Sunburn for 6.14.17 – Don Gaetz for the win; Bruce Ritchie is everywhere; Ron DeSantis’ big check; Disney pushes back


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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

— IN DEFENSE OF CIVICS EDUCATION —

In a column in the Pensacola News-Journal recently, former Senate President Don Gaetz took on the issue of civics education, calling on Floridians to help teach the next generation about civics and calling out Gov. Rick Scott for vetoing funding for the Graham-Frey initiative.

The column highlights the work former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, has done to make sure children don’t graduate from high school without knowing how their government works and their obligations and rights as citizens.

“He thinks our children shouldn’t graduate from high school without knowing the basics of how their government works and their obligations and rights as citizens. He believes that can’t happen unless their teachers know enough, themselves, to teach civics,” he writes. “Graham knows citizenship is not passed along genetically, it has to be acquired and practiced to be real.

Former Senate President Don Gaetz, who in a recent op-ed asks, ‘Why don’t these damn kids know anything?’

Gaetz writes that several years ago Graham and Republican Congressman Lou Frey teamed up to create a way to teach teachers how to teach “rudiments of citizenship, not just the memorization of factoids but how to get kids engaged, excited and skilled in affecting what happens in their home communities and then their state and nation.”

They were able to get some money together and distribute an interactive curriculum The program was housed at the University of Central Florida, but the impact, Gaetz wrote “is felt in every part of the state, including Northwest Florida, where teachers explained to me how useful the instruction is and the difference it makes for students.”

Every year, the Legislature sets aside about $40,000 for the Graham-Frey initiative, but this year Scott, Gaetz writes, “line-item vetoed the funds for civics instruction, diverting the money to one of his own projects.”

“Governor Graham won’t get this job done during one of his famous workdays, or even in a thousand workdays,” wrote Gaetz. “Teaching, preaching and promoting the education of good citizens is a lifetime mission for a life already highly distinguished. But he could use some help.”

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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Truce: Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran take ‘victory tour’ ripe with political meaning” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The two Republicans fought bitterly for months, but became fast friends in recent days as their political agendas finally converged. Each man traded support for the other’s priorities and both declared victory after a round of dealing in private. Scott‘s “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory Tour” began at Miami’s Jungle Island tourist attraction and included stops in West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Jacksonville, as the governor took full advantage of his ability to cover lots of ground quickly on his personal jet, at his own expense.

“None of this would have happened without the support of the Speaker who worked hard all session,” Scott said of Corcoran, the same person he spent months calling a career politician and a job killer for his relentless criticism of Enterprise Florida. Scott’s vocal criticism of Corcoran’s secret dealing has vanished, now that Scott himself is a beneficiary of Corcoran’s compromises.

Governor Rick Scott, with state rep. Manny Diaz standing behind him, appears in Miami as part of his “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” Tour.

Scott’s $1M investment impacted by ‘water wars’ lawsuit he oversees” via Matt Dixon and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO FloridaScott invested more than $1 million in Atlanta municipal bonds at the same time his administration was waging a costly “water wars” legal fight with Georgia … Scott ultimately made just $6,000 from the bonds, which he held for six months in 2012, but the investment underscores the ways in which Scott’s vast wealth sometimes overlaps with state business. And questions of conflict-of-interest have repeatedly arisen during his two terms in office because of the secrecy of his blind trust and the fact that longtime friend — New York-based Alan Bazaar — is the trustee who oversees the portfolio.

With the Governor’s signature of HB 7069 expected, is a legal challenge coming?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – In a letter to the governor, Sen. Gary Farmer urged the Governor to veto the bill because it would “dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources toward improving our public education” as well as allowing private management companies to profit off taxpayer dollars, and local communities to be cut out of zoning decisions relating to schools. But Farmer, a lawyer, also outlined his case — for why he believes it could be challenged on the grounds that it passed illegally — and in violation of the Senate rules and may be ripe for a legal challenge. “I do intend to look into it,” Farmer told the Herald/Times. “Process is supposed to matter. There are supposed to be boundaries and limitations so everybody is on equal footing. When we don’t follow the rules, it erodes and denigrates the process.”

