INFLUENCE Magazine — Winter/Spring 2019

Page 1

A Publication




Florida Internet & Television’s Fight To Cut Taxes & Win the Future Autonomous Vehicles Big Data Blockchain Micro-mobility Privacy Ridesharing Social Media Telehealth


all the other issues where politics intersects with tech.

Talking Innovation w/ Brandes, Grant,

Fischer, Webb

Meet The Freshmen Legislators

Il Lusso: Florida’s Best New Resto?


All eyes on the bird for an announcement 20 years in the making.

First Motorola radios in Florida. On March 13, 1931, the first Motorola-branded car radios were sold to the City of Daytona Beach.


A history of disaster recovery support begins. During the 1945 Homestead Hurricane, Motorola began a partnership that continues today by helping Florida first responders prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters.


Florida’s first statewide radio system. The Florida Highway Patrol began operating a Motorola radio communication system in 1943 in Bartow County. By 1945, there were 13 stations statewide with mobile units in all patrol cars.

50 years of Homegrown Innovation. Motorola plants roots in Broward County with a new facility, which today stands as the global pinnacle of our innovation and R&D worldwide.


First words and pictures from the moon relayed by Motorola Transponder. July 20,1969, Apollo 11 lifted off for the moon from the Kennedy Space Center. Approx. 530 million people worldwide watched and listened as Motorola equipment transmitted telemetry, tracking, voice communications and television signals from Commander Neil Armstrong as he took “ small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Early support for STEM. Years before the acronym STEM was widely used, Motorola began supporting Math, Technology and Science education through the AmericaWorks program. Our support for Florida’s STEM education continues today.


Assisting Florida during a historic hurricane season. An unprecedented eight major hurricanes from 2004 (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne) to 2005 (Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma) tore across the state. Our Disaster Recovery Team was prepared beforehand, and fully equipped to assist local officials to recover faster during the aftermath.


World’s first mission critical wireless data. Years before the idea of FirstNet, Motorola pioneered the world’s first 700 MHz wideband high-speed data system for public safety users, enabling advanced mission critical solutions in Pinellas County (Police, Fire & EMS) – deploying in 2001.



First Project 25 radio systems in the state: Nassau County & Marion County

4 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019 MOTOROLA, MOTO, MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS and the Stylized M Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Motorola Trademark Holdings, LLC and are used under license. All other trad

61 Locations Motorola Solutions



First responders



Statewide jobs

In charitable contributions since 2007, across

INNOVATING Public safety service support within 50 miles throughout the state

Managed services subscribers in FL




Florida organizations including

Florida-based inventors with



Patents granted to Motorola Solutions

toward STEM



I personally have never seen a corporation respond to the needs of others, outside of public safety, like Motorola has. – Joseph Humphries, City of Tallahassee, Radio System Specialist

World’s first P25 radio with LTE broadband. APX 7000L, designed in Plantation.

Engaged in the community. Motorola employees volunteer through various programs like FIRST Robotics, Career Days, the Business Light Engineering Program, Great Minds in STEM, Children’s Cancer Caring Center and more – all with the support of the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


Florida at the forefront of P25 radio innovation worldwide. Motorola developed the APX 7000, a new portable two-way radio with advanced features and sleek customer-driven design. Tested by the Sunrise Fire and Rescue Department for feedback.

iF Design Award winner. LEX L10 Mission Critical LTE Handheld, designed in Plantation.

3-in-1 body worn camera & portable radio. Si300/Si500, designed in Plantation.

Palm Beach, Clay & Broward Countywide P25 systems. Awarded to Motorola Solutions.

State of Florida SLERS P25 ITN* awarded to Motorola Solutions. On March 13, 2018, an Intent to Award was announced for Motorola Solutions.

*Invitation to Negotiate



World’s first doublecapacity public safety radio system. Motorola Solutions implemented the world’s first dualmode P25 Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) radio system – doubling the voice capacity for the City of Apopka.


World’s first P25 Managed Services Cloud Core Solution. Offering created at our Plantation Center of Excellence. Today, five South Florida local governments utilize this core that supports over 20,000 radios.

demarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2019 Motorola Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.


All-band portable radio. APX 8000, capable of communicating on all bands. Designed in Plantation.



Category 4 Hurricanes devastated Florida. We were there alongside you. Hurricane Irma (2017) ripped through the state, starting in the Keys. Motorola Solutions supported 30+ customers at 300+ sites, coordinating efforts. Hurricane Michael (2018) slammed the Panhandle. In addition to our disaster recovery efforts, the Motorola Solutions Foundation donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross.




Rejuvenated Happy days are here again The skies above are clear again So let’s sing a song of cheer again Happy days are here again It has been less than three months since Ron DeSantis thrust his hand into the sky and took the oath of office as Florida’s 46th Governor. Yet that thrust may as well have been a thunderclap from the sky judging by how much the atmosphere in the capital has already changed. Gone are the dark and angry clouds that surrounded the insular Rick Scott administration, replaced by a 40-year-old chief executive, his telegenic wife, and a small army of dedicated staffers who seem to have no issue with working 14-hour days. (Let’s also note how many familiar faces, such as chief of staff Shane Strum and DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller, have come back to public service.) One anecdote that captures the esprit de corps of the nascent DeSantis administration is the story of how transition chiefs Matt Gaetz and Susie Wiles approached the Governor with a blueprint for the first 100 days of the administration. DeSantis quickly reviewed and approved many of the proposals, but with one caveat. He wanted to get it all done during his first month in office. I’m not sure what exactly was in that outline for DeSantis’ first 100 days, but it sure feels like he crammed three months worth of activity into 30 days. And he doesn’t even have his own plane, as Scott did. The first days of DeSantis’ administration have surprised many political observers, especially his de-


tractors from the campaign trail who complained he did not talk enough about Florida issues. However, the changes DeSantis has brought to The Process should not be a surprise. At least not to those who read a piece I wrote a year ago after Scott signed his final budget. I wrote then that with Scott exiting, Florida politics “all starts to go back to normal.” With a new Governor — one who could not write a $72 million check to buy the Governor’s Mansion, as Scott did in 2010 — the four pillars of political life in Florida are now able to rebuild. The lobby corps, the news media (as enervated as it is), the fundraising community, and the political parties should see their influence expand in the next four years. Lobbyists were of little use to Scott because they were against him in 2010 and he never forgot that. Only a handful of big-name lobbyists had access to Scott himself. Most governmental affairs firms relied on a strategy of focusing on the Legislature while staying under the radar during the gubernatorial veto period. Some firms, to be sure, succeeded in efforts to lobby the executive branch. But for the most part, Scott’s was an administration that was indifferent to Adams Street. That was then. This is now. It’s not that DeSantis is in any way beholden to the governmental affairs firms, but at least he and his staff listen to more than just a handful of lobbyists. Under DeSantis, some firms will win, some will lose, but at least the game is being played again. Scott didn’t even roll out the ball.

Because the game is afoot once more, I’m more excited about this Legislative Session than any other in this past decade. This edition of INFLUENCE Magazine is one part Session preview, one part guide to Tallahassee, and one part deep-dive into a policy silo increasingly important to Floridians: emerging technologies. But if there’s a theme to any of it, it’s the sense of what’s possible under a Florida Governor who is probably just as excited as we are about the dynamic nature of Florida politics. Happy days are here again indeed.

Peter Schorsch Publisher




Peter Schorsch

Phil Ammann



Christy Jennings

CONTRIBUTORS Sally Bradshaw Rochelle Koff Ryan Nicol Drew Wilson

Trimmel Gomes Dan McAuliffe Janelle Taylor


STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS Colin Hackley Mark Wallheiser


Rosanne Dunkelberger

Kristin Piccolo

Mary Beth Tyson

Daniel Dean



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INFLUENCE Magazine is published quarterly by Florida Politics, LLC, a subsidiary of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC. 204 37th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33704. INFLUENCE Magazine and Extensive Enterprises Media are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contributions are welcomed and encouraged, but will not be returned. INFLUENCE Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright March 2019, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Tallahassee, Florida


Government Law Practice As one of the premier law firms based in Florida, Shutts & Bowen LLP has extensive experience in all areas of government law. Whether you are appearing before a public agency requesting approvals, lobbying for changes to the law, seeking a government contract, or if you are a local or state governmental entity needing legal assistance, our experienced and well regarded attorneys can help you. We’ve been active participants in Florida’s legal and political arenas for the past century. Today, our attorneys continue to practice on the cutting edge of government law. Our multidisciplinary practice group assists with a wide-array of legal matters, including: Ad Valorem Tax Issues Affordable Housing Bid Protests Cities, Counties and Other Local Governments Civil Rights Construction Contracts Election Law Eminent Domain Environmental Ethics and Lobbying Compliance Government Procurement Issues Health Law Land Use and Zoning

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Legislative and Executive Branch Matters Lobbying Local Taxes Procurement Public Finance Public-Private Ventures Relocation Incentives School Boards Special Benefit Districts Special Assessments State Agencies Telecommunications Transportation/Airports/Ports

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Her husband, Lloyd Dunkelberger, has been covering politics in Tallahassee for 36 years, so her areas of interest “have been planning my pregnancies around Session and taking Spring Break without him,” she says. Since teaming up with Peter and INFLUENCE, she’s been the go-to for writing about “politics lite”: office décor, food, fashion, and personalities. For the 2019 Session, she’ll be watching how the Legislature navigates education reform and tackles medical marijuana.

