Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
If the November election were held today, only four of the 13 proposed state constitutional amendments would pass, according to new polling by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
“However, this is before tens of millions of dollars are invested in information campaigns,” the Chamber said in a news release. “In other words, these numbers will change as November approaches.”
Chamber officials further said that with 13 amendments on the ballot — eight from the Constitution Revision Commission, three from the Legislature and two from citizen initiatives — “voter fatigue is certainly a concern.”
“In fact, some special interest groups have threatened a ‘vote no on all’ campaign,” they said. “But based on the latest polling data, that wouldn’t be a wise use of resources.
“ … Likely voters overwhelmingly say they plan to vote to consider each amendment. And 89 percent say they will vote on each amendment based upon its own merits.”
Here is how the amendments performed, according to the Chamber:
Amendment 1 — Increased Homestead Exemption: Yes — 67%, No — 22%, Unsure 11%
Amendment 2 — Limitations on Property Tax Assessments — Yes — 58%, No 20%, Unsure 22%
Amendment 3 — Voter Control of Gambling — Yes — 61%, No 23%, Unsure 15%
Amendment 4 — Voter Restoration — Yes — 40%, No 17%, Unsure 43%
Amendment 5 — Supermajority to Raise Taxes — Yes — 34%, No 36%, Unsure 30%
Amendment 6 — Victim’s Rights; Judges — Yes 51%, No 12%, Unsure 37%
Amendment 7 — First Responder & Military Member Survivor Benefits — Yes 80%, No 7%, Unsure 13%
Amendment 8 — School Board Term Limits — Yes 75%, No 11%, Unsure 15%
Amendment 9 — Prohibit Offshore Drilling — Yes 55%, No 31%, Unsure 14%
Amendment 10 — State & Local Gov’t Structure — Yes 31%, No 16%, Unsure 53%
Amendment 11 — Property Rights — Yes 38%, No 16%, Unsure 46%
Amendment 12 — Lobbying and Abuse by Public Officials — Yes 55%, No 18%, Unsure 27%
Amendment 13 — End Dog Racing — Yes 47% No 36%, Unsure 17%
What Jack Cory is reading — “Longwood artist goes political in defense of greyhound racing” via Brian Scott of WOFL/Fox 35 — Many know Jeff Sonksen for his tribute murals lining a fence on Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Longwood … Sonksen’s newest series line the road outside of the Seminole County Kennel Club. The paintings aren’t of people but of greyhound dogs that actually run races at the Longwood track, and bare messages defending that track and its sport. “There are so many times I drove by the track and went, ‘ooo the dreaded dog track!’” said Sonksen. “I never would have believed that six months later I’d be defending greyhound racing.” Sonksen said his change of heart came after an odd series of events that led him to an invite into the Seminole track. Also an avid social media user, he went in armed with a camera expecting to continue to expose the abuse he’d seen shown by so many animal rights groups, but he said he couldn’t. “I haven’t found an abused greyhound yet,” he said. All the people I’ve met, man, they’re just good, hardworking, animal loving people; they love these dogs.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@SenJohnMcCain: To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.
—@ScottforFlorida: I grew up in a poor family and that’s why I believe having a job is the most important thing for a family. No one should be dismissive about the fact that so many families are finding a job.
—@BradHerold: Even if you think @AdamPutnam’s record wasn’t disqualifying for him, let’s just list the scandals: 1. Hastert 2. Special Interest Funded Hunting Trips 3. Shady Land Deal 4. No Background Checks For a Year And @RonDeSantisFL can’t win a general because he supports Trump … Okay.
—@BobBuckhorn: Let’s get this straight. As AG Commissioner u have 2 basic jobs…….make sure the Citrus industry is healthy and to issue permits for concealed weapons. Results = dying citrus industry and more nuts and felons w guns.
—@LMower3: It’s a bit ridiculous that the Florida Democratic Governor’s debate isn’t streaming live on Facebook or Twitter.
—@NewsBySmiley: Debate gets heated when Levine is asked why he gave $2,400 to Marco Rubio. Gillum and King attck. “Sure feels good to be the front-runner” Levine says, drawing boos like a wrestling heel
—@MDixon55: In general, crowd was not traditional debate audience. They almost incentivized the onstage hostility. Compliments were ignored, aggressiveness was greeted with approval. Very colosseum stuff.
—@MDixon55: One day I’ll be asked where I was during 13th Triple Crown and I’ll get to say an auditorium in Pinellas Park High School
—@ZamirGotta (a close friend of Anthony Bourdain): I cannot make myself watch CNN tribute, it took me 24 hours to write my tribute 4 Hollywood Reporter, honestly it was the most painful one
—@DarrenRovell: How insane was Secretariat’s Belmont 45 years ago? The horse would have beaten Justify (based on time) by 25 LENGTHS.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 1; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 3; Father’s Day — 6; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 11; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 17; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 27; MLB All-Star Game — 36; Deadline for filing claim bills — 51; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 51; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 52; Start of the U.S. Open — 77; Primary Election Day — 78; College Football opening weekend — 80; NFL season starts — 88; Future of Florida Forum — 107; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 134; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 135; General Election Day — 148; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 248; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 267.
“Adam Putnam blasts Times report, but acknowledges office’s failure to review background checks” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam said a Tampa Bay Times report that his office didn’t check backgrounds of concealed weapons applicants for noncriminal offenses for more than a year was “flat wrong and misleading.” But he acknowledged that an employee in his office failed to review the results of those background checks, which led to 291 people receiving permits who were not supposed to have them. Putnam’s office has since revoked those permits, he said. “This was a very serious issue,” said Putnam. “We took immediate action.” Putnam blamed the employee, who he called “negligent and deceptive” for not acting on the results of the background check. He said he ordered the inspector general investigation immediately after he was informed about the problem. That employee, a former mailroom worker, told the Times she was under pressure to quickly process applications and questioned why she was put in charge of this. “I’m here to solve problems,” Putnam said. “We didn’t wait on a bad story to solve problems. I initiated the inspector general and the review of processes and procedures upon learning of this breakdown.”