“Coalition urges Governor to approve solar amendment implementation” via Florida Politics – In a letter released Tuesday, a group of business and environmental interests asked the Governor to sign SB 90, which implements a solar-power amendment approved by voters in 2016. The amendment, among other things, gives tax breaks to companies that buy and install solar devices and equipment. It also removes the state’s tangible personal property tax, which taxes solar equipment installed. The ballot initiative passed with 73 percent support. Among the groups signing on to the letter are Florida Conservation Voters, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Floridians for Solar Choice, Sierra Club Florida and The Nature Conservancy.

Scott has till Wednesday to sign drug trafficking measure” via Florida Politics – That’s the Governor’s deadline to act on a bill (HB 477) passed this year that would create minimum mandatory sentences for dealing in fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug. People convicted with a minimum of four grams of fentanyl or other opioids would face three years in prison; 14 grams or more, 14 years; and 28 grams or more, 25 years. Greg Newburn, state policy director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, has criticized the measure, saying being in possession with as few as seven pills could make someone a “trafficker.” “The premise that underlies the case for mandatory minimum drug laws—that they deter drug trafficking—is demonstrably, irrefutably false,” he has tweeted. Lawmakers behind the measure counter that it’s needed to help prevent the state’s thousands of opioid deaths.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was sent another six bills on Tuesday morning, including the controversial HB 7069 that benefits charter schools. He has until June 27 to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his action. As of Tuesday morning, 52 bills were on the Governor’s desk.

Legislative staffing merry-go-round via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

Off: Parker Aziz is no longer Special Master and attorney for the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee.

Off: Nikolas Pascual has stepped down as legislative assistant for the vacant House District 116 seat.

Off: Garrett Mann has stopped being the district secretary for Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jason Fischer.

Off: Zachary McCulley is no longer legislative assistant for Pensacola Republican State Rep. Clay Ingram.

Off: Juanita Olvera is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic State Rep. Kionne McGhee.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — 

Amid gubernatorial buzz, Ron DeSantis donor gives $500K to new political committee” via Matt Dixon of Politico Florida — The check was given to Fund for Florida’s Future by Frederick Sontag, who founded the Spring Bay Companies, a Ponte Vedra Beach private equity firm that focuses on technology-based investments. When DeSantis ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, Fighting for Florida Fund — a super PAC backing the Ponte Vedra Beach Republican — received a $500,000 contribution from Spring Bay Capital, also owned by Sontag and associated with Spring Bay Companies. Because DeSantis is a current federal office-holder, he cannot be officially associated with or raise money for a state political committee.

— DeSantis consultant Brad Herold declined to comment when asked about the new committee, which was founded in April and started raising money the same month. It has so far raised a total of $535,000.

“Andrew Gillum takes a swipe at Scott’s ‘victory tour’ ” via Florida PoliticsTallahassee Mayor Gillum is slamming Gov. Scott’s and House Speaker Corcoran’s “victory tour.” Saying he’s standing up for public schools, Gillum released a statement Tuesday in the wake of Scott’s announcement of a five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” tour to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students during last week’s legislative Special Session” … “The only person less deserving of a ‘victory tour’ than Gov. Scott and Speaker Corcoran is Donald Trump’s lawyer,” he said. Scott’s and Corcoran’s “backroom deals will destroy our public schools’ futures, and they ought to be ashamed of what they’ve done to our state over the past week.”

If elected governor, Gwen Graham says Florida would stick with Paris climate accord” via Bruce Ritchie of Poltico Florida — Graham announced her climate plan on Tuesday following President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord on climate change. If elected, she said she will have Florida would join other states upholding the accord. Graham said Florida already is suffering the threats of climate change, including rising sea levels, droughts and forest fires. “Yet, despite all the science and even plain old common sense, President Donald Trump is embracing disaster by withdrawing our country from the Paris agreement,” Graham said. “Let me be blunt: Ignoring climate change will drown Florida’s future.” … Graham said she will implement a renewable energy standard for utilities but didn’t say whether she would do so without authorization from the Legislature. 

Least surprising news of the day – “Former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin endorses Chris King for Governor” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political ObserverChapin is featured in a new web video … discussing issues like education, a living wage and the environment, along with rolling shots of Orlando and the Florida coast, as King meets with supporters to discuss his vision. “It’s time to have someone who can inspire a whole new generation to think about public service” says Chapin.

