Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – May 12

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

Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: Floridians aren’t quitters, but for a while the state’s flag could have suggested otherwise. From 1868 to 1900, the flag was merely a white rectangle with the state seal in the middle. In the late 1890s, former Gov. Francis P. Fleming worried that when hanging still on a flagpole, the standard would look like a white flag of surrender. So he convinced state voters to add the now-familiar St. Andrews cross to prove the indomitable spirit of Floridians. And we haven’t backed down from a tussle ever since!

DAYS UNTIL Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 7; Debut of Mad Max: Fury Road: 2; Special Session 19; Sine Die: 39; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 62; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 220; First Day of 2016 Legislative Schedule: 245; Iowa Caucuses: 265: Florida’s Presidential Primary: 307; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 476; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 547.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend Brad Swanson, now with the Florida Department of Transportation.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @JeremySWallace: (Greg) Steube teared up as talked about a veterans service bill that would have helped returning soldiers, but died on last day of legis meltdown

TWEET OF THE DAY – PART 2: @JeremySWallace: It is with great pleasure & excitement I get to announce I’m joining @TB_Times Tallahassee Bureau.

BEST NEWS YOU’LL READ IN SUNBURN via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post: “Gasonline prices are $1 cheaper than this time last year, giving the average motorist $15 in savings on a full tank of gas. “It’s money in people’s pockets and an increase in disposable income. That is one reason we are forecasting the highest Memorial Day travel in a decade,” said Tampa-based AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN: “Getting things done in Tallahassee with cash and a ‘copter ride via Michael Van Sickler and Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times. Like they did before with game hunting at King Ranch, MVS and Pittman have made the barely-above-interesting (helicopter rides) seem exotic. It’s not like these lawmakers were piloting Airwolf!

TAKEAWAYS FROM TALLAHASSEE

Last week was suppose to be a recuperative, post-session retreat, and although it was enjoyable in St. Augustine, it felt like just a break before the next wave crashes. Here are five takeaways which popped into my head while on vacation.

•If I had to revise my list of Winners and Losers emerging from the 2015 Regular Legislative Session, I would put at the top of the list Jeff AtwaterPam Bondi, and Adam Putnam, as well as regulators Drew Breakspear and Kevin McCarty. It was only three months ago that the Florida Cabinet held an awkward meeting at the Florida State Fairgrounds to hash out the mess created by the resignation of FDLE Chief Gerald Bailey. Brakespear and McCarty were also reportedly on the chopping block. But one Sine Die later and NO ONE is talking about Rick Scott‘s firing of Bailey or the Cabinet’s capitulation to the governor or getting rid of Brakespear and/or McCarty.

•In the Israeli-Palestinian-like setting that parallels the acrimony between the Florida House and Senate, a lot of people on the inside want to talk about the “progress” that was made when Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner agreed to the dates of a Special Session. But Crisafulli and Gardiner are not the roadblocks to, um peace. Pax Republicana goes through state Reps. Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva. And look at what they’ve done: Corcoran has launched an online advertising campaign (rightly) criticizing the profit motives of some Florida hospitals, while Oliva took to Twitter to say, “The answer to every ‘crisis’ isn’t to further burden the public but to resolve what CAUSED the ‘crisis.’ We need COSTFix not FHIX.” In other words, Corcoran and Oliva are not ready to lay down their arms.

•There’s a scene in the TV show The West Wing where Leo McGarry instructs the three tribes of Democrats warring for the party’s presidential nomination for “someone to talk to somebody” so that peace can be made and a nominee can be selected. That’s really what needs to happen in the Legislature. Someone needs to talk to somebody. It’s not going to be the House speaker or the Senate president, because they have to be preserved for the big decisions. It probably can’t be Corcoran or state Sen. Tom Lee because both have been so belligerent to the other chamber. So who will be blessed to be the peacemaker? I previously predicted it would be Jack Latvala, a perennial dealmaker, who might play against type and serve as an honest broker. Too many smart people disagree with that prediction, so let me try another: How about the affable Garrett Richter or future Senate President Bill Galvano? Wouldn’t they just be perfect to run a little shuttle diplomacy between the two camps? As for who their partner will be on the House side, I’m still not so sure.