McAuliffe covered his first Session last year, when he saw the legislative narrative turn on a dime after the Parkland tragedy. This time around, he says he is looking forward to watching the power dynamics unfold between the new leaders of the House and Senate. “Our ambitious new Governor has signaled that he wants to empower the Legislature, so I’ll also be waiting to see how that holds up,” McAuliffe says.



His days covering Session date back to then-Gov. Jeb Bush. “I ALWAYS look forward to sine die and all the scandals that will inevitably pop up along the way,” Gomes says. “It seems like the freshman class will keep things exciting throughout this session.”


Now that Hillsborough County has passed a transportation sales tax, Pinellas County is likely to give such a measure another shot after its abysmal failure five years ago. She’ll be watching Jeff Brandes’ local referenda bill seeking to limit tax referenda to only general elections, which could affect the county’s future efforts, if approved.

Nicol says he’ll have his eyes on a bill allowing for the arming of teachers, as well as a proposal to set up a victims’ compensation fund for those affected by the February 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland. Last year, lawmakers passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Now, they’re looking to expand on that with additional post-Parkland legislation. Nicol has more than a passing interest: He’s a Broward County resident.


Tyson, a west coast of Florida native, grew up on an island her family called home for generations. Her love of art and photography began there. Later, she realized she had a talent to photograph weddings and started a business. She now lives in Tallahassee with her husband, Ryan, and their three boys, but doesn’t relish The Process: “For me, Session is when a lot of my friends are no longer available for lunch because they are lobbying.”


Rosica has covered Session since 2011, then-Gov. Rick Scott’s first. He was The Associated Press’ legislative relief reporter three years in a row. Then, he was Tallahassee bureau chief for The Tampa Tribune after it re-opened its capital bureau in 2013. Now, he’s Florida Politics’ Tallahassee-based Senior Editor. He temporarily quit journalism for a foray to law school in Philadelphia. “I cover the ‘sin beat,’ so I’m looking forward to food fights over booze bills, gambling and medical pot,” he says.


Wilson is more of a legislative campaigns and fundraising guy, or so his bio says. As a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter, he’s got his eye on any bills filed this Session that promise to help bring back film and TV shoots to the Sunshine State.




PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson



The fast-changing world of telecom is affecting multiple Florida industries, and we’ve got the bills to prove it.

54 Going Graphic

114 Meet the Newbies

Jordan Gibson’s Ello Creative helps Republicans translate Republican policy into social media success.

Term limits mean fresh faces in the Florida House. Mike Moline introduces us to five of them.

94 Driverless

122 The Mountaineer

Ready or not, totally self-driving, autonomous vehicles are coming to a highway near you.

Climbing the world’s highest mountains and working during Session are a lot the same, according to lobbyist David Hart.

98 The Last Mile

126 Faces of Disaster

Scooters could be the future of micro-commuting.

Photographer Mark Wallheiser takes a trip to the coastal cities ravaged by Hurricane Michael and focuses on the people still living with its aftermath.

104 ‘Innovate or Die’ Legislators lead the way in creating a regulatory climate that encourages technology.

136 What I’ve Learned with Mike Abrams Musings from a bipartisan mentor to Florida leaders.

110 The Trouble With Tech The challenge of creating laws for today’s disruptive technologies. 10 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019




20 39

30 New Restaurants There are plenty of new eateries to discover in and around downtown. Rochelle Koff gives you the tour.

36 Il Lusso It’s on the ground floor of Brian Ballard’s new downtown office building, but this new, cosmopolitan Italian steakhouse elevates the dining experience in Tallahassee.



43 Where to Drink Whether it’s craft beer or a handcrafted cocktail, Josh Aubuchon shares some of his favorite local watering holes.

48 In the Kitchen with Josh Cooper INFLUENCE’s favorite political operative shares tips for cooking game meats.

Insider’s Advice 81 Once again, RYAN COHN picks his favorite social media influencers in the world of lobbying.

52 Pop Goes the Pocket Square If you ditch the tie, this little accessory can add personality to your ensemble.

PHOTOS: Marybeth Tyson, Bill Day

66 On the Money A graphic look at Florida’s topearning lobbying firms in Q4 2018.

78 Travis Cummings’ Orbit Take a look at who’s in the inner and outer circles of the new House Appropriations Committee chair.


On the Move Political Aficionado’s Guide


Social Scene


Briefings from the Rotunda


Fourth Floor Files


The Big Question


82 Tech jobs are here, says SARAH MATZ, and you don’t necessarily have to have a four-year degree to get one. 85 YOLANDA CASH JACKSON says passing Amendment 4 is just the beginning of the quest to restore felons’ voting rights. 87 STEVE VANCORE is peeved by clickbait polls, but admits even the best pros can get it wrong.

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Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

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Expert advice on how to launch your own podcast


Matt Farrar

he magic of podcasting is that it’s an immersive experience, like a great dinner conversation or reading a book. Some podcasters say the medium is a “theater of the mind” where the listeners’ imagination creates the set and fills in the faces of the actors. Just like a theater, however, the environment matters because it actually can be a distraction to the performance. A theater may be hot, cold, bright, or uncomfortable in the same way a podcast may have audio that is muffled, harsh, or distant. In order to have crisp, warm audio, you simply have to have the



BY JOE CLEMENTS AND MATT FARRAR right equipment. When we set out to launch our own podcast last summer, we underestimated some of the challenges to creating a high-quality product. Podcasting today feels a lot like blogging did a decade ago, with just about anyone able to get something up and going. The main difference with podcasting is that production quality really matters. An ugly blog could have well-written content and a big following, but a podcast with poor sound quality just won’t cut it with listeners, no matter how great the content. The first recording of our podcast, SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 15

“Of Record,” sounded like we recorded in a cave. We quickly made adjustments to our studio space by adding sounddampening panels to the wall, putting foam blocks in the window and laying down a thick rug on the floor. We also went ahead and invested in high-quality mics and recording equipment.

If you have a big audience spread out geographically, enjoy storytelling, or thrive in long-form conversations, you should consider giving podcasting a shot. Podcasts are the perfect format for educating audiences and building relationships with the people you interview. As a bonus, Florida politicos

spend a lot of time driving between Tallahassee and home, so they have plenty of time to listen. If you’re thinking about pressing “record” on a podcast of your own, here are the items we’ve used to produce “Of Record” since September — and we could not be happier with the results:

Audio Equipment MUST Haves Two Studio Microphones

First, you need microphones, and Rode has released an awesome entry XLR microphone. This is an upgrade in sound from the USB Podcaster microphone. Best Deal: Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Microphone , $229.


Some people think the microphone is the most important item, but really, it’s the recorder. This recorder is the best deal because not only does it have the option for four external XLR mic inputs, it’s small and light, and has the option for additional attachments for recording without external microphones. If that doesn’t sound cool, I’ll explain: It’s a recorder that can be used as a microphone for field interviews. Best Deal: Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder (, $330).

Two Microphone Stands

Now, those microphones need some legs to stand on. Depending on your studio setup or need for travel there are two options: Portable option: Samson MD5 Desktop Microphone Stand (, $14.95) Best studio option: RODE Studio Microphone Boom Arm (, $98.86)

SD Cards Make sure your memory cards are compatible with the recorder you have, and buy and get however many you can afford. Some recorders will not take bigger cards, may only take a microSD, or won’t take a slow/high processing speed. 16 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

Two 10’ XLR->XLR Cables Four 3’ XLR->XLR Cables

These are the cables that transfer the sound to your recorder. You need one for each microphone you purchase. As with HDMI cables, the most expensive does not equal the best quality. Do a little research on reviews and forums and see which one you can afford for the quality. It is always better to have more than not enough in the XLR world and also different lengths, but if you’re on a budget, a longer XLR cable is always more useful. (B&H Photo Video, $15.99-$17.49)

Audio Equipment FUN Haves

Two Headphones

You need at least one pair of headphones to observe your initial levels before recording, but wearing them the whole time is not necessary. If you want to improve your podcast experience, I recommend buying the number of headphones you would need to satisfy the possible/ expected number of guests and then buy a stereo headphone amp (I explain its purpose in the not must-haves). The Audiophile’s best deal: Sony MDR7506 Professional Headphone (, $80)

Shockmount (x2) - Because we all are not perfect in hitting the desks, a shock mount can help reduce vibrations from external causes and help the recording in the end. Best Deal: Rode PSM 1 Shockmount (, $39)

Pop Filters (x2) - This allow all of us to not be self-conscious with our P’s and S’s by reducing the pop and sibilance of certain letters. Best Deal: Aokeo Professional Microphone Pop Filter (, $7)

Stereo Headphone Amp

Studio Sound Proofing

Here we are. The purpose of the stereo headphones is it forces the people in the conversation to focus only on the conversation. This product gives everyone in-line audio of all the microphones, so if you are having a problem with the guest trailing off into their phone, or conversation outside the studio, this will solve that problem! Extremely good deal for quality and purpose: Behringer HA-400 Headphone Amplifier (, $25)



Black-out or thick curtains for each

Baffle (B&H Photo Video, $187.10)

Two simple things will improve the sound signature of your recording room: glass surface (tall enough to cover whole window to the floor)

A thick area rug

These items provide extra soundproofing and will increase the sound signature even more when added to the two items above.

Broadway Column Panels (B&H Photo Video, $519.99) Broadway Panels Wall Mounts Wall Mount Clips for Broadway Panels (B&H Photo Video, $40) SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 17

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Kicking Off Your Spring With These Political Reads BY SALLY BRADSHAW


allahassee is a political town, but over the last several years, capital city readers weary of our polarized national debate seem to have sworn off political books for something a little less stressful.

