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I have a suggestion for U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Jerk. He’s the Texas Republican Congress Creep whose grandstand look-at-me move is holding up $19 billion in hurricane relief.

Mr. Congress Creep, come on down and experience Florida Panhandle hospitality, Hurricane Michael-style. The good people of Mexico Beach will be happy to find you accommodations in a FEMA trailer. That’s an upgrade, by the way, from the tents that many of them lived in for weeks after Michael turned their homes into piles of rubble.

It should be easy to find where you’re going. Just look for the blue tarps covering the roofs of too many homes. You better bring some snacks, though. There is no grocery store in Mexico Beach, and no gas station either.

The state has tried to help its neighbors in the Panhandle. The Florida Legislature just approved $220 million in relief, but that’s a spit in the bucket. After all, many places, especially Mexico Beach, are still trying to clean up and remove mountains of debris.

It finally looked like a substantial bipartisan federal aid package was on its way to areas struggling from hurricane damage. That includes parts of Texas, the home state of Roy, R-Balderdash.

But then Roy objected because, he said, “This is a bill that includes nothing to address the clear national emergency and humanitarian crisis we face at our southern border.”

His one-man show of political theatrics was enough to hold up the bill for at least 11 days and could delay the release of funds for considerably longer.

You could say he learned from the master, though. Roy was the Chief of Staff for Ted Cruz, who led a 16-day government shutdown in 2013 over Obamacare. Cruz voted to approve this aid package, by the way.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was incensed at this turn of events. Being a politician operating in polarized times though, she expanded the blame to more than Roy.

“House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill is an act of staggering political cynicism,” she said. “Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need.”

Let’s be clear about something.

That “urgent need” has been there in the Panhandle since Michael roared ashore last fall. It has been there for longer in Texas and Puerto Rico, which had widespread devastation in 2017.

But people whose homes are reduced to splinters become pawns for political theatrics because they can’t fight back. Cruz, remember, voted against a $51 billion aid package for New Jersey in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

So did Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Cotton was even more cynical, asking aloud why his state should have to bail out another. South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham also turned thumbs-down on aid requests for Sandy, but he changed his tune when floods devasted his home state.

It’s nothing but damned posturing with people’s lives so they can say they are more conservative than the others. There is no sense of national unity because of people like Chip Roy. When disasters like Michael or Harvey strike, nothing should be more important to both political parties than speeding whatever relief is necessary as quickly as possible.

Stop being politicians and try becoming human beings, if you’re capable.

That’s something to ponder as we commemorate Memorial Day. We honor those who put others ahead of themselves to defend America. Those extraordinary individuals understood words like duty, honor, and unity.

They have been wet, cold and hungry.

These people are the first ones to help and the last to leave. They would do so without fanfare.

Chip Roy, R-Clueless, could remember them the next time he goes looking for cameras and a microphone after a hurricane. Playing a game with people’s lives is out of bounds. These are real people, and Chip, you’re a real jerk.

The post Joe Henderson: Hey Chip Roy, see how you like living in a FEMA hurricane trailer appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – One of the highlights of the Florida Delegation’s trip to Israel: the “ceremonial” Cabinet meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

However, many reporters covering it will be at a disadvantage.

As the Tallahassee Democrat was first to report Saturday, security concerns restrict attendees from getting laptops and phones in.

The Florida Channel will stream the meeting, and despite complaints that an overseas meeting with pen and pad coverage contravenes government in the Sunshine, the Governor and Attorney General Ashley Moody defended the move Sunday evening in Tel Aviv.

DeSantis said “this is a historic meeting.”

“I’m excited about doing it. For me to have been here two years ago banging the drum to move the embassy, and everyone told me it’s not going to happen. The next year have the embassy open. And the next year, I never thought I’d be here with the Florida Cabinet.”

“It will be public. You guys will be invited. It will be no different than if it was in Tallahassee,” DeSantis added.

AG Moody backed the Governor, noting that her “office has been diligent about reviewing Florida Sunshine Law statutes,” and that “one of [her] experts will be on the ground to make sure that takes place on Thursday.”

“For the most part,” Moody said, “the meeting is mostly ceremonial.”

The Cabinet meeting includes a resolution affirming ties between Israel and Florida. DeSantis also will be signing legislation opposing anti-Semitism in Florida public schools, he said.

HB 741 aims to prohibit anti-Semitic speech and behavior in Florida’s public schools, colleges, and universities. It was approved 114-0 in the Florida House and 40-0 in the Florida Senate,

“We’ll do that in Jerusalem at the embassy, and it’s going to be a special moment,” DeSantis said Wednesday in Jacksonville.

The changes were last-minute, with the Governor’s Office describing the Embassy as having “substantially” restricted equipment.