On Friday, the Times reported that the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications but should have more precisely stated that the checks were not reviewed, an essential part of the approval process.https://t.co/YgOnWvAbpz
— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) June 10, 2018
The Tampa Bay Times rushed their deadline because they are more interested in clickbait than the facts. Today @adamputnam set the record straight and spent 20 minutes answering questions from reporters. https://t.co/mRqRGm3X7p
— Meredith Beatrice (@MeredithMBeat) June 9, 2018
“Ron DeSantis says Putnam’s office missed background checks because Putnam was too busy campaigning” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — “Adam has spent years campaigning for governor, basically, in this position and the report was very concerning because it seemed like he wasn’t minding the store when we needed him to be there,” DeSantis told reporters after making a stump speech. “I also want to know why, if this report was done a year ago, why are we just now finding out about this?” DeSantis continued. “Why weren’t some of the deficiencies communicated to Gov. Rick Scott, to FDLE, to other people who would be interested in the fact you may have people who are not eligible getting permits to concealed carry? So that’s an unanswered question we need answers to.”
“Calling it ‘political attack,’ NRA (wo)mansplains weapons permit snafu” via Florida Politics — “The media isn’t getting it right, and anti-gun Democrats don’t want to get it right,” says United Sportsman of Florida Executive Director Marion Hammer, a past president of the National Rifle Association and among the most powerful lobbyists in the state. “Truth and facts matter. So here is what really happened” … the Division of Licensing did perform background checks on applicants for licenses to carry concealed weapons or firearms. “Background checks were done through FCIC (Florida Criminal Information Computer system) and NCIC (National Criminal Information Computer system — the national FBI fingerprint database), and they also did a NICS check, which is the name-based background check system,” she says. Although those questionable applicants did indeed receive licenses to carry firearms, Hammer makes an important distinction: “They still would not have been allowed to purchase a firearm from a firearms dealer because the same NICS background check would have been performed by a dealer and would have stopped them from purchasing a firearm.” After the Division ran new background checks on those 365 applicants, Hammer says 74 were cleared and 291 still had disqualifiers. Their licenses to carry firearms were immediately suspended. “The facts don’t fit narrative being pushed by the anti-gun political opponents of the Commissioner of Agriculture, Putnam, who is a candidate for Governor.”
How #Concealment-gate is playing — POLITICO Florida, Gun background check failure haunts ‘proud NRA sellout’ Putnam — “The controversy — and Putnam’s slow-footed response in getting the facts out in a timely fashion — was the latest to haunt his campaign. Putnam was already a target of gun-control activists for having called himself a ‘proud NRA sellout.’” Lakeland Ledger, Putnam in crosshairs of controversy — “Now running for Florida governor as a Republican, Putnam’s campaign touts his expansion of concealed carry permits as one of his top accomplishments.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Putnam: No more lapses in background checks — “The commissioner says ‘more seamless’ communication between his agency and law enforcement, and ‘extra eyeballs,’ are in place to make sure the problem never happens again.” Miami Herald, Putnam rips concealed weapons story, acknowledges failure to review background checks — “Putnam asserted that ‘no one’s safety was at risk’ because those 291 people would not have been able to purchase a firearm.” Orlando Sentinel, Putnam’s Florida office didn’t do gun background checks for one year: report — “I am extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks — allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who should be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida,’ said state Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat. ‘He needs to resign.’”
—“Time for Florida GOP to draft Pam Bondi?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics
— NELSON VS. SCOTT —
First on #FlaPol — “Poll: Rick Scott maintains edge over Bill Nelson” via Florida Politics — The poll, conducted for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, puts Scott ahead 48-43 with 5 percent undecided. That margin tracks with a May poll out of Florida Atlantic University that found Scott up 4 points, however undecided voters made up a much higher share in that poll. Those results put the race at 44-40 with 16 percent unsure. The party breakdown showed 86 percent of likely Republican voters would vote for Scott in the fall while 9 percent said Nelson was their pick. Likely Democratic voters were only slightly less unified, picking Nelson 80-13. The pair both had 44 percent support among NPA and third-party voters. The live interview phone poll was conducted May 25 through June 4. It took responses from 249 Democrats, 237 Republicans and 119 other party or NPA voters and has a margin of error of +/-4 percent.
“Scott surges past Nelson with older Florida voters” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Scott is virtually tied with Nelson among Florida voters, but the Republican is dominating the Democrat by 9 points among those nearing or at retirement age — a group that casts the majority of Florida’s votes. The results, drawn from a forthcoming POLITICO/AARP poll delving into the policy views of Florida voters aged 50 and older, exposes a political divide that bodes relatively well for Republicans when compared to some nationwide polling that shows a more-favorable environment for Democrats. Overall, voters in the nation’s largest swing state are almost evenly split when it comes to opinions of President Trump’s job performance, with 48 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. But Trump’s job approval rises to 52 percent and his disapproval falls to 44 percent among voters older than 50 — a crucial demographic in the retiree-heavy state because they have historically cast about two-thirds of all the ballots in midterm elections.