These days even some of Florida State’s top creative writing professors prefer a good mystery to a non-fiction, wellsourced account of the Trump presidency or the loyal opposition in Congress. And who can blame them? But as a recovering political hack, and now an indie bookseller, let me be an advocate for immersing yourself in a few good political reads this spring. Session is starting, a new Governor and three Cabinet members are now firmly ensconced on the Plaza Level, and it’s time for civic-minded Floridians to once again educate themselves on the issues and, of course, the gossip du jour. Herein are a few great reads to assist with every political crisis you may face until sine die blissfully draws to a close in the rotunda in May. And if you still can’t get enough, this list can easily accompany you to the beach this summer.



BY MARK WEINBERG President Ronald Reagan’s former press secretary tells the Reagans’ story through movies Weinberg watched with them every weekend at Camp David. The Reagans were known to watch movies Friday and Saturday nights, and each chapter in the book discusses the films, and provides stories and observations which paint an intimate and personal portrait of the first couple through times of challenge and success. A fun escape from the madness of today’s politics, it’s out now from Simon & Schuster.


BY JARED COHEN This promises to be a fascinating read about the eight Americans who became President without actually being elected. The author, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and an adviser to both Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, paints a fascinating picture of these men who changed history. Cohen is receiving rave reviews for this title, also out from Simon & Schuster this April. And come on, how much do you really know about Millard Fillmore and John Tyler? Time to up your history game!


BY AMY CHUA This title is out from Penguin in paperback this June. Already in hardback, Chua’s fascinating read makes the case that the liberal elite refuse to acknowledge their own role in Trump’s ascendance and urges us to reject identity politics. Chua is a law professor at Yale and an 20 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

expert in the field of conflict. Tom Brokaw calls this book “the place to begin our long overdue national discussion on how to repair the deep divisions in the American political landscape.”


BY CHARLIE LEDUFF The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s book is available in paperback this May from Penguin. Publisher’s Weekly calls it a “superb example of contemporary Gonzo journalism.” Well before the Trump presidency became a possibility, LeDuff speculated that no one – least of all the media – understood what was happening with real voters outside of Washington, D.C. Backed by then-Fox news CEO Roger Ailes, LeDuff set out across America on a three-year journey covering everything from the undocumented immigrants crossing the Rio Grande to the burning of Ferguson, Missouri, to Americans who felt completely estranged from the elites inside the Beltway. A tragic reminder of our struggles, but an honest portrait of America, Sh*tshow is a must read. And how can anyone not purchase a book (from your local indie bookseller) with this title?


BY DR. JEANNE SAFER Finally, a survival guide for split households — written by a psychotherapist and contributor to Good Morning America and the Daily Show — publishes this June from All Points Books. It’s a practical guidebook to preserve friendships as well as familial and intimate relationships in today’s hyper-partisan world. It’s out in plenty of time to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner this year.




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22 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019 | (850) 577-0398

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Aficionado’s  Guide to ... MOVIES

Bill Hopes to Lure Film Jobs to Florida BY DREW WILSON


epublican Joe Gruters of Sarasota, now in the state Senate, will try again this Legislative Session to push a bill encouraging television and film productions to once again shoot in Florida. Miami-Dade Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo carried a bill last Session to create a “Florida Motion Picture Capital Corporation.” It aimed to spur “the use of this state as a site for scripted productions by providing financing to such productions.” But, despite support from Gruters (when he was still in the House) and Democratic Rep. David Silvers of West Palm Beach, Republican House leadership opposed anything that smacked of “incentive” programs. Taddeo’s bill would have offered upfront funding to producers, rather than providing tax credits after a shoot finished. The legislation, which had no state money attached to it, died. And that’s a shame, according to Gruters. This go-round, Gruters is taking the North Carolina approach. The Old North State had a traditional incentives program for years before shifting to a grant program Gruters has called “very conservative.” “In the last three years, Florida has lost over $1 billion in major film and television projects,” Gruters told INFLUENCE magazine. “We know that the average feature film spends $125,000 per day in the location they are filming.” Gruters’ bill would make film, television and streaming productions eligible for a grant check from the state covering the lesser of 20 percent of production costs or $2 million so long as 70 percent of the produc-

Camera operator Jeff Daly, on the set of USA Network’s ‘Graceland,’ which filmed in Florida for three seasons (2013–15). tion budget is spent in the state and 70 percent of the staff on set are Florida residents. And that money would only come after production wraps and the receipts can be verified. The concept has found favor from Florida TaxWatch, which recently came out with a report saying Florida will have to consider economic incentives if it wants to revitalize the state’s television and film production industry. But that runs counter to new Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva’s stance, who has called production incentives “tantamount to corporate welfare.” Even GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t fully sold on the idea, telling the Tampa Bay Times “it depends on the situation.” Gruters admits it won’t be an easy sell: “But that loss of $1 billion over the last three years, as well as the visual impact of

seeing shows about Florida filmed in other states, along with a program that provides more oversight, will hopefully be a good selling point.” Florida’s “lost opportunities,” outlined in the TaxWatch report, add up to over $1 billion and 87,000 cast and crew jobs. And those jobs pay nearly 70 percent more than the average Floridian’s. For example, “in September 2016, just a few months after the Legislature let the state’s film and entertainment incentive program expire, Netflix canceled the show ‘Bloodline,’ whose first two seasons had been filmed in the Florida Keys,” Florida Trend reported. “Two months later, HBO announced that it was moving production of ‘Ballers,’ whose first two seasons had been filmed in Miami, to California.” The entertainment industry has a footSPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 23

Crew filming a scene on the set of ‘Dead Ringer,’ filmed in Pinellas County in 2017. hold in Florida, with 150,000 direct jobs and over $2 billion in wages, according to Florida TaxWatch. However, the state ranked 10th in terms of television and film productions shot (as of 2016). Florida, unlike every other state in the Southeast, does not offer an incentive program, the report notes. The tax credit incentive was eliminated in 2016, and the trend is moving productions to Georgia, which robustly supports the industry. Georgia’s program led to $2.7 billion in direct production spending last year alone. And that’s started netting them major productions such as Avengers: Infinity War, which had a $321 million budget, much of it spent filming in Atlanta. The push to approve a new film incentives program for Florida needs to overcome some tough history. In 2010, lawmakers set aside nearly $300 million for production incentives. That money ran dry and lawmakers have since been disinclined to set aside any more. Complaints about that earlier initiative ranged from credits all being claimed within “minutes” of release, to being “first come, first served” instead of using some sort of subjective review, to making people phys-

ically stand in line to apply for the credits. Film and television content, says Film Florida Executive Director John Lux, “should be created in Florida, creating high-wage jobs for Floridians, pumping new money into our economy, and showing off our state on the large, small, and mobile screen.” Whatever may happen in the Senate, Gruters faces a heavy lift in the House. Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, has historically frowned upon anything perceived as a public money giveaway. House spokesman Fred Piccolo recently said Oliva’s stance that incentives are “corporate welfare” remains the same. Americans For Prosperity-Florida, the Sunshine State’s chapter of the free market organization founded by billionaire businessman David Koch, has long inveighed against film and TV incentives. Chris Hudson, AFP’s former Florida state director, said “jobs continue to come to the state without film incentives … Florida’s last film incentive program produced a measly 18 cents return on investment for taxpayers after squandering hundreds of millions of dollars that should have either gone back to hardworking taxpayers or been used on essential government services.”

On the set of HBO’s ‘Ballers,’ which filmed in Florida for two seasons before moving to California.


But Gruters raised another point: Close to a quarter of domestic visitors said “a movie or TV show filmed in Florida influenced their decision to travel to Florida.” “Plus, the residual value lasts long after the filming is complete,” he added. “It highlights Florida’s natural beauty and spotlights tourist destinations, which adds to our main economic driver.” Gruters’ visitation statistics come from a 2013 VISIT FLORIDA questionnaire gauging the most effective methods to draw in visitors. His claims on “residual value” are somewhat validated by a 2015 economic impact report produced by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which served as the principal shooting location for 2011’s “Dolphin Tale.” Those films were a boon to the aquarium, helping boost attendance numbers from 163,000 in 2010 to 706,000 in 2012. But those figures aren’t new, nor are the quibbles over the true ROI of film incentives. With a more conservative program, however, the messaging could shift toward bringing better jobs and more cash to Florida and away from the “corporate welfare” slams of years past.

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On the Air or Up in the Air, Troy Kinsey has a Bird’s-Eye View of The Process BY DANNY MCAULIFFE


o the untrained eye, the lawmaking process is often a blur. The days are long and the subject matter wonkish. Bring into focus Troy Kinsey, who specializes in making sense of it all for viewers at home in two of Florida’s major media markets. During the legislative session, Kinsey can be seen sitting through floor sessions and committee meetings, while catching quick gaggles with the electeds in between. But the seasoned television reporter, who has provided more than a decade’s worth of political and governmental coverage for Bay News 9 in Tampa and News 13 in Orlando, always is mindful of tethering the story to reality — what he calls taking it “outside of the Capitol.” “I view it as my job as to find the ways in which these issues affect people and to get their honest-to-goodness opinion and reaction to what’s happening here,” Kinsey said. That could mean stopping passersby in a Tallahassee park to talk about insurance reform. If he gets the right street source, they can end up providing valuable insight on “issues that, frankly, he doesn’t even know about until we approach him.” Kinsey, 37, is equipped with a deep bench of sources and enough institutional knowledge to get the story right every time.