The Embassy will provide a photographer, Ferre added. And the Florida Channel will be able to stream the meeting as it happens.

Reaction to the blackout was sharp from some observers, who already were concerned with a remote Cabinet meeting possibly conflicting with open government laws.

In the days ahead of the edict from the Embassy, representatives of the Governor’s Office were hopeful that more equipment, and potential livestreaming, would be possible.

The embassy meeting security guidelines will not be the rule for most of the trip, which will largely see reporters able to function as normal.

The post Ron DeSantis, Ashley Moody: Israeli Cabinet meeting is in the Sunshine appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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The Florida Delegation landed in Tel Aviv Sunday evening, setting the stage for meetings going through Thursday.

The trip includes meetings with Israeli officials, and over 15 strategic partnerships and memoranda of understanding — and that’s just the beginning.

Representatives of several Florida colleges and universities will be on the trip.

As well, DeSantis will keynote the 2019 Israel-America Business Summit on Tuesday morning, part of a concerted push that includes meetings with Israeli businesses, and at least six business and economic networking receptions.

Additionally, the ceremonial meeting of the Florida Governor and Cabinet at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will be the setting for the signing of legislation banning anti-Semitism in Florida schools.

And various cultural visits are also in the mix. The packed itinerary begins May 26 in Tel Aviv, with a meet and greet with the Florida Delegation.

Tel Aviv is the stage for May 27’s happenings, which include business meetings with Israeli officials and signings of memoranda of understanding. Monday’s schedule ends with a Tourism Networking Reception hosted by VISIT FLORIDA.

May 28 offers more action in Tel Aviv.

The morning will see an award ceremony with the Israeli Innovation Authority, followed by a networking lunch with business leaders and a roundtable discussion of issues impacting Florida.

May 29 sees some happenings in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Governor will keynote the 2019 Israel-America Business Summit in the morning.

The afternoon will feature a meeting of the Florida Cabinet at the American Embassy in Jerusalem, and the anti-Semitism bill signing.

However, that special moment will be documented by hand by much of the embedded press.

On May 30, the Delegation will tour the Old City of Jerusalem, then a meeting is slated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A final dinner will occur that evening, and the Florida Delegation returns Friday, May 31.

The post Florida Delegation touches down in Tel Aviv appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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Memorial Day has become an occasion that is both solemn and celebratory in nature. It is the second largest beer selling holiday in the United States, behind only the 4th of July. That means Memorial Day kicks some Super Bowl ass — and Labor Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.

The lager beer style has its own unique history in the United States, and the South in particular.

When the lager style of beer first appeared in the United States it was revolutionary. Lager was crisp, clear, and less vulnerable to spoilage. It far exceeded the quality of other malt beverages. There were challenges, however. Brewing lager beer required temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the need for large quantities of ice. This fact made cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and St. Louis famous brewing hubs.

Even in those more favorable climates, lager brewing was often a seasonal proposition.

In the South, we faced bigger problems. The temperature sensitivity of lager beer made our region uncharacteristically inhospitable to the new beer style. Nevertheless, the first lager beer was shipped to New Orleans in 1851 by the saloonkeeper Christian Krost, who imported it from Pittsburgh’s Schenck Brewery. Soon, regular shipments from the Lemp Brewery in St. Louis increased the availability of lager and before long, it was also shipped from Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

Yet, shipping beer all the way to a place like New Orleans presented problems in the mid-nineteenth century — freezing barrels in the winter, exploding barrels in the summer — and of course, transporting the liquid wasn’t cheap either. Such problems stimulated interest in producing lager locally but that seemed an impossible feat to most brewers.

George Merz was decidedly not “most brewers.” He named his “Old Canal Steam Brewery” for the Carondelet Canal, near which it stood. The canal was excavated in 1794 by order of Spanish Governor Baron de Carondelet. It was later called the “Old Basin Canal,” or “Old Canal.” It was there in the Treme neighborhood, where Merz took up the challenge of brewing lager beer in the South.

Merz shipped ice from Maine and brewed the first lager beer in the Crescent City in 1864. This did not prove a sustainable proposition due to the cost and unsteady supply of ice. When this effort failed, Merz hired an engineer, F.V. DeCoppet, to convert a first-generation ether machine to use ammonia, cooling a 40,000 cubic foot cellar to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Using DeCoppet’s steam powered contraption, Merz helped to change the course of history. The Old Canal Steam Brewery in New Orleans was the first in the United States to be mechanically refrigerated.