“Scott super PAC launches $3.5m ad blitz” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The New Republican PAC, run by Scott loyalists, started strong against Nelson by launching a $2.4 million ad campaign against the Democrat in May. Now it’s coming back bigger and meaner with a $3.5 million broadcast, cable and digital buy. The ads (a 30-second TV spot and 15- and 6-second digital pieces) feature pictures of Nelson’s face aging through the years, as a timeline on the right ticks off his time and votes in office since his first election win in 1972.
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
Assignment editors — Scott will join local law enforcement leaders from the Tampa Bay area and Southwest Florida in St. Petersburg on Monday to make a “major announcement,” according to a release. The event is at 2870 Scherer Drive, Suite 300. 9:30 a.m. Scott will then meet with leaders of South Florida’s Colombian community in advance of Colombia’s upcoming presidential election. The event is at 233 Aragon Avenue, Suite A, Coral Gables.
Save the date — Scott will speak at breakfast before the Second Annual Polk County Republican Clay Shoot, June 16, at Catfish Creek Sporting Clays near Haines City, according to Polk County Republican Chairman JC Martin.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Matt Gaetz goes after Putnam at campaign rally in Pensacola” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal — Gaetz also touted the DeSantis endorsement from Donald Trump and called him “a fellow swamp drainer.” Gaetz hit Putnam for not immediately voicing support for Trump in the 2016 primaries after Trump won the Indiana Republican primary, making him the presumptive GOP nominee. “I feel obligated as your congressman to share with you the reasons that I cannot vote for Putnam in the Republican primary,” Gaetz said. “The first reason: I actually support Donald Trump and Adam Putnam doesn’t.” Gaetz also went after Putnam on immigration, saying while Gaetz was in the Florida Legislature that Putnam, as agriculture commissioner, lobbied against passing a requirement for employers to use the federal E-Verify system to obtain workers’ immigration status.
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) June 9, 2018
“4 key moments from Saturday’s Democratic gubernatorial debate” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — 1. Philip Levine: “It sure is fun to be the front-runner!” … to groans and even some boos. 2. The Gwen Graham–Andrew Gillum bad blood spills onto the stage … Gillum once again criticized Graham for voting against President Obama “52 percent of the time.” (That figure is somewhat misleading, per PolitiFact.) Graham defended herself, arguing that she’s happy to talk about her Congressional votes. 3. Chris King defends Gillum … “I have gotten to know Andrew Gillum over the last year pretty well. I’ve probably spent more time with Andrew than my wife,” King said to laughter. “And I can tell you, Andrew is a good and noble public servant.” 4. The candidates defended Trump … Ok, this one is only sort of true. But on what Trump has done right? Graham: “This audience.” Gillum: “When he takes a Twitter break.” Levine: Reiterated Graham’s point about the activist energy in the building. And then he gave this quote: “He’s a tragedy for our nation, and we’re living through a nightmare.”
Happening tonight — Democratic gubernatorial candidates will debate at an event hosted by several groups, including the Service Employees International Union Florida labor union. Expected to attend are Gillum, Graham, King and Levine. The debate will be livestreamed on Service Employees International Union Florida and PBS NewsHour digital channels; doors open at 5:30 p.m., the debate starts 7 p.m., Miramar Cultural Center, 2400 Civic Center Plaza, Miramar.
“Philip Levine hears boos at Democratic gubernatorial debate featuring nasty exchanges” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Levine is increasingly perceived as the front-runner in the Democratic primary for governor, but a packed auditorium of party faithful during the race’s second debate Saturday night reacted brutally when he anointed himself the new leader: “boooo.” … “One thing I can say is that it is sure fun to be the front-runner,” said Levine, who quickly tried to transition as the auditorium filled with boos. The comment came as one of his opponents, King, was ticking off a series of what he deems as shortcomings in Levine’s record, notably the fact that he gave money to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in his first race in 2010, an issue that again drew the ire from an audience that was vocal throughout the hourlong debate. “I, at this point, have given up to $1 million to Democrats,” Levine responded. He then tried to get back to his accomplishments as mayor, which prompted the crowd to yell “answer the questions.”
“Levine holds double-digit lead in Democratic primary for governor, poll finds” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Levine pulled 32 percent in a poll of 600 likely voters conducted this week by SEA Polling & Strategic Design — compared to 37 percent for the rest of the field combined. Graham pulled 16 percent; Gillum, 11; King, 6; and real estate tycoon Jeff Greene, 4 percent. Tom Eldon, the veteran pollster behind the numbers, said the poll was commissioned by an independent group that is not affiliated with any of the five campaigns in the primary. His findings appear to validate Levine’s internal numbers, which have put him ahead of the field for months now, significantly so in South Florida and Tampa. Eldon found Levine with 47 percent support in South Florida, and 37 percent in Tampa. Levine’s campaign has been touting its numbers for months in those areas — markets that have both high numbers of Democratic voters and high costs for advertising.
.@DeFede says Jeff Greene, billionaire running for Gov, told him this week that he’s “still in the exploratory phase.”
— David Smiley (@NewsbySmiley) June 10, 2018
Gubernatorial candidate Bob White campaigns in Lee County — White is scheduled to speak to the Lee Republican Women Federated, social hour at 5:15 p.m., followed by dinner, Pinchers, The Marina at Edison Ford, 2360 West First St., Fort Myers.
“Homestead Mayor announces for Agriculture Commissioner” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Jeff Porter, who has served as mayor of Homestead since 2013 resigned his mayoral seat Thursday, effective on the same day, complying with Florida’s newly amended “resign-to-run” law. He will challenge South Florida environmentalist David Walker in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. … Porter told The Miami Herald, “The agriculture industry has just been decimated. Over the last 20 or 30 years, farmers have gone out of business and I just don’t understand,” he said. “This area of the country, inside our borders, is the only place where we can grow produce in the winter to feed the nation, yet we’ve become totally reliant on food that comes from foreign countries. It’s almost like a national security issue.”