His strong digital presence allows him to break news throughout the day, making him a must-follow for politicians, staffers, lobbyists, and fellow reporters. He’s been awarded for his reporting and anyone who follows politics and government is likely to have come across his work — and to remember the newsman for his measured, trademark voice that’s seemingly lab-grown for broadcast. On any day in the Capitol, Kinsey can be found workshopping a standup to supplement his full-length stories. Phil Willette, cameraman for the two-man bureau, said Kinsey can be a bit of perfectionist — a trait Willette welcomes. “If he doesn’t like something, or if I hear something that is wrong or see something visually that is wrong, I’ll point it out to him and he’s happy to do it again,” Willette said. They take pride in their work, but Willette noted Kinsey always manages to blend professionalism with and an easygoing attitude that helps the two work together daily. “There’s not a foreboding sense of self-importance,” he said. It’s that sort of sense of lightheartedness that has helped define Kinsey’s time in Tallahassee. He has an unmatched wit and is known for offering levity when appropriate. (He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California, also the alma mater


of actress Cameron Diaz and rapper Snoop Dogg. “So, we’re the three celebrities to come out,” he joked.) He has a knack for impressions, having imitated governors at the “semi-annual” Press Skits, where the Capitol Press Corps lampoons politicians and the process. In 2007, Kinsey debuted his muchpraised portrayal of then-Gov. Charlie Crist. It immediately endeared him to political players and the press, and he’s yet to disappoint in skits since. Just like his reporting, it’s something he takes seriously. Katie Betta, a Florida Senate communications director who had at the time worked for Crist, recalled seeing Kinsey prepare for the role in real-time near one of the Governor’s events. This was before

Betta had known of the Press Skits. “I remember leaning over to a friend, saying, ‘I think he’s making fun of the Governor,’” she said. Surprisingly, it isn’t theater or comedy that take up Kinsey’s time off the air. It’s flying. A commercial pilot and avid aviator, he proudly owns a 1960 Beechcraft Bonanza he insists is in better shape than his car. Kinsey said he hadn’t discovered his passion for flight until he was into his adulthood, but that it’s changed his life for the better since. A newly licensed flight instructor, Kinsey said he hopes to help others get the same joy out of aviation that he does. It’s

a way of taking himself out of the Capitol, and its bustling chaos. “When I’m up there, I’m not thinking about all of my ground-based concerns,” he said. “I’m not thinking about the bills that I have to pay. I’m certainly not thinking about anything that’s related the Florida Capitol, Florida politics, or government.” Flying is a lifestyle for Kinsey but he doesn’t have any immediate plans to leave his day job for the skies — or another gig for that matter. That should be welcome news for the countless people along the I-4 corridor who rely on him for an objective snapshot of politics and policy. Because for them, it’s the bird’s-eye view he offers when grounded that’s preferred.

In the foreground, cameraman Philip Willette checks the levels as Tallahassee correspondent Troy Kinsey records a “standup” for a BayNews9 report.





Tastes of Tallahassee by rochelle koff

by rochelle koff

Mimi's Table


allahassee may not yet have the culinary chops of big Florida cities like Miami, Tampa, or Orlando, but the dining scene is changing rapidly in the capital city. In the past year, two dozen restaurants have opened, expanding the choice of upscale experiences with newcomers such as Il Lusso, Savour and Mimi’s Table, which have all opened since the 2018 Legislative Session ended March 11. For those who haven’t visited Tallahassee in several years, the change is drastic. There are still lots of spots for burgers, wings and pizza, but you’ll also find Asian street tacos, Cuban pastelitos, foie gras, and frog legs. “I opened in ’96 and there was nothing here,” said Keith Baxter, owner of Midtown’s Kool Beanz, which he recently renovated. “I think it’s great the number of restaurants we have now. I’m happy with the places that are opening.” Baxter is also launching his own new spot on Lake Ella. Called KB Kitchen, the cafe will offer a lighter menu than Kool


Beanz, with more emphasis on paninis, salads, and bowls, but with a similar vibe as his eclectic eatery. Baxter is aiming for an April opening. The city’s restaurant scene has gone through many ups and downs, said longtime restaurateur Drew McLeod, who recently opened Savour on Park Avenue in the former home of Avenue Eat & Drink. The late ’90s brought chains like Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, and Carrabba’s, said McLeod, who also owned the former Paradise Grill in Midtown and Finney’s restaurant in St. George Island. “A number of independents couldn’t compete and survive.” The restaurant market hit a low during the recession, McLeod said, but “it’s definitely on the upswing. Independent restaurants are back in the game. It’s really a very positive thing, bringing a totally different feel and perspective to the dining scene.” Session should be a boon to these new downtown restaurants, but Tallahasseans should keep in mind there’s also a need to keep

Mimi's Table

business going all year. “There’s a perception that downtown is far away,” said McLeod. “It’s three minutes further than Midtown. I think we need to get the message out that we’re a lot closer than you think.” Added Baxter: “Why people don’t go downtown more is a mystery. It’s pretty, and you can find parking. I’d like to see downtown have some play, too.” Restaurateurs anticipate that new, high-profile dining destinations along with ventures like the now-under-construction Loews Hotel, will help attract business. “We are making a commitment not only to downtown but to the community,” said Craig Richardson, co-owner of Il Lusso, as well as the Northeast restaurant, Sage, with chef Terry White. “Downtown is going to morph into a cool spot in the near future.” Beyond downtown, Tallahassee has added more ice cream shops, more ethnic choices and a fun new restaurant inside a much-expanded Proof Brewery. And Tallahassee can still boast plenty of established restaurants such as Cypress, Clusters &

Hops, Food Glorious Food, and Sage as well as newer entries, Blu Halo and Backwoods Crossing, which opened in 2016. But the culinary scene wasn’t all about good news during the past year. At least a dozen restaurants have shut their doors. Jasmine Cafe on College Avenue closed in 2018 but it has been replaced by the Downtown Ramen Bar. Rob Bazemore, the owner of downtown fave, Metro Deli, has opened The Deck Pizza Pub in the former Southern Public House, which was previously Tucker Duke’s and Po’ Boys. Jesse Edmunds, owner of Liberty Bar & Restaurant and El Cocinero, recently opened Hawthorn Bistro & Bakery, replacing the fine dining restaurant he opened in 2017 and closed in 2018. He’s finding the bakery/bistro a better fit. “Do we need more fine dining? I don’t know,” said Edmunds. “Ultra-fine dining will always survive in a narrow world.” He pointed to an essential ingredient for all restaurants, regardless of the cost: “It’s not just the food and drink but how you feel. It’s everything.”




The Deck Pizza

An easy walk THE DECK PIZZA PUB: This new downtown restaurant and bar has a large outdoor space — hence the name — that’s perfect for unwinding after a tough day at the Capitol. The casual spot features pies made in a wood-burning Forza Forni Italian oven, as well as huge meatballs, wings, and monkey bread spiked with garlic. 224 E. College Ave., 850-765-1664. DOWNTOWN RAMEN BAR: This noodle specialist also offers appetizers such as chicken and pork buns, chili oil wontons, and edamame. The Downtown Ramen Bar, which opened in January, has kept the decor of its predecessor, Jasmine Cafe, but here you’ll find a range of bowl options including pork bone broth, chicken broth, and vegetable-based broth as well as red curry with a coconut milk base. 109 E. College Ave., 850-681-6868. THE EGG CAFE & EATERY: You don’t have to go far to have a full breakfast and lunch at this expansion of the popular Egg Cafe, on the ground floor of the Plaza Tower. You’ll find favorites like veggie eggs Benedict, plenty of omelets, and Bloody Marys, with the benefit of large windows overlooking Kleman Plaza. 300 S. Duval St., 850-907-3447. The restaurant’s original venue remains open at 3740 Austin Davis Road. IL LUSSO: The elegant, Italian steakhouse is a downtown stunner on the first floor of the new, six-story building owned by Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard. Owners chef Terry White and sommelier Craig Richardson specialize in dry-aged steaks and housemade pasta but also offer specials and a topnotch wagyu burger at lunch (served weekdays). Chill in bar area and cocktail lounge. 201 E. Park Ave., 850-765-8620. SAVOUR: Chef Brian Knepper (Cypress Restaurant, Governor’s Club and Table 23) creates an eclectic menu that ranges from escargot pot pie to Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse at this intimate, white-tablecloth destination. Owner/ restaurateur Drew McLeod calls the menu “classics with a twist.” The restaurant also features a bar under twinkling chandeliers. 115 E. Park Ave., 850-765-6966.


Downtown Ramen Bar

The Egg Cafe & Eatery



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Grab a ride: CHI CHI’S CAFE: If you missed this Cuban nook last year, be sure to stop by for breakfast, lunch and bakery goods. Rafael Diaz and his wife, Donna, (whose nickname is Chi Chi) bring a Miami vibe, serving favorites like pastelitos, picadillo or palomilla steak, and medianoche sandwiches. Another bonus: Cuban coffee. 460 W. Tennessee St., 850-597-7588. GROVE MARKET CAFE: This breakfast/lunch spot in the Northeast is owned by David and Elizabeth Gwynn, owners of Cypress, and offers a variety of breakfast and lunch choices in a colorful setting with an outdoor patio. The menu includes a Mediterranean omelet (with shrimp and vegetables), breakfast bowls as well as a smothered chicken plate, burgers, salads and desserts. Gluten-free and dairy-free items also are available. The cafe replaces the Northeast branch of the Gwynns’ burger joint, Vertigo. The Lafayette Street Vertigo remains open. 1370 Market St., 850-894-5060. THE HAWTHORN BISTRO & BAKERY: You’ll find homemade breads, sandwiches (including a Reuben and grilled cheese), quiche, soups, salads, and dessert at this new venture from chef/owner Jesse Edmunds. He also features fresh ingredients from his Liberty Farms. Stop by Hawthorn at 4 p.m. when the artisan loaves are plucked out of the oven. 1307 N. Monroe St., 850-354-8275.

