platform that’s unique to you,” said Duncan, a strategic planner and motivational speaker … the first Democrat to announce interest in running against Posey in 2016 in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

— “A quick glance at the 10 Republicans eyeing Patrick Murphy’s open House seat” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

AS MIAMI BEACH PAC RAISES NEARLY $1.4 MILLION, ETHICS COMMISSION INVESTIGATES via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald

The controversial new political action committee dominating the conversation in Miami Beach political circles has broken the million-dollar mark with a nearly $400,000 haul in July … county ethics officials have taken notice.

Relentless for Progress, the committee chaired by term-limited Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, has brought in nearly $1.4 million from a mix of prominent real-estate developers, city vendors and other notable South Florida names … Wolfson and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine have solicited PAC donations from these folks — some of whom have recently asked for approvals from city boards — has caught the attention of the Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission.

“We are aware of it and aware of the concerns around it,” said Joseph Centorino, the ethics commission’s executive director. “It’s something we’re looking into.”

Commissioners bickered … over whether the city should ask Centorino for an opinion on the matter, and Levine ignored motions to vote on it. After Miami Beach City Attorney Raul Aguila corrected Levine, the vote failed … Centorino told the Miami Herald that the ethics commission has the power to probe the matter because it involves a Beach law that prohibits city vendors, developers and lobbyists from donating directly or indirectly to commission candidate campaigns.

— ADAMS STREET — 

FAMILY BIZ: Rich Heffley emails, “It appears that despite my best efforts to cure them, both of my kids may want to get in the family biz. They both worked for me this summer and my son is able to continue this fall because he’s a senior at FSU.”

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Ralph Arza: Lincoln-Marti Community Agency, Inc.

Paul Bradshaw, David Browning, Chris Dudley, Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: PlattForm

Michael Corcoran, Michael Cantens, Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Estate of Danielle Maudsley; Miami Children’s Health System

Michael Cusick, Boys Town of North Florida

Gary Hunter, Hopping Green & Sams: Minto Communities

Jeff Kottkamp: Garner Capital Development Florida

Derek Whitis: Polk State College Foundation

Ron Silver: Kimco Realty

Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: Behavior Health of the Palm Beaches; Copart, Inc.; GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation; Servpro

Q2 COMPENSATION ROUND UP via Florida Politics

BALLARD PARTNERS A TOP EARNER WITH MORE THAN $3.8 MILLION 

Ballard Partners took home a whopping $3.8 million in consulting fees last quarter … led by Brian Ballard … handled about $2.2 million in business from 176 legislative lobbying clients as well as $1.6 million from 174 executive branch clients.

Resorts World Miami paid Ballard $164,000 … followed by Automated Healthcare Solutions at $150,000, U.S. Sugar Corp. at $106,000 and contractors International Atlantic, which tendered $104,000 … Other top-paying clients … Brevard County-based radio technology giant Harris Corp., Tampa General Hospital and Uber Technologies, which each paid between $40,000 and $49,999 for legislative lobbying plus between $20,000 and $29,999 for executive representation, for an estimated total of $70,000 each …

Global Tel*Link, GTECH Corp., Investment Corp. of Palm Beach, Jacksonville Transportation Authority and Signal Safe Inc. each paid $30,000 to $39,999 … Florida Power & Light … Walgreens, Xerox, AstraZeneca, David Beckham and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars … Broward, Polk and Martin Counties … Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Marathon, Palm Beach Gardens, Pembroke Pines, and Port St. Lucie.

Ballard had 17 influence professionals … included former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, Jan GorrieMonica RodriguezWansley Walters and William Turbeville.

BRYANT MILLER OLIVE COLLECTS $145K

Bryant Miller Olive … took in an estimated $145,000 … skewed toward executive agency lobbying … $95,000 last quarter, the remaining $50,000 coming from work among Florida lawmakers.