“Jimmy Patronis leads Jeremy Ring in Florida Chamber poll” via Florida Politics — According to a new poll commissioned by the Florida Chamber, Patronis leads Ring
Jay Fant campaigns in West Palm Beach — Fant, a Jacksonville Republican running for Attorney General, will speak to the Palm Beach County Trump Club, 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave., West Palm Beach.
Happening today — Democratic candidates in Florida’s 6th Congressional District will speak to the Democratic Environmental Caucus of St. Johns County. Democrats John Upchurch, Stephen Sevigny and Nancy Soderberg are seeking the seat that opened when DeSantis decided to run for governor; 6 p.m., St. Johns County Democratic headquarters, 71 South Dixie Highway, Suite 6, St. Augustine.
“He calls himself pro-labor. But he laid off campaign workers trying to unionize” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — David Richardson, the self-styled progressive Democrat seeking to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress, says he stands shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with his campaign staff after they became the first political campaign in Florida to unionize last week. But there are fewer campaign workers standing with Richardson today. That’s because he laid off eight paid campaign employees at the end of a contentious monthslong unionization effort. “David wanted to be able to fire anyone at will and that wasn’t acceptable to us,” said Isaiah Ghafoor, who worked as a field organizer for Richardson from March until he was one of eight Richardson staffers laid off two weeks ago. “Two days after a heated bargaining session, seven field organizers were laid off and the finance manager.” Though the unionization effort was ultimately successful, the timing of the layoffs and the Richardson’s campaign’s argument to staffers that existing Florida labor laws were sufficient enough to protect staffers’ rights contrasts with public statements by his campaign that he will “oppose efforts that are anti-union or that weaken the ability to organize and bargain collectively” if elected to Congress.
“Two more candidates to compete against Manny Diaz in SD 36” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Manny Diaz is (by all measures) the current front-runner to take the Senate District 36 seat. But that’s not stopping others from entering the race. Two more Democrats decided to run in SD 36. David Perez filed paperwork Thursday, while Imtiaz Ahmad Mohammad made his official entry into the race earlier today. The pair joins Muhammad Amin in the fight for the Democratic nod in SD 36. Only Diaz has filed to run as a Republican. SD 36 covers portions of Miami-Dade County. The race for the seat will be open as sitting Sen. Rene Garcia is term-limited.
Jason Brodeur endorses David Smith as HD 28 successor — “I’m proud to endorse David Smith in his campaign to serve the community I’ve been blessed to represent for the past eight years,” Brodeur said in a statement. “David is a natural born leader and a true patriot who I know will be a great Representative for our community.” Smith, a Winter Springs resident, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was deployed several times overseas, including a combat tour flying helicopters in Iraq. He retired at the rank of Colonel, and now works in Central Florida’s Simulation & Training industry.
“Hillsborough school board member to seek HD 62 seat” via Patrick Manteiga of La Gaceta — reports that Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes will seek the House District 62 seat. House Minority Leader Janet Cruz currently holds HD 62, she is vacating the seat to campaign for Dana Young’s Senate District 18. Valdes, a Democrat, told Manteiga that she already received the endorsement of Cruz and Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, who at one time held the HD 62 seat. Her resignation will not take effect until Nov. 6.
“Carlos Guillermo Smith draws challenger in HD 49” via Florida Politics — Ben Griffin, a Republican who works as a learning assistant at Valencia College, opened a campaign account to challenge the freshman lawmaker in the Orange County-based seat … In a news release, Griffin outlined his campaign platform, which includes “limited government, stronger education, and Christian values.” … “Our area needs a strong and steady leader that reflects our values in Tallahassee,” Griffin said. “I strongly believe that government that grows too large becomes a threat to our freedom. I will work diligently to make sure our focus remains on the Constitution and the principles of low taxes and limited regulation that keep our economy strong and growing. It’s also imperative that every Florida student has the opportunity to get the very best education possible.”
Tina Polsky rolls out heavyweight Democratic endorsements — Polsky announced a wave of endorsements from five current and former Democratic elected officials: Minority Leader of the Florida House Kionne McGhee, Palm Beach County Commissioners Mary Lou Berger and Melissa McKinlay, Rep. Matt Willhite, and former Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson. Polsky is seeking to replace retiring Rep. Joe Abruzzo in western Palm Beach County’s House District 81. McGhee said: “I’m excited by the prospect of Tina joining the Democratic Caucus in Tallahassee as we continue our fight to implement an agenda benefiting the people — not the special interests. I look forward to working with her to fight for world-class health care, excellent public schools and universities, and high-paying jobs for all Floridians.” In late February, HD 81 opened after Abruzzo announced he is retiring to spend more time with his young son.
Hmmm — Tweet, tweet:
“I told Tallahassee” to pass the bill
Wonder if this will be a regular talking point in 2018 for local politicians who supported the measure. https://t.co/l1czl1bcPh
— Matt Dixon (@Mdixon55) June 10, 2018
Lines being drawn in fight to succeed longtime Orange GOP chair” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County GOP chair Lew Oliver is stepping aside after almost 20 years, resulting in what could be a heated fight to succeed him. One possible successor is the party’s vice chair, businessman Chadwick Hardee. Another is county Trump campaign chair Randy Ross, who has already made one unsuccessful bid for chair and has been a vocal critic of Oliver. “I’m not personally mad at him,” Ross said of Oliver. “He did what he thought was best for the party. I just think I’d do a much better job.” Oliver, though, was confident the party would continue in his image. “I don’t make a lot of decisions without some idea of what the consequences will be,” he said. “Frankly, I’d be surprised if [Ross] won. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. … I really do know how to count noses. I do it pretty well.”