Jack Latvala courting gay Republicans” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay TimesLatvala, exploring a run for Governor, will headline a reception in Orlando next week with gay Republicans. ” This is a meet and greet opportunity for Republicans in the LGBT community to hear from the Senator, ask questions and get to know him. This is not a fundraiser,” says the invite for the June 21 Citrus Club event hosted by Rusty Roberts, a longtime Latvala friend, former Pinellas resident and former chief of staff to U.S. Rep John Mica; Republican consultant and former Christian Coalition leader John Dowless; and business consultant Nayte Carrick. Latvala said he did not draft the invite, but he and Roberts go back nearly four decades.

Jay Fant tops $79K raised for Attorney General bid” via Florida Politics — Fant emerged with $79,575 of new money; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day,” which raised $9,000 in May. A number of familiar names in Northeast Florida showed up on the contributor list: Tom Petway, John Rood, J.B. Coxwell, and the Fiorentino Group were among them. Fant also enjoyed PAC support, with the Beer Distributors Committee, PETROPAC, and the Florida Bankers Association contributing. Contributions mostly came from Northeast Florida.

All 5 Republican members of Hillsborough Commission are backing Ashley Moody for AG” via Florida Politics — Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody announced that all five Republican members of the Hillsborough County Commission – Stacy White, Sandy Murman, Al Higginbotham, Ken Hagan and Victor Crist – are backing her campaign. “As a native of Hillsborough County it is incredibly humbling to have such overwhelming support from our County Commissioners,” Moody said of the joint endorsement. “These County Commissioners have spent their time in public service advancing fiscally conservative principles that prioritize spending on local government priorities, including public safety and our Sheriffs Office – giving our men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to keep us safe and crackdown on crime.”

Tim Canova to announce 2018 political plans Thursday” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and Hollywood resident, confirmed that he will announce his plans at a progressive caucus event at the Broward AFL-CIO office in Plantation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday: Canova wrote on Facebook  that he will speak at the event where he will be “making a big announcement on our plans for 2018, which will be live streamed on this page. You won’t want to miss out!” In September, Canova filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so he could start fundraising in case he decided to run against Debbie Wasserman Schultz who represents a Broward/Miami-Dade district. But through April he hasn’t fundraised.

Democrat Bernie Fensterwald taking second shot at going to Tallahassee” via Florida PoliticsFensterwald, a Dunedin retiree who lost a challenge to Chris Sprowls in the House District 65 race in North Pinellas County last November by more than 30 percentage points, has filed once again to run for the Legislature. This time Fensterwald is gunning for the state Senate District 16 seat in north Pinellas being vacated by a term-limited Jack Latvala. The only other candidate to file so far for the open seat is former GOP state representative and Clearwater City Commissioner Ed Hooper.

John Newstreet raises $30,000 in early days of HD 44 special election race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican candidate John Newstreet‘s campaign is reporting that it has raised more than $30,000 in the first 11 days since he announced his run for the open seat in Florida House District 44.

— Newstreet is reporting a total of $30,576 through the end of May in a news release, though neither he nor the other candidates in that race have to file anything with the state until July 6, more than a week after ballots are sent to military and overseas voters, because of the timetables assigned to the special election. 

Save the date – House Majority 2018, Speaker Corcoran, and Speakers-to-be José Oliva and Chris Sprowls host a fundraiser for Rep. Erin Grall in her House District 54 re-election bid. Event begins 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 26, at the Quail Valley River Club, 2345 Highway A1A in Vero Beach.

Shawn Harrison kicks off HD 63 re-election bid at Tampa Theater June 29” via Florida Politics – The event, hosted by House Majority 2016 and featuring special guest Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, is Thursday, June 29, beginning 5 p.m. at the historic Tampa Theater, 711 N. Franklin St. Included on the extensive list of local GOP leaders making the host committee are House Speaker Corcoran, and Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls … state Sens. Dana Young and Tom Lee; state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia; former House Speakers Will Weatherford and Dean Cannon; former state Rep. Seth McKeel; former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioners Victor Crist, Stacy White and Sandy Murman; and Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, among others.