Large national shipping breweries understood the value of mechanical cooling but adopted it gradually as technology improved. The invention of the Windhausen Refrigerating Machine in 1879 signaled the first widespread use of refrigeration among breweries, including the Southern Brewery in New Orleans. Most breweries, however, did not completely abandon natural ice until the 1890s. Breweries such as Anheuser-Busch, Schlitz, Blatz and Lemp saw massive increases in production with the advent of mechanical refrigeration. Pabst, for example, increased total output between 1877 and 1907 by 697 percent.

Through a process of trial and error, brewers replaced their icehouses almost entirely by the late 1880s and early 1890s. Significant advances in commercial brewery technologies, growing beer production, and higher per capita rates of alcohol consumption, eventually led to calls for Prohibition. Moreover, the protest movement against alcohol gave women in the South a new opportunity (and unspoken “permission”) to be politically active, much like abolition did for women in the North. This led ultimately to their participation in the national crusade against prostitution and saloons, and in favor of women’s right to vote.

Lager changed the course of American history — a history we enjoy only because of those who died defending our freedom. To help us all remember the true purpose of Memorial Day, consider raising a glass of cold lager in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

___

Eric Criss, Ph.D., is founder and CEO of Legion Digital Marketing — leading small businesses, political campaigns, and issue advocacy programs through a transformative process to maximize and measure their online impact. He served as President of the Beer Industry of Florida for over a decade. Eric began working in national politics during the 1990 election cycle at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington, DC. Over the next thirty years, he consulted and served as staff to corporations, trade associations, coalitions, and political campaigns.

The post A Memorial Day Weekend ode to lager beer appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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One of the highlights of the Florida Delegation’s trip to Israel: the “ceremonial” Cabinet meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

However, many reporters covering it will be at a disadvantage.

As the Tallahassee Democrat was first to report Saturday, security concerns restrict attendees from getting laptops and phones in.

“Neither you nor I will be able to enter with cellphone or laptop; photography and filming is allowed but not with cellphone or iPad. This applies to all attending this event, not just to journalists,” wrote Helen Ferre, spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis Saturday.

The changes were last-minute, with the Governor’s Office describing the Embassy as having “substantially” restricted equipment.

The Embassy will provide a photographer, Ferre added. And the Florida Channel will be able to stream the meeting as it happens.

Reaction to the blackout was sharp from some observers, who already were concerned with a remote Cabinet meeting possibly conflicting with open government laws.

Here we go. Florida government meeting in a foreign country flouting the state’s own laws. A political photo-op more important than the rule and spirit of Fla’s open government laws https://t.co/nw6tBxUQNJ

— Gary Fineout (@fineout) May 25, 2019

In the days ahead of the edict from the Embassy, representatives of the Governor’s Office were hopeful that more equipment, and potential livestreaming, would be possible.

The embassy meeting security guidelines will not be the rule for most of the trip, which will largely see reporters able to function as normal.

The trip includes meetings with Israeli officials, and over 15 strategic partnerships and memoranda of understanding — and that’s just the beginning.

Representatives of several Florida colleges and universities will be on the trip.

As well, DeSantis will keynote the 2019 Israel-America Business Summit on Tuesday morning, part of a concerted push that includes meetings with Israeli businesses, and at least six business and economic networking receptions.

Additionally, the ceremonial meeting of the Florida Governor and Cabinet at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will be the setting for the signing of legislation banning anti-Semitism in Florida schools.

And various cultural visits are also in the mix. The packed itinerary begins May 26 in Tel Aviv, with a meet and greet with the Florida Delegation.

Tel Aviv is the stage for May 27’s happenings, which include business meetings with Israeli officials and signings of memoranda of understanding. Monday’s schedule ends with a Tourism Networking Reception hosted by VISIT FLORIDA.

May 28 offers more action in Tel Aviv.

The morning will see an award ceremony with the Israeli Innovation Authority, followed by a networking lunch with business leaders and a roundtable discussion of issues impacting Florida.

May 29 sees some happenings in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Governor will keynote the 2019 Israel-America Business Summit in the morning.

The afternoon will feature a meeting of the Florida Cabinet at the American Embassy in Jerusalem, and the anti-Semitism bill signing.

“We’ll do that in Jerusalem at the embassy, and it’s going to be a special moment,” DeSantis said this week in Jacksonville.

However, that special moment will be documented by hand by much of the embedded press.

On May 30, the Delegation will tour the Old City of Jerusalem, then a meeting is slated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A final dinner will occur that evening, and the Florida Delegation returns Friday, May 31.

The post Florida Cabinet meeting to be ‘pen and pad’ for most reporters appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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Agriculture Nikki Fried on the third day of her trade mission to Israel announced a lighter schedule. But she did meet with a significant Democratic voice on Israeli issues who boasts deep ties to Florida politics.