“Parkland shooting got young voters motivated, official says” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — In the ten weeks after the school massacre in Parkland, nearly 4,000 youth under 21 registered to vote in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. While those numbers aren’t record-breaking, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said the response to the shooting via voter registration was immediate. “I’ve never seen this level of interest before and I have been a public servant for 20 years,” said Bucher.
“FAU/Florida Voices poll: economy, environment, school safety concern Floridians most” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — Florida voters said they think the biggest issues facing the state this election year are its economic, school safety and environmental policies — in that order. While one in four people said the economy is the most important issue, about 20 percent said it was school safety and about 12 percent said it was the environment. Most respondents — more than two out of three — said Florida is moving in the right direction, while about 37 percent said the state is on the wrong track. Republicans (79 percent) and independent voters were more likely to say the state was on the right track. Most Democrats disagreed, with about 51 percent saying the state was moving in the wrong direction. Voters had mixed opinions on their personal finances: about 40 percent said their finances had stayed the same over the last year; 34 percent said they’ve improved; 26 percent said they’ve worsened.
Scott, Cabinet set tight timetable to fill OFR spot — In a brief conference call Friday, the Governor and Cabinet agreed to accept applications to become the next commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) from today (Monday, June 11) through June 22. Depending on who applies, Scott and Cabinet members will conduct public interviews and select a new commissioner as early as June 27. Patronis — Gov. Scott’s friend and political ally — had recently told outgoing OFR Commissioner Drew Breakspear he “no longer ha(d) confidence” in Breakspear’s ability to lead the office, which acts as the state’s watchdog for the financial industry. Breakspear eventually said he was resigning effective June 30, the last day of the state’s fiscal year, to “ensure a smooth transition.” Beginning in 2015, Breakspear was one of three agency heads in Scott’s crosshairs to replace, including now-former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and former Department of Revenue executive director Marshall Stranburg. He quit in December 2015, followed by McCarty in January 2016.
“Lucrative Florida prison health care contract under increasing scrutiny” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post — Deep cuts to drug treatment, mental health and community re-entry programs across Florida are heightening scrutiny of a lucrative, prison health care contract poised to be finalized this month. The $375 million deal now on the table with Centurion of Florida allows it to take an 11.5 percent “administrative fee” that cannot only cover a variety of costs but also be pocketed by the company as profit. Centurion, whose parent company, Centene, is a sizable campaign contributor to Gov. Scott and the Florida Republican Party, began treating the 97,000 inmates in Florida’s prison system two years ago. Centene, also is a major health care provider in the state’s Medicaid managed care program through its subsidiary, Sunshine Health. Centurion and DOC, though, seem happy together. And Florida Corrections Chief Julie Jones fought hard to make sure the company stayed on board. Jones last month ordered $50 million in department cuts and reductions to key community services in a scramble to find cash for the health care contract after state lawmakers lowballed funding for the prison system.
“State faces increased costs for children’s Health insurance program” via Julio Ochoa of WUSF — A federal law providing 10 more years of funding for the national Children’s Health Insurance Program should help Florida continue to reduce its rate of uninsured kids. But the state’s taxpayers will have to pay millions more for the program starting in 2020. The program, known as CHIP, provides health insurance to 345,000 children in Florida. It’s helped the state reduce its uninsured among children to 6.2 percent in 2016, compared to nearly 15 percent in 2009. The Affordable Care Act provided a temporary 23 percent bump in CHIP funding starting in 2016, bringing the federal match for Florida to about 95 percent. But that match will drop to 84 percent in 2020 and return to about 72 percent in 2021. When that happens, the state will have to cover the portion of the match that the federal government is no longer funding. In Florida, it’s estimated to be about $75 million in 2020 and $150 million in the years following.
“Regulators to convene on medical marijuana rules” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — State medical marijuana regulators are slated to hold three rule-making hearings Monday in Tallahassee. The Department of Health regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The first hearing, at 9 a.m., will cover a proposed rule on the “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) Supplemental Licensing Fee,” the “annual payment by a registered (provider) to cover the (state’s) costs of administering” the law governing cannabis. The fee has been set at $174,844. The second, at 11 a.m., is on change of ownership applications … and the third, at 1 p.m., is on an MMTC “variance procedure.”
Happening today — The Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use holds hearings on three proposed rules dealing with the medical-marijuana industry, addressing issues such as the transfer of ownership of medical-marijuana treatment centers, 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Department of Health, 4052 Bald Cypress Way, Room 301, Tallahassee.
“Drug case overturned because of ‘good Samaritan’ law” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Jacksonville man’s sentence on drug possession charges was struck down by an appellate court Friday because of the state’s “911 Good Samaritan Act.” A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed Thomas John Pope‘s 15-month sentence on possession of heroin and marijuana charges … [Pope had called 911 and saved the life of a woman with whom he was using heroin, records show.] “The only issue on appeal is whether Pope acted in good faith in seeking assistance” under the law, the opinion said, finding that he did and thus should have been immune from prosecution.
“Broward school district failing to report many campus crimes to state as required” via Scott Travis, Megan O’Matz and John Maines of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On paper, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High looked like one of the safest high schools in Florida. The Broward school district reported to the state that no one was bullied or harassed, no one trespassed on campus, no one was violently attacked, no one broke into campus after hours and nothing expensive was stolen during the 2016-17 school year. It wasn’t true. The district reports only a portion of its actual crimes to the state, making it impossible to spot a school’s trouble spots and inform parents about safety … Had school administrators reported every crime that actually happened at Stoneman Douglas, it might have raised an alarm that safety was a concern, said April Schentrup, whose daughter Carmen died in the Feb. 14 massacre at the school. “It might help them to say, ‘I need another [police officer] on campus. Look we have all these incidents,’” said Schentrup, who is principal of Pembroke Pines Elementary.