•The Florida Senate, especially one controlled by Republicans, doesn’t have many tools at its disposal to jam up Gov. Scott. But it did employ one of the few it does have by dumping the remainder of its 68 bills on his desk for him review and sign or veto by May 22. That’s a break from tradition in which the Governor’s Office quietly requests bills to be sent over in bite-sized batches. And it’s a real middle finger from the Senate to the governor.

•The House, meanwhile, says it will send its bills in batches so as to, according to spox Michael Williams, allow Scott “to have time to thoroughly review them. This has been the common practice in the past. We do not see any value to drop all the bills at once.”

•So the Special Session begins June 1 in Tallahassee, while Gov. Scott’s Economic Growth Summit kicks off June 2 in Orlando. Talk about a tale of two cities. Perhaps Scott will accomplish his goal of looking maybe not presidential, but at least senatorial, by hosting several Republican presidential candidates at his forum. He’d be wise to not be photographed in front of any more Ferris wheels as he was the last time his Republican colleagues were melting down.

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RICK SCOTT TELLS FOX NEWS THAT FLORIDA WILL HAVE A CONTINUATION BUDGET via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics  

Gov. Scott made an appearance on FOX News … explaining why he flip-flopped on Medicaid expansion and said he was going “to do the right things to drive health care costs down.” … he went from supporting Medicaid expansion in 2013 when his mother died to opposing it in 2015 because the potential financial impact it will have when the government stops fully paying for it.

“I will not stand in the way of the federal government if they want to take care of the low income families,” Scott said. “If the federal government wants to run a program in my state have it but don’t expect me to tax my citizens and I still stand by that.”

Scott said he was going to “do the right things to drive health care costs down make sure our families can get the health care they deserve at a price they can afford.” … he advised Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell that her indecision on continuing the Low Income Pool program “ruined (his) entire budget.”

Scott also said he expects that the Legislature will pass a continuation budget during a June 1 special session to keep the state running … the last two weeks he is working on a base, or continuation budget and he reiterated that message …

“We’ll just have a continuation budget,” Scott said. “We’ll just do what we’ve done this last year. We won’t put more money into schools which is what I wanted to do. We won’t cut taxes which is what I wanted to do. We’ll just leave the money there and deal with it our next which starts in January.”

TWEET, TWEET: @FasanoMike: Can someone tell us what a “continuation budget” is when the State Constitution requires a balanced budget when fiscal year begins.

SCOTT PICKS SCOTT APPOINTEES TO SERVE ON HOSPITAL COMMISSION via Matt Dixon of Political Fix Florida

Gov. Scott appointed nine members to his newly created Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, eight of which are Scott appointees to other state boards or commissions.

Scott created the commission through executive order to examine the flow of taxpayer dollars through the state healthcare and hospital system.  He has asked state hospitals to come up with a profit-sharing plan to replace a current pot of federal healthcare funding that facilities use to provide indigent care.

The healthcare commission is full of people Scott appointed or reappointed to boards that oversee things like airport authorities, military committees, the Florida Board of Governors, which governs state universities, and panels that help select judges.

Scott also snubbed a handful of lawmakers who expressed an interest in the commission, including state Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican who is the Senate’s healthcare budget writer. State Surgeon General John Armstrong and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek will serve as the commission’s co-executive directors.

TWEET, TWEET: @Jason-Garcia: 8 of the 9 people Rick Scott just appointed to his healthcare/no-Medicaid expansion committee are current Scott appointees to other boards.