Fried today observed the Sabbath. That means unlike the first days of her inaugural trip as a Florida Cabinet member, he schedule reads light.

But Fried on Saturday did schedule a meeting with former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, a Boca Raton Democrat.

Klein, now chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, has been deeply involved in U.S.-Israel relations since leaving office.

In December, he spoke to Israeli media about the for the nation.

Since exiting Congress after a 2010 defeat, Klein has worked to hold a Democratic coalition of Jewish voters together, even as President Donald Trump and other Republicans woo them with hawkish pro-Israel rhetoric.

In January, Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an editorial from Klein accusing the Trump administration of poisoning peace negotiations.

Klein’s post-Congressional politicking may reveal a significance in his own meeting with Fried, the only Democrat on Florida’s Cabinet.

Fried for her part has issued online videos detailing meetings with Israel business and agriculture leaders. She’s weighed in on some federal issues like Congressional disaster relief, but stayed away from debates with fellow Cabinet members.

“I’m thrilled to be in Israel learning about innovations on agriculture and citrus, water efficiency, cannabis, and more,” Fried said.

“We’re going to bring home ideas and best practices from the Middle East’s only democracy and one of the world’s leading nations on technology and research.”

As a member of the Jewish faith, she also stressed her respect for religious traditions while in the Holy Land.

“As the first Jewish woman elected to the Florida Cabinet, I’m looking forward to this opportunity to strengthen the special bond between Florida and Israel,” she said.

Fried will participate in the first Florida Cabinet on Israeli soil, a historic event highly publicized by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

She made special effort to land in advance of the meeting and work on trade outreach.

The post Nikki Fried to meet with Ron Klein in Israel appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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Retired Major Jim Leavens spent 30 years in a Lee County Sheriff’s Office uniform. Can he now convince voters to fire the current Sheriff and put him in charge?

The North Fort Myers Republican in January formally threw his hat in the ring to run the agency. He’s challenging Sheriff Carmine Marceno, former Sheriff Mike Scott’s hand-picked successor.

“Mike Scott was a machine and was unbeatable. Everybody knows that,” Leavens said. “But once he handed the reins over, Carmine in very beatable. I’m just looking to educate voters. When they compare apples to apples, there’s no way they can choose him [Marceno] over me.”

Scott retired before wrapping his fourth term as Sheriff, citing family concerns, according to the News-Press. Gov. Rick Scott afterward appointed Marceno, Scott’s Undersheriff at the time, NBC-2 reported.

Marceno had been with the department in 2013, and has worked in other agencies since 1996.

Leavens, though, started his career in Lee County as a corrections officer in 1988 and retired as a major last year. That means his roots in the community run deeper and his career spans longer.

Along the way, he oversaw road patrol, homicide, juvenile assessment and internal affairs for varying stints. A former deputy, detective and commander, he’s worked almost every beat.

Leavens, sitting in a Cape Coral restaurant with his wife Angela, said it was a family decision to run. He knows running against an incumbent Sheriff won’t be easy. The man with the badge right now gets free publicity and enjoys connections with the most prominent political power players.

But he’s quickly become a fixture of local Republican club meetings. This marks the first time Leavens ever ran for office.

Then again, Marceno also stands before voters for the first time next year, and there’s some personal issues for the incumbent bound to draw scrutiny.

For the record, Leavens still speaks highly of Scott, and says he regularly communicates with the former Sheriff.

“I would certainly have done some things different, just like any two adults would have, “ Leavens said of Scott. “It’s not disagreements, but we just have different opinions about things. That’s it. He ran a good agency, and he cares a lot about his guys.”

But Leavens said he has more disagreement about current policies.

He’s upset the Sheriff’s Office just canceled its Project Lifesaver program, designed to track populations prone to wandering like Alzheimer’s patients. He said it helps speed up searches for missing persons wearing special bracelets. He worries searches will not have such positive outcomes once bracelets get returned.

“Without it, we’re just going to find this person in a canal,” he fears.

The cost will also go up, with search teams and helicopters tracking people who could have been found quickly by a single deputy using the tracking system.

There’s broader fiscal management issues to address as well, Leavens said. He fears the department has grown too top-heavy. As more officers have been promoted, that means few patrolmen on the roads. The agency also started cracking down on overtime.

“You can’t investigate homicides and certain sex crimes on 12-hour shifts,” Leavens said. “You cant work two days and then say I’ll come back to this in two days and leave the case. It doesn’t work like that.”

Of course, Sheriffs also weigh in on bigger picture political issues.

Leavens said he’s pro-life.

He’s also a defender of the Second Amendment.

So what if the Florida Legislature or Congress passes a law he thinks infringes on that right? If the Constitution buts up against a law, he’s not going to haul people in on that law, he said.