Orlando gun violence rally — Survivors of the Pulse nightclub and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings join representatives of several groups for a rally to protest gun violence, 6 p.m., Orlando City Hall, 400 South Orange Ave., Orlando.
“Two years after Pulse: Nightmares, resolve, hope” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Mass shootings — in which at least four people are killed — have taken the lives of 325 people in those two years. The most notorious of the crimes have unfolded at high schools in Parkland and outside Houston, a church in Texas, a Waffle House in Tennessee and a country music concert in Las Vegas … There was then — and there is still — a spirit of compassion and a call to action, leaders say, even in a time when partisanship, hostility and even hatred can dominate the national dialogue. Today, Orlando has more metal detectors, panic buttons, active-shooter drills, trauma counseling, public memorials and grief-stricken loved ones than it did two years ago. But for some, it also has more compassion and progress and purpose. For the first time, a nonprofit umbrella group — the One Orlando Alliance — has built a coalition among more than 30 Central Florida LGBTQ groups and those that support them. The partners come from health care and counseling fields to civil rights groups to the Orlando Gay Chorus.
“High turnover of firm’s counselors at schools: Frail teens left behind” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — In several large school districts across the state, including Palm Beach County, turnover is high. Coaches say they aren’t getting paid and are forced to find other work, leaving vulnerable, sometimes sobbing teens with yet another adult who’s gone from their lives. In 2015, Palm Beach County opened the schoolhouse door to the company known as MCUSA and by 2016 inked a deal to put the counselors — people trained in therapy and social work — in 39 middle and seven alternative schools. In February, a dozen counselors in Palm Beach County quit. At least 10 have said they reluctantly stopped coming to work when MCUSA shorted them hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars or failed to pay them at all. Some schools have been through three or four coaches in two years. The district was aware of turnover problems for more than a year, but only in February, after so many counselors quit, did administrators seek answers from MCUSA. The company promised the school district no child would be turned away but told counselors they would be paid only for time spent with “sponsored” children — children with insurance.
Teachers union holds rally — The Florida Education Association, led by President Joanne McCall, host a rally and informational picket to support the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, 4:30 p.m., Plaza de la Constitucion 1 Cathedral St., St. Augustine.
Happening today — The state college system’s Council of Presidents will hold its annual meeting in Hillsborough County, starting 7:30 a.m., Hillsborough Community College, 4001 West Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa, and at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa.
“Lottery, agriculture officials cut ties with Charles Goston” via Andrew Caplan of the Gainesville Sun — Two state agencies gave nearly $250,000 of taxpayers’ money in a five-year span to a former Gainesville city commissioner, believing his monthly publication had a statewide reach to universities and thousands of black college-bound students. But that wasn’t the case. Both agencies have now cut ties with Goston and his publication, Black College Monthly. “After learning of the publication’s circulation discrepancy, the Lottery requested certified documentation to show Black College Monthly’s true circulation numbers, which we did not receive,” Florida Lottery spokeswoman Taylor Nash said. In March, The Sun wrote about then-Commissioner Goston’s publication after learning he told the Florida Lottery and state’s agriculture department that he had a statewide circulation beyond 300,000 and that his websites, which hadn’t been significantly updated in years, amassed 30,000 and 70,000 visitors every day. An audit of his website’s traffic, conducted by The Sun, showed that the figures were much lower than Goston had suggested. Goston also cited a lower figure for his newspaper, saying it was about 50,000.
“It was once part of the Everglades. Now Miami-Dade wants to use it for a highway” via Jennie Staletovich of the Miami Herald — On the western fringes of Miami-Dade County, street after street of barrel-tiled houses squeezed within shouting distance of one another come to an abrupt stop at a marshy basin that was once part of the Shark River Slough. The slough — the flowing heart of the Everglades’ famed River of Grass — was supposed to be the boundary to what a county plan anointed Miami’s “aggrandizing urban front.” But that front now threatens to march farther into the marsh. Miami-Dade County is pursuing a $650 million plan to extend the Dolphin Expressway, a logjam of a highway counted among the 50 worst in the U.S. The proposed path would pave a 13-mile-long stretch somewhere through the sprawling wetlands, formally known as the Bird Drive Basin. While county transportation planners are still trying to nail down the exact path — County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced that the road had shifted another third of a mile west — the proposal is drawing opposition from both environmental groups and smart growth advocates. Expressway officials said the latest route had not yet been posted on the project website and did not respond to a request for a copy.
“North Miami Beach Mayor admitted payments from Trump-tied developers to his wife” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — North Miami Beach Mayor George Vallejo pleaded guilty in April to a raft of campaign-finance violations, including diverting at least $5,000 in campaign money to shell corporations he and his family used to pay off personal expenses. Vallejo stepped down as mayor and received three months of house arrest plus probation. But in a previously unreported deposition, Vallejo admitted to perhaps an even greater ethical violation: He said in a sworn statement that, for virtually the entirety of his time in office, his wife was quietly employed by the infamous, Trump-tied Dezer family, who are among the city’s most prominent developers. Vallejo told attorneys in an April 5 interview that he and his wife created two shell companies, including one LLC headquartered in Wyoming, to hide the payments from the public. While his wife was taking publicly undisclosed payments from the Dezers, Vallejo voted on issues related to Dezer properties. “I wanted something that not everybody could sit there and look [it] up … and be all up in our business,” Vallejo told investigators probing the Wyoming LLC.