David Rivera floats another $50K to Florida House campaign” – Former one-term Congressman Rivera gave his campaign another $50,000 in May, making $250,000 in loans for his bid to return to the Florida Legislature. Raising $10,550, Rivera gave $150,000 in loans and dropped another $100,000 check into his war chest. According to Florida Division of Elections records, the Miami Republican received $271,300 in contributions and loans for the House District 105 race. His primary opponent, Doral Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez also raised $46,875 in May, for $98,300 total. Rivera, a former state House budget chair, it is looking to succeed term-limited Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

More legislative hopefuls announce 2018 bids — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates have filed to run in 2018. Jeff Cynamon has become the first Democrat to file to run in House District 113 after Rep. David Richardson announced he was running for Congress in 2018 instead of running for re-election. Cynamon is a private property rights attorney in Miami Beach. He received his engineering degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from St. Thomas University. He previously worked as a senior attorney for the Florida Department of Transportation. Rhonda Rebman-Lopez becomes the fourth Republican to file to run in House District 115. Rebman-Lopez is a University of Alabama graduate and works as a legislative liasion for KinderVision, a foundation aimed at preventing the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of youths.

— STATEWIDE —

Democrats Trash ‘broke’ FDP for picking scandal-ridden Debbie Wasserman Schultz to open Leadership Blue Gala” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – FDP staffers recently announced Wasserman Schultz would be opening up the annual gathering of party faithful, which is scheduled to take place Saturday in Hollywood. By Tuesday, Wasserman Schultz was out of the program entirely. Not everybody was happy about Wasserman Schultz rolling through the gala after bulldozing the party’s reputation last summer. Wasserman Schultz’s former congressional primary opponent and Democratic activist Tim Canova took to Facebook to criticize the FDP for its “huge problem” in selecting the South Florida congresswoman to give the opening remarks. … Canova took a no-holds-barred approach in criticizing party leadership for its “grave mistake” …“This at a time when the party is reportedly broke, having trouble meeting its payroll, begging for a loan, just months after Bittel promised to raise millions and millions of dirty corporate dollars for the party,” he said.

Democrats seek ties between Brian Mast and businessman accused of scam” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida Democrats filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain records that, they hope, show a link between Mast and the owner of a marketing company under federal investigation for fraud. “The depth of Congressman Mast’s involvement in the alleged fraud is currently unknown by Mast’s voters,” the Florida Democratic Party said in a release. “Despite being named as a member of World Patent Marketing’s board, being featured in World Patent Marketing’s promotional materials, and appearing in multiple photographs with World Patent Marketing’s embattled founder, Congressman Mast has denied any knowledge of or involvement with World Patent Marketing.” The FOIA seeks any emails between Mast and World Patent Marketing owner Scott Cooper, financial records and details about a $5,400 political contribution Mast received from Cooper. (Mast has returned the donation.)

Florida counties, still vulnerable to storms, scramble to match state dollars” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – What’s happening along North Florida’s Atlantic coast is part of a larger statewide issue: Year after year, the Florida Legislature has allocated less funding than is requested by coastal areas, which struggle to come up with required matching dollars that still do not cover the high cost of beach erosion. The state has 825 miles of sandy coastline, and about half of it is rated by the state as critically eroded. But funding for beach projects has averaged $28.6 million per year since 2007, even as local governments have requested $87.2 million. Local governments say closing the funding gap is critical to paying for beach sand replacement projects called beach “renourishment.” And legislative analysts in 2015 reported that the economic return from spending on beach restoration is more than five times the investment. The funding for coastal communities was one of several sticking points between legislators in the Florida Senate and House this year.

Disney sues over property assessments for Magic Kingdom, other properties” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel –Disney filed nearly a dozen lawsuits at the end of last month in Orange Circuit Court, arguing the assessments by Orange County Appraiser Rick Singh exceeded their properties’ fair market value and incorrectly “included the value of certain intangible property in the assessments.” … “The increases in the assessments of our property are unreasonable and unjustified,” a Disney spokesperson said … “Similar to other property owners in Orange County, we have no choice but to take action to dispute these errors by the property appraiser. We look forward to presenting our case in court.” It’s not the first time the theme parks have sought to reduce their land values. In October, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando and Disney sued Singh, arguing their properties’ taxes were too high. Singh vowed to fight them in court At   the time, saying, “We hold their feet to the fire.”

“State files misdemeanor charges against Lisa Edgar” via Florida PoliticsProsecutors are moving forward with a criminal case against Edgar, a former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director, who was arrested in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run. Earlier this month, State Attorney Jack Campbell’s office filed an information, or formal criminal charges, against Edgar for the April 15 incident … She is charged with one count of driving under the influence causing damage to person or property, a first-degree misdemeanor, and one count of leaving the scene of a crash with damage, a second-degree misdemeanor, court records show.