Computer Sciences Corp. was by far BMO’s highest-paying client … between $30,000 and $39,999 for executive branch lobbying and up to $9,999 for legislative work, for a total of about $40,000 all told. AT&T and Inova Consulting Group … an estimated $20,000 … Other significant clients included Better Senior Living Consulting ($20,000), Florida Association of Restoration Specialists ($20,000), Applications Software Technology Corp. ($15,000) and CanDo Tech Consulting ($10,000).

CAPITOL INSIGHT HAULS IN $860K

(F)ormer House Speaker Dean Cannon‘s lobby shop Capitol Insight … collected an estimated $860,000 … about $430,000 in fees from 62 executive lobbying clients and $430,000 from 61 legislative clients.

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co. … was paying between $30,000 and $39,999 … as well as between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative lobbying. AvMed and the Florida Association of Insurance Agents wrote checks for an estimated $25,000 each … AvMed was responsible for an estimated $50,000 … FAIA was good for about $40,000. HCA and business consulting firm Faneuil both contributed between $20,000 and $29,999 for executive lobbying services. HCA also gave the firm the same amount for legislative work. Other major clients included PepsiCo, Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts, Cox Media Group and the City of Orlando.

Capitol Insight’s lobbying team includes not one but two former speakers of the Florida House: Larry Cretul works for the firm as do Kirk PepperCynthia LorenzoRheb Harbison, and Richard Reeves.

Dean Cannon PA, also pulled down … an estimated $70,000 … including between $30,000 and $39,999 from Wharton Investment Group in Boca Raton.

COLODNY FASS BRINGS IN $735K

Colodny Fass brought in an estimated $735,000  … WellCare Health Plans … paid between $30,000 – $39,999 … plus another approximately $25,000 for legislative representation, for a total of some $60,000 … Federated National Insurance, Lexington National Insurance and Team Focus Insurance … paying between $20,000 and $29,999 each … the firm earned $410,000 for legislative lobbying services and $325,000 for executive representation.

Southern Fidelity, Florida Property & Casualty Association and Universal Insurance Company were among the dozens of related concerns on their 132-contract roster … WhiteRock Quarries, Cemex Construction Materials, and Miami Dade Limestone … Broward League of Cities and the School Board of Broward County … paying an estimated $15,000 combined for advocacy in Tallahassee.

Led by shareholder Michael Colodny, the firm’s stable of influence professionals … including former Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher, Donovan BrownH. Douglas BruceNicole FriedTrevor Mask, and Katherine Webb.

LEWIS LONGMAN & WALKER COLLECTS $260K

Lewis Longman & Walker took in a solid $260,000 haul last quarter … $135,000 from 24 legislative lobbying clients and around $125,000 from 22 clients … Florida Association of Mitigation Bankers, Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Florida Association of Special Districts, and Florida Manufactured Housing Association … accounting for approximately $120,000, or nearly half of the firm’s earnings … Florida Library Association, Florida Mosquito Control Association, Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, and Hospice of Citrus County … Those firms all contributed an estimated $5,000 each … managed by the team of Lori KillingerTerry LewisJames LinnMartin LyonThomas Glenn and Michelle Diffenderfer.

SOUTHERN STRATEGY GROUP HAULS IN $3.1 MILLION

Southern Strategy Group … collected an estimated $3.1 million in consulting fees … took in some $2.3 million from 241 legislative lobbying clients and reported $800,000 in fees from 242 executive branch contracts.

The highest-paying contracts … Miami-based nursery and Charlotte’s Web license hopeful Costa Farms and financial services firm Vestcor who paid $72,000 and $62,000 for legislative lobbying services respectively … combined to kick in around $30,000 for executive branch representation.

TECO Energy … approximately $60,000 … between $40,000 and $49,999 for statehouse advocacy and $10,000 – and $19,999 for executive agency work … MCNA Dental Plans accounted for $60,000 … Association of Florida Colleges contributed between $20,000 and $29,999 in executive lobbying fees …  Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Southeastern University, University of Central Florida Foundation, Flagler College and Tallahassee Community College Foundation each spent up to $19,999 for legislative lobbying services … Other well-known clients included Apple, Inc., industrial materials giant 3M, BP America, Japanese automaker Nissan, U.S. Airways, Wells Fargo, Orlando City Soccer Club and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

The SSG lobbying team – which once included currently Florida State University president John Thrasher before his return to the Legislature – was 24 influencers deep last quarter, led by firm owner Paul Bradshaw … Paul MitchellDavid BrowningElectra Bustle,Chris DudleyTowson FraserJim Smith and Stacey Webb.

***Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Central Florida Political Leadership Institute’s Oct. 8-10 class. If you reside in the 7-county region, and are considering a run for public office but don’t know where to begin, this groundbreaking initiative is for you. Thank you to our sponsors AT&T, Bright House Networks, Central Florida Partnership, Clear Channel Outdoor, Orlando Magic, Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College and Universal Orlando Resort. Deadline is August 21, so don’t delay. More info here. Contact PLI Director Christina Johnson here.***

BUCS’ JAMEIS WINSTON LOOKS LIKE HE HAS LONG WAY TO GO TO BE A QUARTERBACK via Gary Shelton of SaintPetersBlog

For all of you wanted to believe this NFL thing was going to be an easy thing for Bucs’ rookie Jameis Winston, for all of you who thought he would show up and be great, well, it’s going to be as difficult for him as it is for most rookies who do not enter with pre-made football teams.

Winston hit only nine of 19 passes for 131 yards and an interception in his preseason debut Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings, misfiring on his first three balls and at one point throwing five straight incompletions. Winston seemed nervous at first, then later seemed to get into a rhythm with a drive inside the final two minutes of the first half.

Perhaps you thought it would be better. Perhaps, after hearing head coach Lovie Smith praise how quickly Winston had picked things up, you felt he would be more crisp and would throw a better ball. Well, good thing for you this was practice then.

The bottom line is this: The Bucs were a 2-14 team last season, and they showed it. Both rookie tackle Donovan Smith and rookie guard Ali Marpet had their moments. Center Garrett Gilkey still struggles with the snap. The defense still gives up big plays.

STAR WARS-THEMED LAND PLANNED AT DISNEY PARKS Full story here

Characters from some of the biggest movies including “Star Wars,” ”Toy Story,” and “Avatar” are coming to Disney theme parks.

Disney officials announced Saturday that “Star Wars” is getting its own themed lands at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. The 14-acre attractions represent the largest single themed land expansion ever.

Disney will also be adding the interactive Star Wars Launch Bay and introducing a new seasonal event, Season of the Force, which will update Space Mountain to become Hyperspace Mountain where guests will participate in an X-Wing battle.

MARVEL SHOWS FIRST FOOTAGE FROM “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR” via Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press

Marvel will be getting a little strange in 2016, but first they’ll have to survive a Civil War … Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige debuted new footage and a trailer from “Captain America: Civil War” and introduced concept art from “Doctor Strange” at Disney’s D23 Expo … Chris Evans, flew in to appear at the fan convention with co-star Anthony Mackie, who plays Falcon …  clip showed a hands-on battle in a crowded square with Evans, as Captain America, Anthony Mackie, as Falcon, and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow taking on Crossbones – a formidable foe with a powerful punch.

Feige also presented concept art from “Doctor Strange,” set to shoot in November with director Scott Derrickson, and introduced a video greeting from star Benedict Cumberbatch … Cumberbatch’s Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange has his hands badly injured. He goes on a quest to find a healer and gains some otherworldly powers in the process.

TRAILER PARKBradley Cooper cooks up a storm as a troubled chef in the ‘Burnt’ trailer here.

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY to the Sayfie Review, the granddaddy of them all.

MORE BELATED BIRTHDAY WISHES to Rick Kriseman comms guy Ben Kirby, Rockie Pennington, Matt Choy

***Metz, Husband & Daughton is a full-service firm dedicated to overcoming clients’ legislative, legal and regulatory challenges. An energetic team of highly-skilled members; MHD has the experience, expertise and reputation necessary to achieve clients’ diverse goals in the policy and political arena.  MHD has proven proficient in achieving results through long-standing representation of Fortune 500 companies, major Florida corporations, and state-wide trade and professional associations. www.MetzLaw.com.***

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.