“If you feel an arrest is not going to be prosecuted to the fullest in the State Attorney’s Office, you don’t have to make that arrest,” he said. “That’s where your discretion comes in. If you know there’s two laws fighting one another, that’s not going to be a successful arrest.”

On arming teachers, he still needs to be convinced.

“What’s more important than known when to shoot is knowing when not to shoot,” Leavens said. “That comes with training. And that comes with experience that you don’t just get on the range.”

He won’t come down for or against the expanded Guardian program approved by the Legislature this year without further study. But he certainly has reservations about introducing guns in civilian hands when it comes to breaking up schoolyard brawls.

While Marceno has Scott on his side, Leavens recently picked up the endorsements of former Lee Sheriffs Rod Shoap and John McDougal. Still since announcing, he’s pulled in just $14,320 for his campaign compared to Marceno’s $102,225.

The political newcomer has more than a year to change things, and predicts voters will ultimately elect for change.

“The norm in Lee County has been to elect a politician to Sheriff. I say, let’s think outside the box,” Leavens said. “Let’s make a cop the Sheriff and we can teach him about politics.”

The post Jim Leavens hopes voters value experience over incumbency appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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Anyone who follows President Donald Trump on Twitter has like seen the names Ed and Brian Krassenstein. The prolific tweeters for years built a national following trolling the commander-in-chief.

At least up until Thursday. That’s when the massive social media platform permanently suspended accounts for the Fort Myers-based online activists.

“Twitter won’t tell us what we did to violate the rules,” Ed Krassenstein told Florida Politics.

Now, the Florida marketing professionals will lay off staff at Hill Reporter. The small website, which largely aggregates anti-Trump news, lists three staffers besides the Krassensteins.

Social media follows don’t generate direct revenue stream for the brothers. But the loss of the media outlet’s main portal to readers largely cripples their ability to make money.

“Our podcast didn’t generate revenue,” he said. “Hill Reporter did generate revenue, but had very little in terms of profits. Hill Reporter will have to lay off its awesome writers, who have worked their butts off. One of our writers just had a heart attack and is now being faced with cancer treatments. She’s a student and can’t even afford her rent. This is devastating to her.”

Twitter released a statement to multiple media outlets suggesting the Florida brothers violated terms of service by artificially building their online following.

“The Twitter Rules apply to everyone,” Twitter said, according to The Hill. “Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”

At the time of the suspension, Ed Krassenstein boasted about 900,000 followers and Brian had another 700,000.

But Ed Krassenstein denies any funny business in building up those numbers.

“We never purchased account interactions, so we are perplexed,” he said.

“We did have multiple accounts but they were only used so we could view threatening tweets made by people who had us blocked. We didn’t use it for anything misleading or malicious, so that can’t be the reason. It’s very strange.”

Ed Krassenstein acknowledges his account originally began as a Justin Bieber fan club account — he’s not a fan but said it was part of a failed commercial endeavor. After Trump’s election, Ed Krassenstein said he used the account to criticize the new president. He changed the handle to his own name at that point.

“The account was nine years old so it was around for a while,” he said. “We followed people who were also anti Trump and replied to Trump’s tweets. It just sorta took off.”

Critics have long questioned the large following the Krassensteins both enjoy. But the marketing executives seem chiefly to have built a following in two visibly clear ways.

The two follow nearly as many people as follow them, and appear to have built an audience through follow-backs. The two accounts also would frequently be among the first to respond to most of Trump’s tweets, in turning reaching the President’s more than 60 million followers.

Since the brothers’ accounts were “permanently suspended” on Thursday, they can still log in but cannot tweet, retweet or message anyone. Other users can no longer see the feeds for either account.

Numerous accounts using the brothers’ avatars and variations off their names have popped up in the last 48 hours.

“None of them are us,” Ed Krassenstein said. “I’ve been reporting the ones I see.”

The post Ed, Brian Krassenstein say Twitter suspensions forcing staff layoffs appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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Bon voyage

Florida leaders are abroad and in tow are some reporters, including one of our own.

Gov. Ron DeSantis will travel Saturday to Israel and will be joined there by a more-than-90-person delegation comprised of civic and business leaders for a packed itinerary that begins Sunday in Tel Aviv.

The trip is a historic excursion designed to further strengthen Florida’s business and political relationships with Israel.

While in Israel, DeSantis will sign legislation seeking to curb anti-Semitism in schools.

Through next Friday, DeSantis will meet with Israeli companies and officials, including a Thursday afternoon meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A ceremonial meeting of the Florida Cabinet will take place Wednesday afternoon. (Keep in mind, Israel time is seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.)