TWEET, TWEET: @SteveBousquet: Chair of Gov. Rick Scott’s new hospital commission is six-figure donor to Scott and Florida GOP

TWEET, TWEET: @ZacJAnderson: Scott’s hospital commission does not appear to have many healthcare experts, it includes a developer, banker, “beef consultant” & accountant

LOIS FRANKEL SAYS SCOTT, REPUBLICANS ‘ILLOGICAL’ ON MEDICAID MONEY via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel … joined two Democratic Florida legislators in blasting Gov. Scott and state House Republican leaders for refusing to accept $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid money.

“There are 800,000 Floridians who are not being included in our healthcare system. It is unfair and it’s inhumane. And it’s illogical…we’re refusing free money,” said Frankel, who was joined by state Sen. Maria Sachs … and House Minority Leader Mark Pafford.

Pafford said he believes Scott and House Republicans are really motivated by their dislike of the federal Affordable Care Act.

“What I believe we have here is a situation that is rhetoric, it’s spiteful, it’s callous — all because a few people in the House who just happen to be leaders have a problem with Obamacare and what comes with Obamacare,” Pafford said.

“What’s illogical to me is that Gov. Scott just was in Washington, D.C., basically begging the federal government to write a check to pay for uncompensated care in Florida’s hospitals. That’s federal money that he wanted. And yet, on the other hand, he’s turning down much more money that would go to the health care of 800,000 more Floridians and keep many of them out of hospitals and give them preventive care,” Frankel said. “The state legislature needs to come together and accept this Medicaid expansion money.”

— “What do legislative leaders think about Scott’s profit sharing idea?” via the Tampa Bay Times.

— “Local lawmakers in thick of health-care fight” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel.

— “Patients who use LIP are different than Medicaid expansion population, Scott says” via PolitiFact Florida.

MEANWHILE … PUBLIC HOSPITALS IN BROWARD BRACE FOR POSSIBLE STATE BUDGET CUTS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

Broward County’s public hospitals have begun preparing for the potential loss of a combined $180 million a year in federal funds that help pay for the cost of care for the uninsured and for medical student training.

Gathering at the Broward Governmental Center in Fort Lauderdale … with county commissioners and Democratic state senators and representatives from local districts to sound alarm, administrators for Broward Health and Memorial Healthcare System said they are considering reductions to non-critical programs. The state Legislature has been unable to craft a budget so far this year, deadlocking over healthcare funding issues and creating big questions for public hospital budgets.

Nabil El Sanadi, a trauma surgeon and chief executive of Broward Health, which serves the northern portion of the county, said his hospital system stands to lose about $92 million a year, or roughly 10 percent of its annual budget, if state leaders and federal regulators cannot reach agreement on renewal of a $2.1 billion funding program known as the Low Income Pool or LIP.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT TURNS DOWN CASE SPARKED BY SCOTT via The Associated Press

The Florida Supreme Court is turning away a case challenging a law that allows Gov. Scott to use a blind trust instead of providing a detailed accounting of his finances. The high court … ruled that it would not consider an appeal of a lawsuit filed by a former aide to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew. The one page order was approved unanimously.

Jim Apthorp contended that letting politicians use a blind trust violates a 1976 constitutional amendment pushed by Askew that requires full financial disclosure. Apthorp has said the lawsuit wasn’t aimed at Scott, but the Republican governor was the only public official who has used one.

Florida legislators in 2013 passed the law that authorized blind trusts … Scott last year briefly dissolved the trust and released detailed information about his holdings right before qualifying for re-election.

SCOTT’S SILENCE ON ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION BILL ALARMS OFFICIALS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Three times in recent weeks, Florida’s 67 county elections supervisors have written to Scott and asked to meet with him to ease his concerns about a bill requiring his administration to develop an online voter registration system by October 2017. Three times, Scott has responded with silence.

In a state Capitol where genuine bipartisanship is exceedingly rare, a unified Legislature passed SB 228, creating an electronic registration form 2 1/2 years from now. The lopsided votes were 109-9 in the House and 37-3 in the Senate. Votes on Mother’s Day resolutions have had more suspense.