The Hideaway Cafe The Hawthorn Bistro & Bakery


THE HIDEAWAY CAFE: It may be easy to miss this tiny spot — but it’s worth the search. The Hideaway Cafe can be found behind Midtown’s popular Waterworks bar. Both the cafe and Waterworks bar are owned by Don Quarello. You can order coffee drinks like pour-over Colombian coffee and a menu of breakfast and lunch dishes including bananas Foster waffles and frittatas in the retro space. Linger in the outdoor patio. 1133 Thomasville Road, 850-224-1887.

Proper LITTLE MASA: For a quick meal, this CollegeTown counter-service space is an offshoot of the Asian restaurant Masa, which is on Monroe Street. The stylish, casual restaurant serves a range of noodles, soups, starters, sushi, and a “wok-this-way” make-your-own dish. Beer, wine, and sake are available. 619 S. Woodward Ave. (across the street from Madison Social), 850-727-8909. LITTLE PARIS: The casual French bistro, owned by Marie Warmack, a native of Marseilles, features dishes like foie gras, mushroom souffle, vol-au-vent (seafood in a pastry shell with a béchamel sauce), confit duck legs, and croque monsieur (for lunch) plus croissants and delectable desserts. 1355 Market St., 850765-7457.

Rik-Sha Tacos

LUCILLA: This charming space opened at the end of 2017 but didn’t introduce its full menu until January 2018. If you haven’t been to the restaurant, owned by Joe Richardson and Lara Hooper, check out its creative menu, with dishes like pimento cheese fritters, Bradley’s Country Sausage with figs and pecans, and snapper St. Charles. Don’t miss the housemade desserts. 1241 E. Lafayette St., 850-900-5117. MAGDA’S: If you’re looking for a sweet comfort food, this new ice cream parlor in CollegeTown offers rich Bassetts ice cream plus coffee drinks including the Lucky Goat latte made with cereal milk (comparable to sipping the milk left from a bowl of Fruity Pebbles). The For the Table Hospitality team (Madison Social, Centrale, Township) is behind this latest venture. 815 W. Madison St., 850-321-8272. MIMI’S TABLE: The inviting cafe, in the former Miccosukee Root Cellar in the Old Town District, offers a range of dishes, from French-inspired bistro fare to Italian and Southern-style specialties. Dishes include Provençal-style frog legs, spaghetti and meatballs, smoked pork chop and pan-seared Scottish salmon plus an array of scrumptious desserts. 1311 Miccosukee Road, 850-999-8406. PROPER: The attractive pub is part of the new version of Proof Brewing Company, which left Railroad Square for the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on the city’s south side, where it spans a whole city block. The Proper brew pub is owned by Brad Buckenheimer (Canopy Road, Merv’s Handcrafted Melts) and Viet Vu (Izzy’s, Taco Republik), also the executive chef. The menu features elevated pub fare plus a Sunday brunch. The new Proof can tout a tasting room, covered patio, private event room, gift shop and old-school games. 1320 S. Monroe St., 850-5770517. REV CAFE: The cafe is on the grounds of the Goodwood Museum & Gardens, a Tallahassee oasis. Owner Joe Costanzo also operates Rev Cafe in Monticello. The restaurant replaces the former Fanny’s Cafe and serves Southern cuisine. 1600 Miccosukee Road., 850-629-0138. RIK-SHA TACOS: If you’re looking for something a little

different, this counter-serve eatery specializes in Asian-themed tacos and bowls. Owners Nikhil and Sunil Rajan feature ingredients or spices from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Rik-Sha’s tacos and open-face burritos are made with paratha, an Indian flatbread, or a scallion pancake instead of a tortilla. Combos include Malaysian chicken with coconut lentils, Korean barbecue, vegeta-

Thai Orchid ble curry, and Kerala beef. Dishes can be pretty spicy so be sure to specify your choices. 1955 W. Pensacola St., 850-536-6352.

SUGAR RUSH BAR: Here’s a place to find over-the-top treats like shakes topped with an ice cream cone (the Unicorn) or birthday cake (the Cakeinator). Owner Juan Severini, who opened Sugar Rush in January 2018, also serves ice cream cones, waffles and cups — with a choice of 30 toppings — and bins of candy. 414 All Saints St., 850-778-9227. THAI ORCHID: The new Thai entry in Tallahassee comes from the owners of Siam Sushi on Monroe Street. The menu offers both Thai and Japanese favorites, including a long list of sushi and sashimi. In light of the restaurant’s name, many dishes are graced with orchids, a lovely touch. The restaurant has been open since November in the site of the former Samrat Indian restaurant. 2529 Apalachee Pkwy., 850-942-1993.


the hottest seat in town The real action isn’t in the executive suites of Brian Ballard’s new downtown Tallahassee office tower: It’s in the ground floor Italian steakhouse. by rochelle koff



he buzz in the Capitol this Session isn’t just about the new Governor, the state budget or a slew of proposed bills. The meat of this topic is beef, and pork, specifically the dry-aged steaks and chops at the downtown Italian steakhouse, Il Lusso, which opened in December. The restaurant is located on the corner of Park Avenue and Monroe Street, anchoring the gleaming new six-story headquarters of top Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard. Ballard said he was initially talking with a national steakhouse about opening a branch in his building. As a fan of Sage in Tallahassee’s northeast, however, he decided to approach the restaurant’s owners, chef Terry White and sommelier Craig Richardson, about the possibility of making the building’s culinary star a local venture. “They fell in love with the space,” said Ballard. “I can’t imagine anybody else there. Having the best chef coming into our building is a no brainer.” No doubt, Il Lusso is an important venue for Tallahassee, especially for downtown, and for diners longing for more a more sophisticated, urban presence in the city. White and Richardson spent about a year and a half planning Il Lusso, which means “the luxury” in Italian, and said they expect it to add that big city vibe. “People don’t have to drive to Atlanta or Birmingham or Orlando to have a dining experience like this,” said Richardson. “They can come right here.” The place has a classic urban look, with glossy walnut tables, oak floors, soft lighting and atmospheric swaths of billowing fabric suspended from the ceiling. Vibrant artwork decorates the walls, adding a splash of color amid soothing neutral tones. There’s seating for 190, including the 26-seat private room. Il Lusso’s tall windows offer a view of the city’s downtown brick buildings. At night, when the trees are sparkling with lights, “it’s magical,” mused Richardson. Despite the name of the restaurant, Richardson said luxury doesn’t have to cost a fortune. He noted that Il Lusso may be gaining too much of a reputation as an expense-account-only destination. “I’d like to dispel that myth,” said Richardson. “If you want to come in and put on the dog, you can, but you don’t have to.” You can spend anywhere from $38 to thousands on a bottle of wine or go for one of Il Lusso’s nearly 30 wines by the glass. The thoughtful, evolving wine list features about 250 choices, but Richardson said he expects the wine list to reach 500 options, primarily Italian and domestic choices. If you bring your own bottle, there’s a $25 corkage fee. Beer and cocktails also are available. Our skilled waiter led us to a $45 bottle of 2017 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Oregon with a fruity flair that complemented our rich dishes like the housemade pasta.

The interior of Il Lusso, top, has a classic urban look. The restaurant anchors the new Ballard building, bottom, at Park Avenue and Monroe Street.


Get your Italian glossary handy. These pasta dishes, with either half or full portions available (choices generally range from $10 to $25) include options such as lobster cappelletti (a stuffed pasta), milk-braised pork Agnolotti (a square-shaped noodle) with bone marrow, and Seminole squash triangoli (triangles). White’s version of cacio e pepe (which means cheese and pepper) drew raves from the friendly diners sitting at the table next to ours one evening. Unless you can devour a massive amount of beef, consider sharing a steak. My husband and I tend to split a few appetizers and maybe one entree to sample more of the chef’s cooking. Richardson said the kitchen will split a steak for you to prevent any awkward attempt to divvy up. Steaks are $40 and up, another


good reason to share. There are also other entrees, generally $28 and up for dishes including osso buco (Ballard’s favorite), pork chop Diane, veal chop Parmesan, seared scallops, and “crispy skin” salmon. Dishes change with the season, but we hope this starter is a staple: flavorful braised octopus and skewered mortadella — chunks of grilled Italian sausage, which is like a grown-up version of bologna and very tasty. The surf-and-turf duo is plated with pan-seared potatoes, blistered tomatoes and chard in a fragrant Marsala sauce. So good. On our next trip, we want to try enticing-sounding starters such as blue crab arancini with squid ink aioli, blood orange foie gras with a blood orange gelee and even less complicated appetiz-

Chef de cuisine George Baldwin (left) puts the final touches on a Squid Ink Bucatini (lower right) a recipe featuring blue crab, heirloom tomatoes, and uni butter. Also on the Il Lusso menu are Seared Scallops (top) accompanied by spring pea risotto, black garlic and truffle pecorino and Lobster Cappelletti.