Concerns regarding government in the sunshine have been voiced because so many state leaders would be concentrated overseas next week. So far, it appears only a handful of journalists are tagging along.

We’re excited to announce that A.G. Gancarski, a political writer for Florida Politics who reports from Jacksonville, will be providing coverage throughout the week from Israel. Follow his stories online and make sure to check #FlaPolGoesToIsrael on Twitter for updates.

As well, abroad coverage will be coming from other statewide political reporters like USA Today’s Jeff Schweers and Bay News 9’s Troy Kinsey.

“The hope is to provide comprehensive coverage of the Cabinet on what is a historic trip to Israel,” Gancarski said. “From business development meetings to a meeting with PM Benjamin Netanyahu, this is one of the most audacious plays made by a state delegation.

“We will have interviews with the major players, and the hope is that readers will feel that they are there as a week of major events transpires.”

Take 5

Federal relief takes shape – The U.S. Senate this week approved a disaster-spending plan that includes $19 billion for Puerto Rico and states still reeling from recent storms, floods and other natural disasters. POLITICO reported after the bill had been approved that the House is expected to back the plan in June when it returns from Memorial Day recess. “The disaster relief bill was most eagerly sought by Trump’s GOP allies in states such as Georgia, Florida, Iowa and Nebraska,” The Associated Press reported from Washington. Florida lawmakers during the 2019 Legislative Session routinely criticized Congress for failing to pass timely aid for victims of Hurricane Michael, the Category 5 storm that touched down in Mexico Beach last October.

DeSantis prompts election review – Gov. DeSantis this week directed the Department of State to evaluate election security just eight days after the FBI disclosed to state officials that Russian hackers successfully breached two counties’ election data ahead of the 2016 election. The order directs Florida’s Chief Election Officer and Secretary of State Laurel Lee to make the review a top priority and “identify and address any vulnerabilities.” Officials with knowledge of the breaches entered into nondisclosure agreements with the FBI that prevent them from revealing the names of the two counties that were hacked. But The Washington Post reported last week that Washington County in the Panhandle is among the two counties from which Russians successfully accessed information.

AOB reform signed into law – As expected, Gov. DeSantis this week signed into law sweeping insurance legislation targeting lawsuit abuse. The bill provides for tighter restrictions on assignment of benefits — or AOB — agreements. The new law establishes a formula for attorneys fee compensation for contractors who file lawsuits against insurance companies in AOB disputes. It also limits to $3,000 work that can be performed by contractors who enter into emergency AOB agreements, among other changes that have been heralded by business groups, insurance companies and lawmakers who have faulted increased AOB lawsuits for rising insurance costs. “I thank the Florida Legislature for passing meaningful AOB reform, which has become a racket in recent years,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This legislation will protect Florida consumers from predatory insurance practices.”

Fried targets trade – Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried weighed in this week on two federal trade matters that are impacting or could affect Florida farmers. Following Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Jacksonville to tout the benefits of a proposed NAFTA revamp, Fried criticized the federal plan, known as the USMCA, for not protecting Florida seasonal crop growers. “In a state that depends on agriculture, we can’t afford a trade agreement that allows Mexico to continue dumping artificially low-priced seasonal crops into our country,” Fried said. “Mexico’s unfair trade practices and lower safety standards and labor costs are putting Florida’s seasonal crop growers at risk.” Fried, a Democrat, also requested President Donald Trump work to remove timber tariffs imposed by the Chinese and protect the timber industry from tariffs during Trump’s ongoing trade war with China.

Florida icon passes away – Florida State University President Emeritus TalbotSandyD’Alemberte died this week at the age of 85. His death prompted many to remember the former lawmaker and former American Bar Association President for his contributions to the state and its legal system. Memorial services have been announced for D’Alemberte, who had at one point also served as the FSU law school dean. A service will take place Wednesday, June 5, at 2 p.m. in Ruby Diamond Concert Hall, 222 S. Copeland St, Tallahassee. Visitation will take place 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, at the D’Alemberte Rotunda, FSU College of Law, 425 W. Jefferson St., also in Tallahassee.

Irma home repair a success

Robert and Stacie Bark have made progress toward returning to normalcy almost two years after Hurricane Irma wrecked the Palm Bay couple’s home.

Gov. DeSantis announced this week that Rebuild Florida had completed the significant roof damage and window repairs needed at the Bark residence.

“Getting people back into their homes is a critical step to this process and I thank DEO and the Rebuild Florida team for working hard to assist thousands of Floridians as they rebuild, repair or replace their homes,” DeSantis said in a statement.

Stacie and Robert Bark smile in front of their revamped digs. (Image via the Governor’s Press Office.)