But Scott’s chief elections official, Ken Detzner, strongly opposes the idea and says it would be risky to do it at a time when voting and driver’s license databases are being upgraded and the 2016 presidential election is around the corner.

Here’s where things get even more strange. Detzner has been shouting for weeks about why an online voter registration form is a dumb idea, warning about “forces of evil” out to disrupt Florida elections. But he told reporters Scott hasn’t asked him his opinion.

Scott is in a tight spot … If he signs the bill, Detzner will lose credibility, because it will be obvious that Scott didn’t give a whit about his concerns. If Scott vetoes the bill, he risks having it overridden by a two-thirds vote by the Legislature in an ultimate gesture of contempt that would slap the label of “lame duck” squarely on his back.

FILM FLORIDA WANTS INCENTIVES BILL INCLUDED IN SPECIAL SESSION via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

After being passed over for funding during the past couple of legislative sessions, members of the film, television and digital media community in Florida had their fingers crossed long before the 2015 session started that this would be the year that the state’s film tax incentive program would be replenished, after it used up all of its funds a few years ago.

But House Speaker Steve Crisafulli decision to blow off the session with three days left to go last month killed numerous bills working their way through committees, possibly including the film incentives package.

Now the entertainment industry is calling on Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner and Gov. Scott to include the incentives legislation when the House and Senate come back for a special session next month.

Film Florida is also directing supporters of the legislation to sign a petition that calls for passage of the bill, something that nearly a thousand Floridians have done to date.

WHAT RICHARD CORCORAN IS READING — “Ky hospitals: Obamacare forcing cuts, layoffs” via The Courier-Journal

WHAT JEFFREY BRANDES IS READING — “Self-driving cars getting dinged in California” via The Associated Press

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND

With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round.

Off: Valerie Trueba no longer works as a legislative assistant for state Rep. Frank Artiles.

On: Jacob Schmidt is the new legislative assistant for state Rep. James Grant.

Off: Eddie Rogers no longer works as a district secretary for state Rep. Bill Hager.

On: Jennifer Lubi is the new district secretary to state Rep. Paul Renner.

Off: Elizabeth Honorat no longer works as a legislative assistant for state Rep. Hazel Rogers.

On: John Kotyk is the new legislative assistant and Benjamin Brown is the new district secretary to Cyndi Stevenson.

Off: Andrew Green no longer works as a legislative assistant for state Rep. John Tobia.

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HAPPENING TONIGHT: MARCO RUBIO TO RAISE MONEY IN PALM BEACH COUNTY 

Rubio is expected at a fundraiser for his presidential campaign during a reception in Palm Beach, beginning 6 p.m., home of Carlyn and Lothar Mayer, 7098 Ayrshire Lane in Boca Raton. Tickets to the reception are $1,000 per person or $2,000 per couple; a ticket to the reception and a photography session is $2,700 per person or $5,400 per couple.

RICK PERRY IN GAETZ COUNTRY TONIGHT 

The former Texas governor and potential presidential candidate will take the stage Tuesday as keynote speaker during the Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee’s annual Lincoln Dinner.

Festivities are 6-10 p.m. at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, 1500 Miracle Strip Parkway, in Fort Walton Beach.

Oleg Atbashian, author of “Shakedown Socialism” and creator of the satirical political website ThePeoplesCube.com, will share experiences of being a propaganda artist in the Soviet Union, his immigration to the United States, and his dismay when he heard the same message as the Kremlin in New York’s intellectual circles. Sept. 11, 2001, was his turning point.

Tickets are $60 per person; $50 for Century Club and students. A Chairman’s Reception (meet-and-greet with Perry) will be held in the Oasis Room from 5-6 p.m.; tickets are $250 per person.

A NEW SUPER PAC STEPS UP FOR RON DESANTIS FOR SENATE via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Ron DeSantis already has several conservative political committee lined up to help elect him to the U.S. Senate, and now he has a Super PAC in his corner. The newly created Service. Honor. Country. Action. Fund (SHCAF) can raise unlimited campaign donations and make indepdendent expenditures on behalf of DeSantis.