— DOESN’T ADD UP —
In the recent past, small crime and violence numbers reported to the state from the school district overseeing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School haven’t reflected the actual amount of incidents that have taken place.
A Sun Sentinel investigation found that the Broward County School District “reports only a portion of its actual crimes to the state, making it impossible to spot a school’s trouble spots and inform parents about safety.” The investigation was led by Scott Travis, Megan O’Matz and John Maines.
Some of the unreported incidents took place at Stoneman Douglas, the site of the tragic Feb. 14 school shooting. That’s drawn the ire of at least one of the victim’s parents, too.
‘No value’: The data is worthless if it’s wrong. “I don’t think you can fix problems in a school without knowing the real statistics,” Rebecca Dahl, a retired Broward County principal, told the Sentinel. “By not reporting correctly, you can’t go back and say, ‘Gosh, we had this many incidents, this many kids bullied.’ You can’t look at what’s really going on at the school.”
The numbers: The investigation found 10 instances of trespassing, 16 cases of bullying or harassment, six break-ins, and two cases of in-school battery that occurred at Stoneman Douglas and were unreported in the last three years.
Incentives unclear: There’s no direct consequence or reward for reporting skewed numbers, the Sentinel found. Though, it could be caused by a perceived need from administrators to keep kids from being withdrawn or perceived pressure to fudge numbers for job security.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump says he’d likely support bill to end federal pot ban” via Ryan Miller of USA Today — … and defer to states’ laws on marijuana legalization — a break from Attorney General Jeff Sessions stance on cannabis enforcement. Trump told reporters he “probably will end up supporting” the bill, which Sens. Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren unveiled Thursday … “I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing,” Trump said. “We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that.” Trump’s backing would signal a turn from his Justice Department’s stance on marijuana legalization. In January, Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memo assuring state-regulated marijuana dealers that federal prosecutors would leave them alone if they followed state regulations intended to keep pot out of the hands of kids and money out of the hands of drug cartels. Trump had indicated on the 2016 campaign trail that he’d support states’ laws on cannabis. In March, Gardner said Trump agreed to respect state-legalized pot, indicating a break from Sessions.
Nelson addresses algae blooms — Nelson and U.S. Rep. Bill Posey host a briefing on harmful algae blooms in Florida, 11 a.m., Capitol Hill Visitors Center, Room 203-02, Washington, D.C.
“Amid protests, Gus Bilirakis touts female staff at summit” via Jonathan Capriel of the Tampa Bay Times — Bilirakis’s Women’s Summit was met with protesters who dressed as characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, a best-selling novel about a dystopia that uses women as breeding animals. It’s all politics, said the Palm Harbor Republican, who told reporters he had neither read the book nor seen the popular Hulu series. Bilirakis advertised the summit at East Lake High School as “an opportunity for women to learn about relevant topics that have a direct impact on their lives.” Those topics included gardening, weight loss and “a woman’s guide to financial planning.” Protester Lara Higgins said the themes were belittling to women. “This is a classic situation of a man telling women what topics are important to them,” said Higgins, 52. Bilirakis accused his detractors of taking the event title out of context. “You can only put so much on a flyer,” he said. The topics are no less relevant, he said. “My chief of staff is a woman,” Bilirakis said. “My deputy chief of staff is a woman; our head caseworker is a woman. I respect women tremendously, and they have enhanced my career and I’m a better congressman because of them.”
“Charlie Crist, Bilirakis team up to fight newspaper tariffs” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Crist and Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota, have introduced the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act, which has gained bipartisan support, including Bilirakis … “An unnecessary trade war with some of our closest partners is already having real, negative consequences for our economy and the newspaper industry in particular. The Tampa Bay Times recently announced 50 employees would be laid off due to new tariffs — shrinking newsrooms at a time when thoughtful, credible reporting is needed most,” Crist said. The legislation, already introduced in the Senate by Susan Collins and Angus King, both of Maine, would suspend the import taxes on uncoated groundwood paper while the Department of Commerce examines the effects on the printing and publishing industry, according to sponsors.
— BRIDGING THE GAP —
A downturn in newspaper profitability and the need for traditional dailies to direct emphasis on digital products that drive traffic hasn’t been pretty for some outlets attempting to adapt to a new media landscape.
A story published Friday by the Columbia Journalism Review spotlights the Miami Herald, detailing through interviews with former and current employees some of the strife from within.
“The Herald has shed jobs intermittently since 2009, through layoffs and attrition, and one current Herald reporter described a feeling of ‘everlasting angst’ that remains, even a decade later, from the largest cuts in the paper’s history,” writes Rowan Moore Gerety for CJR.
Consider the source: Sergio Bustos, a former politics editor at the Herald and now senior editor for POLITICO states, spoke with Moore Gerety, leading him to conclude that “despite their seniority or their perceived indispensability, many staffers at the Herald and similarly strained papers have left of their own accord.” Those reasons being financial worries, frustrations over digital ventures and professional ambition.
Caputo chimes in: Marc Caputo, who spearheaded the POLITICO Florida launch after leaving the Herald, said, “In general, large corporate ownership of newspapers linked to the stock market is worse than ownership by a benevolent billionaire with vision or a properly run nonprofit.”
Digital pressure: The story claims the Herald newsroom writers have “traffic goals,” internally regarded as “click quotas.” As well: a team specifically tailored to rewrite viral stories. But some see it as a necessary evil, one that could prevent cuts and perpetuate the Herald’s coverage.