Rebuild Florida operates out of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The program recruits federal dollars to help low-income and vulnerable Floridians fix their homes after disasters.

“Rebuild Florida got a hold of me by some miracle and walked me through every step of the process to receive assistance,” Robert Bark said in a statement. “I’m very grateful for the program and thankful to have a new roof over our heads.”

Infrastructure grants heading to rural counties

This week, Gov. DeSantis announced a suite of DEO grants that are on their way to Florida communities.

Measuring in at $1.6 million in all, the grants are targeted at projects that will make an immediate impact in small towns across the state.

DEO head Ken Lawson is working alongside DeSantis to administer dollars to rural areas.

“Infrastructure development and maintenance are critical for rural communities to become more resilient,” DeSantis said. “We will continue to help these communities as they prepare for the future by utilizing every resource we have.”

The bulk of the cash, about $1 million, will be used to expand an existing water treatment plan in Columbia County.

Another $316,499 will head to the town of Jennings to purchase a new 25,000-gallon aeration tank, $150,000 will go to RiverWay South Apalachicola Choctawhatchee for tourism and economic development strategies and $100,000 will go to the town of Greenville for a feasibility study to suss out whether existing structures can sustain a new grocery store.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEO stands ready to utilize every resource available to assist rural communities and help them achieve their economic goals,” said DEO head Ken Lawson. “We look forward to seeing the great work these communities accomplish and how they continue to grow their economies.”

Fried names May ‘Veteran of the Month’  

Agriculture Commissioner Fried named Ryan McKibben the Veteran of the Month for May, recognizing McKibben’s decade of service in the military and his contributions to agriculture since returning to the States.

McKibben completed two combat tours with the Army in Iraq. He currently is part of the Veterans Florida Agriculture Program and is interning at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“From rehabilitation programs to our new Veterans Affairs Director, and helping connect veterans with agricultural and career and training opportunities, we’re doing our part to support Florida’s veterans,” Fried said in a prepared statement. “As Memorial Day approaches, I want to extend my deep appreciation for the service of the millions of Americans and Floridians who have sacrificed to defend our freedoms and protect our communities.”

“The award is an effort to highlight the contributions that men and women in uniform have made to our state,” Fried’s office said.

Jeremy Sinnemaki, entrepreneurship and agriculture director at Veterans Florida, said McKibben is “a tremendous example of the contributions that veterans make to the agriculture industry.”

McKibben is a graduate of Florida State University, where he was active in veterans-focused groups.

Feds honor two Florida schools for environmental focus

Two Florida schools are included among 35 other educational institutions honored this week for efforts to reduce energy costs, improve health and promote sustainability.

The schools: MAST Academy in Miami-Dade County, which wants to become the first net zero energy and zero waste school in Florida, and FAU Lab School District in Palm Beach County, home to a well-known orchid restoration program and unique research opportunities.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran congratulated the two schools for their distinction.

The Florida schools were recognized as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s “Green Ribbon Program,” which assesses schools nationwide based on environmental impact and energy efficiency, healthy school environments and environmental and sustainability education.

“We have a responsibility to instill in future generations a deep commitment to protecting our precious natural resources,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a prepared statement. “I applaud MAST Academy and FAU Lab School District for implementing policies and initiatives that ensure students understand the role we each play in maintaining a healthy environment for future generations.”

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein noted the importance of preparing students to act as environmental stewards.

“It is exciting to see two Florida schools in the national spotlight for their dedication to sustaining and enhancing Florida’s natural resources,” Valenstein said.

Bench perspective on Supreme Court makeover

Justice Jorge Labarga doesn’t think much has changed with three new conservative legal minds on the high court.

During a brief media availability ahead of a recent Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice meeting, Labarga told reporters that “discussions certainly haven’t changed since before or after” Gov. DeSantis appointed Justices Barbara Lagoa, Robert Luck and Carlos Muniz to the bench.

But those appointments replaced Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince — often considered a liberal-leaning wing of the court.

One big, happy family: Jorge Labarga said he gets along great with the new Justices.

“I’m very close friends with all the justices that were there before; I’m close friends with the justices there now,” Labarga said. “I believe that everybody is doing what they feel the oath requires them to do: To look at the law as they see it and rule based on that.”

Already, reversals and other court decisions are showing how the Supreme Court has been reshaped within the past few months.

INSTAGRAM OF THE WEEK

Mass shooting shots get records exemption

A bill that would block the release of photos and videos of deaths in mass violence incidents got a signature from Gov. DeSantis this week.

The bill was a priority of Orlando state Rep. Kamia Brown, who has backed it three years running.