“It is important that we replace Marco Rubio with a like-minded conservative who will continue to fight for limited government and a strong national defense.  Ron’s background as a military prosecutor, advisor to U.S. Navy SEAL commander and Congressman position him to step in ready to lead on day one. As this will be a marquee US Senate contest SHCAF will work to ensure that voters have a real choice next November,” said the chairman of the new committee, Republican consultant Dave Carney, whose clients have included Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.

HEARING that Beverly Slough (St. Johns County School Board Member who ran against DeSantis in 2012) is looking at running again for Congress. She came in 3rd place in 2012 behind DeSantis and Costello. Slough would arguably have more name ID (in the district) than some of the others looking to run.

FINANCIAL STUDY PROJECTS LOWER GOVERNMENT REVENUES FROM SOLAR INITIATIVE via Ivan Penn of the Tampa Bay Times

State and local government revenues from taxes and fees would decrease if a ballot initiative to open up Florida’s solar market wins approval, though the specific impact remains unclear, according to a financial review of the proposal.

Financial Impact Estimating Conference … submitted its 18-page report to state Attorney General Pam Bondi, who will forward the review to the Florida Supreme Court. The report noted that state and local governments also would face additional costs from the initiative, though those expenses “will likely be minimal and partially offset by fees.”

The impact review also found that some local governments believe the ballot initiative could lead to the end of some franchise agreements between municipalities and utility companies or force them to renegotiate the deals because of the potential impact an expansion of rooftop solar might have.

In January, backers of broader use of solar energy in Florida launched a petition drive for the 2016 ballot that would allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell the power directly to other consumers.

If the measure passes, solar proponents argue that it would open up Florida’s solar energy market, which has largely stagnated for years. The measure would allow business or property owners to produce up to 2 megawatts of solar power and then sell that power directly to others, such as tenants, without having to go through a utility.

BILL MCCOLLUM GOES TO BAT FOR DENNIS BAXLEY via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

McCollum, now looking at a third run at the U.S. Senate, will be hitting the campaign trail later this week to support an old ally.

McCollum … is considering running again for the Senate. After 20 years in Congress, McCollum won the Republican Senate nomination in 2000 but lost to Democrat Bill Nelson in the race for an open seat. In 2004, McCollum ran again but lost to former U.S. HUD Secretary Mel Martinez in the Republican primary.

— “Jeff Clemens draws primary challenger in Palm Beach Senate seat” via Ryan Ray of FloridaPolitics.com.

— “Race to succeed John Wood heating up in Polk County House district” via Ryan Ray of FloridaPolitics.com

— “Third-party candidate to again challenge Travis Cummings in NE Florida House seat” via Ryan Ray of FloridaPolitics.com

DAPHNE CAMPBELL HITS FUNDRAISING SNAG via Michael Van Sickler of the Miami Herald

“By the book” is one way no one has ever described Rep. Daphne Campbell.

In prior years, her record keeping has drawn the attention of the IRS and the Florida Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before Campbell’s campaign finance reports started waving some hard-to-miss red flags.

Sure enough, the April 2015 campaign finance report she filed … was rife with problems — 2,500 of them to be precise.

That’s how much money Florida’s Division of Election website showed she had raised last month. That’s $500 from Florida Justice PAC on April 2; $500 from Florida’s Right to Know committee on April 4; $1,000 from subsidiaries of U.S. Sugar on April 16; and $500 from the law firm Becker & Poliakoff on April 25.

[C]ampaign finance records filed with the Division of Elections showed that Campbell was the only incumbent lawmaker to have raised money during this time period — which just happened to be the same time as the 2015 legislative session.

This is bad. Raising money during session is a violation of the House’s adopted rules for 2014-2016.

So what happened? Campbell said there was a mistake. The checks were written before session started.