Prime meats are some of the stars of the Il Lusso menu. A 10-ounce NY Strip Steak (top) is bathed in a brown butter jus. Creative cuisine and elegant presentation aren’t reserved just for the entrees; this Seared Foie Gras with blood orange gelee, polenta cake and blood orange caramel is on the restaurant’s starter menu.


ers like meatballs (another favorite of Ballard’s) and Caprese salad. A dinner side of charred Brussels sprouts was another winner, the vegetable crispy around the edges, tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with a generous amount of shaved Parmesan. Simple, but one to savor. We shared a $50, 16-ounce Delmonico prime ribeye. The steak gets its name from the version served at Delmonico’s restaurant, which opened in New York City during the mid-19th century. Delmonico isn’t a cut of meat but has come to refer to a thick, fancy steak. This one is all that — boneless, nicely charred and flavorful, among the top choices in Tallahassee. My husband asked it to be prepared “chef’s choice” and it looked medium, pink and not cherry red in the middle. Excellent. Other steak options, which are served a la carte, include a “filletto” or filet mignon, with or without a bone; prime, dry-aged Kansas City strip; dry-aged Cowboy ribeye; and beef Wellington ($120, for two). White was named the winner of the 2014 Great American Seafood Cook-Off held in New Orleans, so it’s no surprise that he’ll offer some seafood choices. We had a special of whole branzino, served with the head off, the fish sliced and opened, revealing a trio of lemon slices. The mild white fish was nicely done, served with rings of calamari, delectable mussels and couscous. Desserts are the creations of Ginna Raymer, also the pastry chef at Sage. At dinner, we finished our meal with bonet alla piemontese, which is remindful of a chocolate flan, with amaretto, topped with a large dollop of coffee whipped cream. Il Lusso offers some enticing after-dinner coffee drinks. Grassroots Coffee company in Thomasville has created a blend for Il Lusso, and it’s available in various coffee-based cocktails, including our cup of espresso “corrected” with the Italian liquor, Tuaca. Il Lusso is bound to be a power lunch spot, with good reason. It has the right ambiance, location, food and drink. The lunch menu features starters, salads, sandwiches, steaks, chops and pasta. The rave-worthy starter of fritto misto brings thinly sliced zucchini and sweet potatoes as well as lightly breaded calamari. A fun surprise: Paper-thin slices of lemon aren’t merely a garnish but fried and delicious. The calamari and vegetables are so well-seasoned we didn’t need the sauce, but if you want a dip, it’s a slightly spicy rendition made with Calabrian chilis and tomatoes. The wagyu burger is $16 at lunch but it’s one of the best, if not the best, in town. It’s a whopping half-pound patty on a challah bun, topped with onion jam, pancetta and a Calabrian pepper aioli and paired with truffle Parmesan fries, which were very good but could have been just a bit warmer. We picked a lunchtime pasta with wide noodles, tossed with bits of pork sausage and Gorgonzola and a hint of lemon. Great taste, particularly if you’re a fan of the strong cheese (which I am), though the noodles were a little more al dente than our preference. For dessert, we shared the semifreddo, which is the name for a half-frozen dessert. It’s made with a whipped cream mousse, flavored with honey from Tallahassee’s Orchard Pond and a touch of rose water. It’s garnished with candied orange peel — we could have eaten a handful of these treats. It was a lovely, light finish. Il Lusso is bound to be a favorite during the Legislative Session but what happens when summer arrives is always a challenge for Tallahassee restaurants, wherever they’re located. With developments like the $90 million Washington Square project, which includes the Loews Hotel, and the $150 million Cascades Project, featuring the AC Hotel by Marriott and apartments, “we’re looking at what’s happening in the next five or 10 years, and not just what’s happening now,” said Richardson. “It’s time Tallahassee had a dining experience like this.”

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Your Essential


to Craft Beer in the Capital


by josh aubuchon

or the past 10 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to represent members of the craft beer industry – both as their attorney and as their lobbyist. In that time, I have occasionally brewed my own beer but, more importantly, gained a wealth of experience about the alcoholic beverage

industry as a whole, and I consider myself uniquely qualified to pass along some insight about the craft beer scene around the state. Since we’re all going to be in Tallahassee during the 2019 Session, I thought my first column should be about my hometown bars and breweries. Here goes:

leon Pub SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 43






1320 S. Monroe Street This brewery is the granddaddy of Tallahassee’s (relatively) young craft beer scene. What started out in 2007 as the best beer store in town quickly developed into the best craft beer bar, which quickly opened as the first craft brewery. In that time, they have moved twice, most recently in January to their current iteration just two blocks south of the Capitol. And what an upgrade! While the last location had a fantastic beer garden and a cool tasting room, owners Byron and Angela Burroughs have outdone themselves with the newest Proof. The beer garden, tasting room, and outdoor patio have space for a crowd. With beers of all styles and ranges on tap, you’ll definitely find something to appeal to your palate. Their EightFive-O Pale Ale and Mango Wit are ubiquitous in the capital city and the coming-soon-to-cans La La Land IPA and Lager are fantastic, but for a taste of something different, check out their Raspberry Kissing Giants, a German-style gose (pronounced “go-zuh”), a sour beer tempered with fresh raspberries, or any variation of their Creatures in the Dark stout. You won’t go hungry either, with a fantastic selection of brunch and bar food from the Proper Pub onsite.



2524 Cathay Court Head north off the beaten path to check out DEEP – a gem hidden just off Centerville Road. Nestled under the trees is a cozy outdoor deck while inside is a lively tasting room and plenty of seating amongst the brewery’s fermentation tanks. Owner and brewer Ryan LaPete specializes in creating small-batch beers with unique and seasonal variations to whet your taste buds. While their core lineup is extremely solid — including the excellent Reef Dweller IPA, and Spear Pressure, an easy-drinking British golden ale — half the fun is checking out what innovative beers they have on their ever-changing tap list, such as their Tan In A Can coconut cream ale, Sublime Keylime, a sour Berliner Weisse made with key limes, the colorful Sea Dragon, a bright pink gose, or their Chamber Goat coffee blonde ale made with local roaster Lucky Goat Coffee.


1307 N. Monroe Street As I like to remind my friends around the Capitol, I imbibe more than just craft beer. Located just north of downtown is Liberty Bar, an oasis for fine beverages. Although slightly rustic with hints of Montana in the décor, the bar area feels inviting and intimate with two bars flanked by columns displaying the wide array of libations. While they have an excellent rotation of craft beer and wine, their handmade cocktails help this place really shine. They can certainly whip up favorites like an Old Fashioned or a Sidecar, but their menu includes their own variations of classic cocktails, such as the Liberty Fall Mule, the E.T. Old Fashioned (with chocolate and peanut butter flavors, naturally), and house creations such as the Golden Sour, a bourbon drink with roasted corn, lemon, and egg white, and the Ghostbusters-themed “Ecto-Cooler,” with brandy, Midori, honeydew, lime, and hopped grapefruit bitters. They have an excellent seasonal food menu as well, and their mac and cheese variations are not to be missed.


215 E. 6th Avenue This is a classic dive bar in the truest sense. They have a huge beer selection that is heavy on crafts and imports but doesn’t skimp on old-school classics, so you can still find your Stroh’s or Miller High Life. It’s dimly lit, smoky at times, and full of plenty of old brewery paraphernalia … so you’ll probably know right away if you’ll love it or hate it. I’ve loved it since I first discovered it in 2005 and the fact that it’s still going strong is a testament to its appeal. SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 45


Other Beer-Friendly Venues GROWLER COUNTRY

3305 Capital Circle NE: Outstanding selection of 32 rotating taps and a fun beer-centric environment that is consistently given top ratings from Be sure to pick up a growler (or two) of your favorites. And they’ve added food to the menu too.


seating, particularly when the weather turns chilly.


1215 S. Adams Street: Cool repurposed gas station has become a gathering spot that proudly serves only Florida beers. Desperados welcome.


603 W. Gaines Street: 118 E. 6th Avenue: Friendly and welcoming with Small-batch beers full of wild and plenty of experimental stuff to try. funky flavors. Be sure to try the Dill Pickle Boomtown Gose – it’s weird, but it works! FERMENTATION LOUNGE 415 All Saints Street: WATERWORKS Hipster vibe with hard-to-find 1133 Thomasville Road: beers and a knowledgeable staff make Tallahassee’s own South Seas this great stop to further your craft hideaway serves up elaborate Tiki beer knowledge. cocktails in an eclectic environment. Check out the Mystery Drink or the MCGOWAN’S HOPS Yellow Bird – mmm, yellowy. AND GRAPES 3431 Bannerman Road: LAKE TRIBE BREWING Head to the northern edge of COMPANY town for this gem. McGowan’s has a 3357 Garber Drive: great family-friendly atmosphere with Tucked out of the way, this brew- plenty of pub grub and a diverse seery focuses on its roots in the great lection of fine wine and craft beer to outdoors. Great outdoor decks and keep everyone happy.

Grasslands Brewing CO. 46 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

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Tally ho, deer

Josh Cooper takes the ‘game’ out of game meats by rosanne dunkelberger


t was game night at the Hearth & Soul lifestyle boutique, but there wasn’t a Monopoly board in sight. Instead, Josh Cooper and friends presented guests with an array of appetizers featuring game meats. The elk, venison and pheasant served were all courtesy of the aptly named Gary Hunter, lawyer/lobbyist with the Hopping Green & Sams law firm in Tallahassee. The elk had already been made into a smoked sausage, so it was just a matter of heating it up and serving it with a barbecue sauce. The pheasant was part of a jalapeno popper. To create them, Cooper, pictured here, made a slice in the pepper and scooped out the seeds. His twist is to stuff the jalapeno with Palmetto Cheese, a pimento cheese available at local grocery stores, rather than plain cream cheese. Once filled with the meat and cheese, “wrap it in bacon. Sometimes you can brush it with barbecue sauce to get a little glaze on it,” he says. “They’re a big hit at tailgates, for sure.” His most time-consuming appetizer


was a venison loin slider, served on a Hawaiian roll with a tarragon béarnaise sauce. The meat was cooked using the sous vide method — the food is placed in a vacuum bag, immersed in a water bath and heated using cooking equipment that circulates the water and maintains a very precise temperature. In

this case, Cooper cooked the meat for five hours, searing it in a hot pan to give the venison a crust and caramelization. “For large chunks of meat, especially ones with very little fat, it’s the perfect way to cook,” Cooper says. “When you’re cooking a venison loin in an oven or on the grill, it can

go from 135 to 165 internal temperature in a matter of seconds — so you can ruin an entire big chunk of meat if you’re not right on it. With the sous vide, you put it right in the bath you set the temperature you want it. It’s never going to go above.”