— MOVEMENTS — 

Scoop – “Personnel note: Kent Perez departing Attorney General’s Office” via Florida PoliticsPerez, acting chief of staff to Attorney General Pam Bondi and a veteran of the office, Tuesday said he’s accepted an offer to become the State Board of Administration’s deputy executive director. Perez told FloridaPolitics.com he expects to start the new job by the end of the month. He’ll report to SBA chief Ash Williams. Perez said he and Williams are still “working out” his precise job responsibilities. The agency acts as the state’s investment manager.

Personnel note: “Max Goodman headed back to work for Vern Buchanan” via Mitch Perry of Florida PoliticsGoodman, the well-regarded communications pro who worked for Buchanan for nearly a decade before helping David Jolly’s campaign(s) in 2015 and 2016, is returning to work for Buchanan as Chief Communications Adviser. Goodman will be based out of Washington D.C. Goodman joined Jolly’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in the fall of 2015 as his political director and was later named his campaign manager. After Buchanan narrowly defeated Democrat Christine Jennings in 2006, Goodman began working for Buchanan, ultimately becoming his full-time communications director in 2010, and was later promoted to senior aide in 2012.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: South Swell Development Group, LLC.; Thomas Panza, Panza Mauer Maynard: Shands Teaching Hospitals and Clinics Inc.

– “Lobbying, Donald trump and what Jacksonville needs to do to succeed” via Timothy Gibbons of the Jacksonville Business Journal

— ALOE —

AAA: Gas prices falling fast in Florida, U.S.” via Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel – The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Florida Monday was $2.33 — four cents less than a week ago. Nationally, gas was $2.34, also down four cents. AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said motorists “could very easily see prices fall another five cents” over the next couple of weeks, barring a sudden increase in crude oil prices. Gasoline prices were also driven lower by increased production by Gulf Coast refineries — 3 percent above a year ago — and a 5.4 percent drop in consumer demand from the record high set the previous week. Average gasoline prices fell in South Florida as well, but not by as much as the overall state and nation.

Disney plans to remember toddler killed by alligator one year ago with lighthouse sculpture” via Christal Hayes and Dewayne of the Orlando Sentinel – It was one year ago Wednesday that a 2-year-old boy playing near a shoreline at a Disney resort was killed by an alligator. Now, Walt Disney World is planning to honor Lane Graves, who was visiting with his family from Nebraska June 14, 2016. The company will add a sculpture of a lighthouse — the symbol of the Lane Thomas Foundation — at an undisclosed site on its property. “To provide continued awareness of the foundation and its mission, we’ve commissioned an original sculpture of the lighthouse the foundation uses as a symbol of love and hope, to be installed on our property this summer,” George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement. No ceremony is planned for Wednesday, a Disney World spokeswoman said.

“Hard Rock coming to Daytona Beach” via Florida PoliticsSeminole Tribe of Florida-controlled Hard Rock International says it’s opening a fourth location in Florida later this year with the addition of the 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach … The new beachfront hotel also will feature “all-day dining, 24-hour in-room dining, a grab-and-go coffee shop and a poolside bar and grill.” Gambling will not be offered. Tuesday’s news follows Hard Rock’s recent purchase of the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, and a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada … Hard Rock-themed properties [in Florida] are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

Insiders speculate on Epcot’s upcoming transformation” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Back in November, Disney officials hinted at a major transformation for Epcot … Now the rumor mill is filled with what the makeover will mean to the park that opened in 1982 as an acronym for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. “It will be even more relevant than it is today. …” Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts announced. “And, at the same time, it will stay true to our original vision. Disney, of course, remains mum on its plans but local bloggers speculate the renovation will include new infrastructure, an updated entrance and new rides and attractions. Robert Niles, author of the Theme Park Insider blog, reported that Disney has plans for new franchise-themed attractions to both Future World and World Showcase. The Universe of Energy is up for major renovations. At World Showcase, Niles’ reports that insiders claim Disney’s plans call for the installation of a Ratatouille-themed ride in the France pavilion.

Happy birthday to Josh AubuchonFoyt Ralston, and Drew Piers.

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