“They are lying,” Campbell said.

ON THE JAX CAMPAIGN TRAIL

FORMER RIVALS JAY FANT, PAUL RENNER COME TOGETHER FOR LENNY CURRY

Less than a year ago, conservative Republicans Jay Fant and Paul Renner fought a bitter primary battle in House District 15. Fant was ahead big in the polls at first, but Renner went on the attack and came within three votes of closing the gap … both men share at least two new commonalities: Both are House incumbents, Fant from HD 15 and Renner from HD 24. Also, in a show of party unity that transcends party rancor, both have united to support Lenny Curry for mayor.

DUVAL DEMOCRATS CHALLENGE DENISE LEE; LEE FIRES BACK

District 8 Councilwoman E. Denise Lee has been making news lately with lacerating criticisms of the Alvin Brown campaign outreach to the African-American community. Recently, Neil Henrichsen, the chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, said Lee has not been active in the Democratic Party in years. His comments took Lee by surprise and she responded that “he has never reached out to me.”

She also took Henrichsen to task for his statement that she was playing politics regarding Brown’s advertisements that she found inflammatory.

DENISE LEE SPEAKS OUT; FISSURES SHOW IN DUVAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY

The Jacksonville election takes place in less than two weeks, and one trend that has emerged is infighting between the Duval Democratic Party and African-American Democrats, who have salient criticisms of how party business is conducted. Exhibit A: Denise Lee‘s critique of the latest doorknocker from the Alvin Brown campaign escaped official comment from the Brown campaign … leading Duval County Democrats have made their criticisms known … One such criticism, from Duval County Democratic Chairman Neil Henrichsen, implies that Lee doesn’t understand the real history lesson provided by the doorknocker.

MINISTER, FATHER OF JAX CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE, DEFENDS ‘HOMOPHOBIC’ SIGN

The Rev. Gene Youngblood, father of Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 candidate Geoff Youngblood, says a message posted on the marquee outside his First Conservative Baptist Church is “reacting to current events” and corresponds to Scripture … The sign reads “Homosexuals must repent or go to Hell.” It has sparked a petition response at the website www.change.org, which calls the message “homophobic and bigoted” and calls for its removal.

HAPPENING TONIGHT — Lenny Curry’s final fundraising push is tonight at San Jose Country Club located at 7529 San Jose Blvd. The event begins 8 p.m. Organizers are asking each host to raise or give $1,000; the suggested contribution is $500 per person $1,000 per couple. RSVP with Melissa Langley at Melissa@thefiorentinogroup.com or (904) 358-2757.

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AMID GRIDLOCK IN D.C., INFLUENCE INDUSTRY EXPANDS RAPIDLY IN THE STATES via Reid Wilson of The Washington Post

Lobbyists aren’t having much luck on a gridlocked Capitol Hill — so more and more, they’re opening their wallets in state capitols around the country. Not keeping pace with the surge, say watchdog groups: the disclosure laws that are supposed to keep the influence industry in check.

Battles in legislatures between rival energy companies; powerful medical interests like doctors, hospitals and insurers; and even environmentalists and plastic bag manufacturers have fueled huge growth in lobbying spending at the state level, even as spending has plateaued — and even waned — at the federal level … professional advocates reported spending at least $2.2 billion on activity aimed at influencing state legislators in 28 states where data was available during the 2013-2014 biennium — with virtually every state seeing dramatic growth over the last decade.

At the same time, total spending on federal lobbying activities has fallen. After hitting a peak in 2010, when advocacy groups reported spending $3.52 billion on lobbying, that number dropped to $3.24 billion in 2014, according to data maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Lobbying spending has more than doubled over the last 10 years in North Carolina, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arizona and Ohio. Spending in at least six states — Florida, Minnesota and Washington, along with New Jersey, New York and California — topped $100 million between 2013 and 2014. Lobbying spending topped $50 million in Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and Maryland over the same period.