Cooper put Italian dressing in with the meat to flavor it and “kind of calm that gamy flavor.” For game birds, he suggests soaking them in buttermilk. While he’s game to cook game meats, Cooper admits he leaves the actual hunting

to his other friends and also appropriately named girlfriend, Gannon Hunt. “She’s a big-time hunter. She’s like hardcore. I can’t get up that early,” he said. Her hunting friend from Texas, Katherine Beach, was at the event to share a collection of fashionable-but-practical women’s sporting vests from her company Upland Bespoke ( The made-to-order vests come in a variety of featherwale cordouroy solids and prints — camo, game birds, feathers — that are trimmed with hunting-friendly neon orange and pink as well as more subdued colors. They also can be monogrammed. With a plethora of pockets and quilted shoulders, they’re appropriate for hunting, but also good for knocking around town. “This is that quintessential equestrian look,” she explains. “Throw it on with your denim or your leggings with some tall boots and you’re good to go. I’ve worn this very vest to some NRA events with a brown leather skirt and some brown heels.” SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 49

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Arron Gober demonstrates how to make a pocket square.


by rosanne dunkelberger


ince 1993, Arron Gober has made it his life’s work to bring a little more élan into men’s lives, helping them step out of their navy-suit-and-power-tie comfort zone and into clothing that better reflects their personality. The Tallahassee-based custom clothier encourages his A-List clients to try some pattern or brighter colors

How to master the pocket square The classic is a flat fold, basically folding the pocket square into a rectangle you can put into your breast pocket with a bit peeking out at the top.

in their suiting. But for fellows who want to up their game — or only want to dip a toe into this fashion thing — he suggests they consider adding a pocket square to their sartorial repertoire. The pocket square started out as a functional handkerchief, but that practical aspect fell by the wayside in the early 20th century when Kleenex were invented. “It’s kind of evolved but they’ve become very popular again due to the fact that people aren’t wearing ties,” Gober says. “We live in Florida and once Session’s over you see no ties.” Gober stocks a wide variety of pocket squares in cotton, linen, silk, jacquard and brocade. Some are casual gingham. Another has a bold pop art motif. Others are fascinating for their richly detailed patterns, including florals and paisleys. One from the Amanda Christensen design house has fantastical jungle animals. He’ll show you a spectacular fuchsia silk square with a mesmerizing pattern — but he won’t sell it to you. It’s from the house of Fabergé, which no longer makes

them, and he’s keeping this one for himself. Gober stocks pocket squares in sizes from 11 1/2 to 16 1/2 inches square, and he favors the larger. Smaller squares, particularly if they are satiny, can tend to slide down into the breast pocket. His grandfather’s dry cleaner would give away faux pocket squares — half moons of satin stitched onto a stiff card, Gober recalls, but he has a better trick for his clientele. He can have the breast pocket in his custom suits lined with white or a fabric that matches the suit’s lining, which the man can pull out of the pocket’s top to create that perfect poof. While he’s flexible on size, fabric and pattern choice, there’s one rule Gober will never, ever allow his clients to break: a matched tie and pocket square set. “I think one of the tackiest things to ever come out is the pre-tied tie with the pocket square of the same fabric,” he declares. “It just looks like the Father’s Day sale at the department store.”

2. 4.

Fold the fabric so that it forms a triangle.

Repeat with the other point. It should look like three little mountaintops when you’re done.

1. 3.

Tuck each side toward the back and fold up the bottom so that it will fit into your pocket. Tuck it into your breast pocket and arrange to suit yourself.

A popular fold is what Gober describes as “point to point.”

Pick up one point and fold it toward the top point, not exactly atop the point, but slightly to the side.

For a bit of panache, try the poof. • Lay the pocket square flat and then pick it up from the middle. • Fold or roll the points onto themselves and tuck it into your breast pocket. • Take a moment to arrange the fabric into a flowerlike puff. You can keep it subdued and small or take it big and bold.



VISUAL POLITICS: Jordan Gibson to the Republican Space BY PETER SCHORSCH


ordan Gibson’s forming of her company came from a desire, as she put it, to “bring creativity to Republican politics.” “I think I would go online or see mail pieces and it tended to always be that the Republicans were less creative, and they lacked a lot of creative talent within the party,” she says. “For me, that’s been a focus, not only finding people who are talented conservatives and who are creative, but also using my creativity in the Republican space.” Gibson is the star behind Ello Creative, the as-yet little known social media shop that has many blue chip clients. The campaigns of Gov. Ron DeSantis, CFO Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell all have been customers. “In this business we have chosen, to have creative talent, technical skill, and strategic thought on your squad often requires three people,” said veteran


Republican political consultant David Johnson. “But Jordan Gibson has all three attributes. That makes her a most valuable team member.” “When I first moved (to Tallahassee), I got a job with the Republican Party of Florida,” Gibson says. “I was brought in by Dan Dawson, because I was helping him out with some creative, and from there I was hired on as the new media director. I started doing graphics, and I think we just saw immediately how much graphic design can change the amount of social media reach. “From there it just snowballed that we wanted to reach everyone. After staying with the party and then doing Gov. (Rick) Scott’s re-election, we just saw how many times you could go viral just by wording things appropriately in a creative manner, and having a graphic. Before, you might not reach very many people at all; now, you post a graphic

reaching over a million people.” Success, however, sometimes still comes as surprise: “Once or twice a week we were having viral graphics. We’ve just taken that now to advertising, where we can see that if you have a creative advertisement, versus something that is not as creative, you can see the difference … I think many people don’t know that, so they might not put a high price on creative. At the end of the day, it could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially in a state this large.” It all starts with sitting down with candidates and finding out what message they most want to get across. “Then, we break it down into ways that people can understand it,” Gibson says. “Then you base the creative work around it. I always like to think that the graphics should be a simplified message that everyone can get on board with. Like, ‘I can sure stand for school

PHOTO: Marybeth Tyson

choice,’ now you, the candidate, in the post text, can go more into the policy of it. I think that it’s trying to think about how we can capture someone’s attention and then get them to read the policy and the reasoning behind it.” Take her work for DeSantis. “I think that we were able to cut costs for him tremendously. I think we were able to use specific messaging that we knew worked in Florida. Whether that was growing his ‘likes’ or collecting emails for him to use, to do better contact. We had certain petitions going out where we were getting ridiculously cheap clicks, which in the end is the most important thing, saving money and making money go a distance. “Especially with how tight elections are, and you’re dealing with 30,000 votes, you need every penny. I think that that is by far what I’m most

proud of. I think that when you see how much, or hear of how much other people spent on digital, I think that you can see that he made his money go a very long way.” And that’s the difference between old-school “ad men” and the new breed of “brand managers,” she says. “With social media engagement, I will word things in a way that I know typically performs better, versus advertising, where we are more focused on ‘well, if we do the creative slightly different, or if we word this slightly different, how will it perform?’ “Sometimes it’s more understanding people. I was raised by a psychologist and my husband was raised by two psychologists. We have been surrounded by psychology … it’s all about understanding what people want to hear and see, and the way that they want it broken down for them. I think it’s one thing that always came natural

to me on how to repurpose things in a way that people want to see it.” Gibson must be doing something right, she jokes: She’s getting approached by bigger firms who want to talk about social media management. “What sets us apart, I think, is the ability to take a complex issue and simplify it down to something everyone understands, in a creative format …. We’re reading what many people would view as complex, and I think that so many times we all get lost in the political bubble, and think that everyone understands the Legislative Session, for instance. Or everyone understands the role of the Governor. I think that’s not the truth. “Most times people are only following federal politics. For me it’s trying to play off and put things in a way that people understand. I think that the easiest way to do that is creative because people are visual.”



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Briefings from the Rotunda


Adam Giery named managing partner of Strategos Group

PHOTO: Marybeth Tyson


dam Giery is now Strategos Group’s managing partner, overseeing its four offices nationwide, but that doesn’t mean he has given up the personal touch with clients. “On any given day we are advising Fortune 500 companies, education institutions, technology startups, and philanthropies,” he said. The consulting firm, founded by former state Rep. Trey Traviesa and former State Commissioner of Education Jim Horne, is headquartered in Tampa, and has a primary focus on education and healthcare. The partnership boasts three past Commissioners of Education: Horne, Tony Bennett, and Tom Luna, in addition to a former member of the U.S. Department of Education, Todd Lamb. “Our team works with school districts, universities, legislators, private sector organizations … anyone who is truly committed to making an impact in the American education system,” Giery said. The 32-year-old’s life path was leading him to the classroom. At one point, he taught American history and government in Seminole County but left amid the Great Recession when teaching jobs were unavailable. “Otherwise, it’s possible I would have stayed a social studies teacher somewhere in Florida,” he said. “However, this hardship led to an opportunity, to go from educator to advocate. “To put it another way, I went from a roster of 120 students to helping craft policies that can affect thousands,” he added. Giery’s client list, culled from lobbyist registrations over the last few years, includes a variety of educational organizations and philanthropies. After earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees in education from the University of Central Florida, he became a Gubernatorial Fellow under Gov. Rick Scott at the Department of Education. There, he helped develop “Finish UP, Florida,” Florida’s first online adult degree completion program. Later, he served as Scott’s regional representative for Northwest Florida, and director of Education, Talent & Quality of Life Policy for the Florida Chamber before joining Strategos in 2014. No surprise: Giery also was named one of Florida Politics’ “30 under 30” rising stars in 2013. “As clichéd as this may sound, I committed my life to the field of education, and while I loved my classroom, the ability to work at a systemic level developing public policy is truly unique,” he said. Five years later, Giery has no regrets: “That’s because we work with clients who have the best interests of students in mind.”