“Horrific incidents of mass violence such as the Pulse shooting in Orlando where 49 people lost their lives are happening more frequently in today’s society. This bill will provide an additional public exemption for the depictions of these tragedies, the state should never be the source of anguish caused by the videos or pictures of the tragic death of a loved one,” she said.

“The pictures and recordings cause great emotional distress, sorrow, and irreversible trauma. It is imperative that we protect families from needlessly reliving heartbreak and loss, but most importantly preserve the dignity of those lost due to egregious acts of violence.”

A longtime comin’: Brown has wanted the legislation for years.

The new law expands a current public records exemption to victims of mass violence, defined as an event where three or more individuals are killed.

The law also allows for those seeking for the release of photos or recordings to petition for a court order to do so. Notably, it does not apply to private recordings of mass shootings, which have often found their way onto social media after an attack.

Tech-related bills signed into law

Two pieces of legislation designed to complement the Information Age were signed into law this week.

One bill (SB 1024) creates a working group to explore blockchain’s viability for state use. Blockchain is the digital ledger technology behind transactions for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

By studying blockchain, lawmakers hope to bring state transactions into the future.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, requires the task force be created sometime this year. It would send a report to state leaders within 180 days of its first meeting.

Another bill (SB 1136) signed into law seeks to protect a person’s expectation of privacy when they share a “sexually explicit image” online with another person.

As it relates to sexual cyberharassment, “Evidence that the depicted person sent a sexually explicit image to another person does not, on its own, remove his or her reasonable expectation of privacy for that image,” the bill reads.

Hurricane Michael victims to receive homeownership loan assistance

The Florida Housing Finance Coalition this week began rolling out two programs designed to benefit homeowners caught in Hurricane Michael’s wrath.

The Homeownership Loan Program (HLP) will make available 30-year fixed mortgage rates and up to $15,000 in down-payment assistance to home buyers. The down-payment loans will “be at zero percent interest, non-amortizing and forgivable at 20 percent per year over five years,” a news release from Gov. DeSantis’ office said. Homebuyers within 140 percent of the area median income could be eligible.

The other initiative, The Homeownership Pool Program, recruits $1 million in federal funds to help new single-family homebuyers. Each buyer under the program is eligible for $35,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance loans. Only applicants within 80 percent of the area median income can be eligible. These loans are zero-percent interest, non-amortizing and due on sale, refinance or non-owner occupancy.

Both programs are expected to officially launch in early June.

DeSantis in a statement said that he asked the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, which will administer the programs, to come up with solutions to affordable housing issues created by Hurricane Michael, the Category 5 storm that swept through Northwest Florida last October.

“These homeownership and down payment assistance programs will help the rebuilding of these Panhandle communities and for families to achieve the American Dream affordably,” said Trey Price, executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

Florida Chamber grades lawmakers

The Florida Chamber on Tuesday released the “2019 Legislative Report Card,” giving a letter score from A to F to state lawmakers based on their votes during Session, which ended earlier in May.

The annual score sheet — a frequent practice among groups looking to influence lawmakers — shows how the priorities of the Florida Chamber, a massive business-advocacy organization, fared during Session.

Lawmakers did pretty well from the Chamber’s perspective. The average GPA this year is just more than 79 percent. Ninety-eight lawmakers earned an A or B and 59 members earned a C, D or F.

It doesn’t look like a school, but that doesn’t stop the Florida Chamber from doling out report cards.

As a pro-business organization, the Chamber often aligns with Republican initiatives. Take for example Senate President Bill Galvano’s high-profile toll roads legislation. The Chamber heavily supported that bill, which kickstarts funding for three major highway projects in the state, because it believes the roadways will cater to Florida’s growing population.

While the Chamber isn’t a partisan organization, the grades somewhat tracked along party lines.

That trend didn’t go unnoticed.

Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, of Orlando, acknowledged her “F” grade on Twitter as if it were a progressive badge of honor.

CareerSource Florida chief recognized as top workforce development professional

The 2019..

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U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is hosting his 2nd Annual Veterans Resource Expo on Saturday.

The “All In For Pinellas Veterans” event is at the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center located at 2810 Grand Ave., Pinellas Park. 

It starts at 9 a.m.

The event features veterans service organizations and other non-profits in Pinellas County to provide resources to veterans. There will also be a veterans benefits workshop.

Community leaders familiar with veterans issues will also serve on a panel discussing challenges facing the veteran community and resources available in Pinellas County to help combat those challenges.

The event comes after Crist announced a $100,000 grant for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to fund transit improvements near the Bay Pines veterans’ facility in west St. Petersburg, the only hospital and veterans resource center in Pinellas County.

The post Charlie Crist to host second annual veterans resource event in Pinellas Park appeared first on Florida Politics - Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

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