In Florida, lobbyists who seek influence with the executive branch must only report ranges of spending. Those ranges suggest advocates spent between $30 million and $120 million in the last two years lobbying state agencies, on top of the $249 million spent to woo legislators.

FROM THE NOT NEWS DEP’T: ASHLEY ROSS WASN’T FIRED Full story here

At the end of our recent story about state Sen. Jack Latvala hiring uber fundraiser Meredith O’Rourke to raise money for his political committee, we noted that Ashley Ross had gone to work for Latvala’s rival, Joe Negron.

Concurrent with our story, talk circulated that Ross had been fired from the Republican Party of Florida by Senate President Andy Gardiner. That’s because an abrupt memo released by Gardiner read as if he had.

Except she hadn’t. In fact, she probably made the smart play signing up with Negron.

Ross, like many consultants and staff people, found herself caught between a rock and a hard place. So she went to work for Negron, who probably will eventually edge out Latvala (as a Pinellas guy that’s difficult for me to write, but it’s true).

So if and when Negron is officially the Senate President Designate, he’ll just install Ross right back where she was — if she wants to. Remember, she’s already worked for four Senate presidents. It’s almost unheard of for someone to remain at the RPOF as long as Ross has.

Bottom line: Ashley Ross has been and will be in charge of her own destiny. She wasn’t fired. Rather she made a smart, if cautiously risky, move.

PERSONNEL NOTE — CONCERNED VETERANS FOR AMERICA NAMES DIEGO ECHEVERRI AS FLORIDA DIRECTOR via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

A national veterans group, Concerned Veterans for America, appointed entrepreneur and public policy pro Diego Echeverri as its new Florida State director.

Echeverri, who served as coalitions coordinator for the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign, is a U.S. Army veteran who enlisted shortly after 9/11. After training as a paralegal specialist, he deployed to Afghanistan between 2003 and 2004.

After leaving the Army, Echeverri served as special assistant to the governor of Florida, director of political and economic affairs at the Consulate General of Israel, and as an aide to the chief financial officer of Florida.

Concerned Veterans for America CEO Pete Hegseth said he is “thrilled to add Diego” to the team.

“We’re fortunate to have talented individuals like him advancing our mission of defending freedom and prosperity here in the U.S.,” Hegseth said in a statement.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Paul Bradshaw, Southern Strategy Group: Disaster, Strategies and Ideas Group LLC

Charles Cliburn, New Capitol IT: M Corp

Jim DeBeaugrine,  Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Arc of St. Lucie County

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: SPDS, Inc.

Barbara O’Brien, Jackson Vaughn Public Strategies: CNU Online Holdings

***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.***

CONGRATS — MIAMI HERALD REPORTER JULIE BROWN WINS AWARD FOR PRISON SERIES via the Miami Herald

Brown has been recognized with an RFK Journalism Award for her ongoing series on deaths and questionable use of force in Florida’s prison system.

The series, “Cruel and Unusual,” won in the domestic print category in the 47th annual awards given out by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The Washington-based center collaborates with universities, legal clinics and non-governmental organizations to educate on issues of human-rights issues and press for change.

Last month, Brown was honored with a National Headliner Award, taking first place in Local Beat coverage. In February, she won a George Polk Award for Justice Reporting for her coverage, sharing the honor with the New York Times for its report on abuse in city jails.

After several of Brown’s articles were published, the state Department of Corrections began work with Florida inmates suffering from mental illnesses, discharged dozens of corrections officers and ordered a study on the use of force.

COOL VID — Spearfisher captures close encounter with Great White on GoPro Camera here.

PICS DU JOUR — Photos from the St. Pete Beach wedding of Dave Aronberg and Lynn Lewis here via Jose Lambiet.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Rhett Joseph O’Doski (his parents decided there just aren’t enough Rhett’s in this world). Born May 6, weighing 7 lbs, 9oz. Mommy and baby are healthy and happy.

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.