— MOVEMENTS —
Appointed — Jaymie Carter and Rod Thompson to the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota District Board of Trustees; Anne Patterson and Garry Lubi to the Daytona State College District Board of Trustees; Jill Danigel to Southeast Volusia Hospital District.
“Lobbyists should not be needed to get state to pay up” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Floridians who have been harmed by their government should not have to hire a lobbyist to make the state pay up. And they certainly should not have to hire the brother of the speaker of the Florida House to have a better shot at getting lawmakers to allow them to collect the damages they are owed. But that’s the way it works in Tallahassee, where political influence trumps fairness and the talk of real reform is so much hot air. Particularly outrageous is how lobbyists are sometimes hired to defeat claims bill. The AP reported one instance in which an insurer for Volusia County hired a lobbyist to kill a claims bill filed on behalf of a Kansas woman. She is owed nearly $2 million after being injured and disfigured when she was run over by a county-operated truck on Daytona Beach. The answer to this long-running mess is not for the Legislature to refuse to consider any claims bill … The answer is real reform with an objective, clear set of procedures for approving payments to victims who have been injured by the government. If they win damage awards in court, they should not lose in the Legislature because they did not hire the right lobbyist.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: HealthSmart Holdings
Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Embassy of the State of Qatar
David Browning, Edgar Castro, Nelson Diaz, Kevin Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Pearl Holding Group (Ocean Harbor)
Makayla Anne Stilianou Buchanan, Wexford Strategies: Consumer Energy Alliance — Florida, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Allyce Heflin, Southern Strategy Group: The College Board
Will McKinley, Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Sandy Hook Promise
Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Kologik
— REST IN PEACE —
Jacksonville-based lobbyist Jeff Whitson dies — Longtime lobbyist and campaign consultant Whitson, 59, died Saturday at home in Jacksonville. For the last ten years, he represented TECO/Peoples Gas in Jacksonville and NE Florida. Several decades prior, he worked throughout Florida running legislative and local government campaigns and lobbying in Tallahassee. Jeff was preceded in death by his father, James L Whitson. He is survived by his mother Carolyn Whitson of Grand Island; his loving wife of 29 years, Kathy; son, Jeremiah (JJ) Whitson and wife, Heather; Zachary Whitson and wife, Marisa; stepdaughter Ibrey Hudgens and husband, Ryan; daughter, Caroline Marie Whitson-Portlock and husband, Justin; son, Jordan Whitson and six grandchildren. The family will receive friends at a Celebration of Life at the San Jose Country Club, Friday, June 15 at 7529 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. A private service with full military honors will be at the Jacksonville National Cemetery for the family. In lieu of flowers, please support the Northeast Florida Red Cross with a donation at www.redcross.org, 1-800-
— ALOE —
“A Florida city wants more retirees, and is going after them” via Elizabeth Olson of The New York Times — Tallahassee, which is not growing as fast as the rest of the state, is looking to attract new residents, including small-business owners who can generate jobs. A key part of the city’s efforts is expanding its population of retirees, and it has adopted some unusual tactics — including subsidizing a few people to move there. A community project is working to recruit baby boomers who are hitting retirement age and looking to move someplace warmer and more affordable but who may not have thought of Tallahassee as an alternative to destinations like Sarasota, Boca Raton or even Panama City, which is also on the Panhandle. About 191,000 people live in the city, whose downtown has popular pockets of restaurants as well as a large green space, Cascades Park. Like many college towns, Tallahassee draws a variety of speakers — Florida State University had Patti LuPone, the Broadway star, in March — and holds music events that would not always be available in a midsize city.
“No early access to Toy Story land for passholders” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Annual passholders for Walt Disney World won’t get to experience Toy Story Land before its official opening June 30, with reporters and Disney workers set to be the only people to get an early look at the new area in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The lack of passholder exclusive access breaks with what Disney offered last year when opening Pandora: The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom … Disney employees won’t get much time in the new land either, with cast members previews beginning as early as June 14 only for Slinky Dog Dash, the area’s new family coaster. The entire land should be available for additional cast member previews June 22. Members of the press will then get their first look at the finished Toy Story Land June 28, followed by a dedication ceremony June 29, a day before its opened to all Disney park guests. If passholders want to wait out the big crowds and long lines expected following Toy Story Land’s opening, they’ll have to wait until September to get exclusive access.
“SeaWorld is finally getting rid of plastic straws and bags” via Paola Perez of Orlando Weekly — Orlando’s SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove were listed among the participating parks, as well as Busch Gardens in Tampa. This new policy will apply to all 12 of SeaWorld’s theme parks. “This milestone environmental achievement is a testament to our mission to protect the environment, the ocean and the animals we share our planet with, which are currently threatened by unprecedented amounts of plastic pollution,” said interim chief executive officer for SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. John Riley in a news release The park says it is committed to other environmentally-friendly investments like renewable energy and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
“SpaceX plans major expansion at KSC with futuristic launch control center” via James Dean of FLORIDA TODAY — It will be an operational monument to Elon Musk’s vision: a towering SpaceX launch control center, a 133,000-square-foot hangar and a rocket garden rising in the heart of Kennedy Space Center. According to plans detailed in a draft environmental review published recently by KSC, SpaceX will undertake a major expansion of its facilities at the space center sometime in the not-too-distant future. The review says SpaceX is seeking more room and a bigger presence “in its pursuit of a complete local, efficient, and reusable launch vehicle program.” The expansion would enable SpaceX to store and refurbish large numbers of Falcon rocket boosters and nose cones at the operations center down the road from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
Happy birthday to our dear friend, Mike Fasano, as well as Stuart Rogel, former state Rep. Neil Combee and state House candidate Joe Wicker.