Briefings from the Rotunda

Cissy Proctor leading new Tallahassee office for LSN Partners


ormer Department of Economic Opportunity head Cissy Proctor now is leading LSN Partners’ expansion, becoming managing partner of its new Tallahassee office. Here’s why: “Re-establishing an office in Tallahassee allows us to better meet our clients’ legislative, regulatory, and public policy needs,” said Alexander P. Heckler, co-managing partner. “With a seasoned professional and policy guru such as Cissy leading this new office, we can continue to deepen our firm’s relationships in the state.” Proctor served at DEO under Gov. Rick Scott for six years as deputy Legislative Affairs director, director of Strategic Business Development, chief of staff and finally as executive director. The jobs agency is now led by state government veteran Ken Lawson. Proctor called her DEO days a “wonderful opportunity ... to travel to communities across Florida to see and hear about the successes and challenges facing our state. Our team will champion these successes and help meet the challenges head-on.” She also spent almost a decade in private practice handling local and state government clients. “Cissy is an excellent addition to the LSN team,” said Marcelo Llorente, co-managing partner. “Her leadership and years of government and private-sector experience will strengthen our firm’s presence in Tallahassee and bring added value to our local, state and national clients.”


PHOTO: Marybeth Tyson


Left to right: Carlos Cruz, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell

Jonathan Kilman ‘disrupts’ the future by starting own firm


eteran lobbyist Jonathan Kilman finally realized a “long-term dream of starting (his) own firm” when he created Converge Government Affairs last year, with offices in Miami, Orlando, and Tallahassee. The announcement, coming on LinkedIn rather than through a conventional press release, highlighted his focus on representing “market disruptors.” Lobbying registration disclosures show his client list includes video game maker Electronic Arts, ride-hailing platform Lyft, and autonomous-truck developer Starsky Robotics, among others. “Announcing through social media first was indicative that we are aligning the model and style of our firm in a way that resonates with our clients, who view themselves as innovative,” said Kilman, formerly at Foley & Lardner. Now also on board is Carlos Carbonell, Khalid Alagel as lead on the firm’s Middle East Affairs desk, Jon Yapo, Carlos Miguel Cruz, and Lauren Kay DePriest. Kilman broke more news after the holidays when he announced he was building a sister public affairs firm, to be

called Converge GPS (short for Global Public Strategies), an affiliated bipartisan firm focused on public affairs, communications, and political consulting. GPS has an all-star roster: top Republican fundraiser Nancy Texeira, Democratic strategist Ben Pollara, text-message wizard Elnatan Rudolph, and fundraiser Matt Yost with Texeira, Pollara and Rudolph joining as partners of the newly established firm. When asked about future growth plans for the Converge organizations, Kilman dropped a hint: “Check the political news daily.” He added: “We think that we’re well positioned by being headquartered in Miami, which is a global city, to represent clients, helping them manage their U.S. and international affairs. That’s going to be a part of what we do.” The play is to become a “multidimensional lobbying firm that recognizes that influence goes beyond just having relationships with people in office … “It’s a focus on strategy, of understanding how to deal with multiple stakeholders, (including) the media, and having a clear focus on what our clients view as a win.”



Briefings from the Rotunda

Jenn Ungru, Chris Moya, Marc Dunbar


Jones Walker’s Tallahassee team moves to Dean Mead

t was kind of a big deal when news broke that the entire Tallahassee office staff of the Jones Walker law firm was departing to join the Dean Mead law firm. To be sure, Jones Walker continues to have a presence in the capital through a “strategic partnership” agreement with Dean Mead, but the brain drain went down to even the last administrative staffer. The move came six years after Jones Walker, an 82-year-old firm founded in New Orleans, expanded its footprint to Tallahassee. It started here with Marc Dunbar, a top gaming lobbyist-lawyer and Citizens Property Insurance board member; lobbyist and fundraiser Chris Moya; as well as 60 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

gaming attorney Dan Russell and lobbyist Emily Duda Buckley. A high-profile acquisition came later with the addition of Jenn Ungru, a health care policy and elections guru who led the 2018 Election Day and recount operation for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. She also was chief of staff to now-former Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Liz Dudek. The move is also a father-and-son professional reunion: Marc Dunbar is the son of Dean Mead shareholder Pete Dunbar, a five-term House member and later general counsel and director of Legislative Affairs to Gov. Bob Martinez, among other state positions.

That gives a hint, however, into the value of the deal for Dean Mead: Acquiring a team that has familiarity with and access to the DeSantis administration. Besides Ungru, Moya became one of DeSantis’ top early fundraisers and landed a seat on the Inaugural Committee. Dunbar was counsel to the DeSantis recount monitoring effort. Sources said Dean Mead started by eight lawyers in Orlando in 1980, also represents agricultural and land-owning interests in the state previously affiliated with former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who lost the GOP primary election for Governor to DeSantis last year. And the firm also represents the Publix supermarket chain, another Putnam connection.



Briefings from the Rotunda

The Rubin Group is now Rubin, Turnbull & Associates

PHOTO: Marybeth Tyson


hree cheers for The Process veteran Heather Turnbull: The Rubin Group, one of the state’s premier political consulting firms, has become Rubin, Turnbull & Associates. That’s to reflect Turnbull being named managing partner of the firm, founded by its president, Bill Rubin. She now will oversee all lobbying operations at the firm and lead all of the firm’s client efforts, Rubin said. “Having Heather at my side for the last 16 years has contributed to the growth of our firm and the successes we have achieved on behalf of our clients,” he said. “She has been a trusted adviser to me, our clients and state leaders, and I believe our future potential is limitless.” Rubin, who now will serve as chairman of the firm, said he will continue to lobby on behalf of the firm’s “blue-chip roster of clients while focusing on business growth and mentoring the firm’s up-and-coming associates.” Turnbull is a “well-respected and sought-after political strategist and adviser who has helped both candidates and top state leaders navigate through Florida’s political process,” Rubin added. She has been recognized, among others, by INFLUENCE Magazine for being a top lobbyist. “It is such a privilege to be working alongside my mentor and friend Bill Rubin and I am humbled by this announcement,” Turnbull said. “He has always supported and empowered me — and I am sure that, together as a team, we will continue to achieve great things on behalf of our clients.” Senate President Bill Galvano said he has “worked with Heather through the years on a multitude of issues and [has] always found her to exemplify the highest degree of professionalism in the industry. “Her work ethic, attention to detail and strong advocacy for her clients has earned her trust and respect within the chambers,” he added. “I congratulate Bill Rubin and the entire firm, but especially my friend Heather.” Contributing to the growth of the firm will be Ashley Ross, joining as a senior adviser. Most recently she served as senior finance consultant for the Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign. Before that, she was deputy chief of staff to former Senate President Joe Negron and focused on issues ranging from economic development to veterans affairs. “She has more than a decade of high-level political and public affairs experience including assisting the last four Florida Senate presidents with fundraising and strategy,” Rubin said. “She has developed and managed marketing and public affairs strategies for numerous public and private entities and has assisted in electing more than 50 candidates to public office.” Rubin, Turnbull & Associates continues to include governmental consultants Melissa Akeson, Amy Bisceglia, Chris Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, Erica Chanti and Celeste Camm. The firm, established in 1992, has offices in Tallahassee, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.


Erin Rock

‘Rockstars’ shine at Southern Strategy Group


rin Rock, a veteran of three Governors’ administrations and the Florida House, joined top lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group. And Kate DeLoach, an eighth generation Floridian and Florida Keys native, opened the firm’s sixth regional office in the Keys. Rock, the former Department of Management ServRock, the former Department of Management Services Secretary, made the jump after 15 years of state service representing issues as varied as education, child welfare, Everglades restoration, and emergency response. During that time, she also became an expert on the dozens of back-office systems and functions at the department that make state government. “Erin’s passion for Florida comes through in everything she does,” said Southern Strategy Group founder Paul Bradshaw. “She has the unique ability to decrypt government bureaucracy and translate it to clients. She’s been a fantastic advocate for the issues she’s championed, and we’re excited to welcome her energy to the team.” As Secretary of DMS, she also organized and led the Capitol Complex Improvement Project, a massive renovation and redesign of the Capitol’s underground infrastructure, and managed procurements and implementations for critical state systems including the state’s data backbone, MyFloridaNet, and the HR shared services platform, People First. DeLoach served six years as District and Legislative Aide to State Representative Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican. “Growing up and working in Florida’s southernmost county, Kate has a deep understanding of the challenges facing the Florida Keys as an Area of Critical State Concern, including marine resources, commercial/recreational fishing, natural resource protection, land use, property insurance, and transportation,” Bradshaw added.











Briefings from the Rotunda

Steve Crisafulli opens own consulting firm


dd “lobbyist” to the résumé of former Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. Crisafulli opened Crisafulli Consulting, “a boutique governmental, political, and business consulting firm with clients in Florida and across the country,” he said. The Merritt Island Republican’s firm will represent “a vast client base,” he said, including health care, insurance, energy, telecommunications, and agriculture, though he declined to name any clients for now. His name is not yet attached to any interests in the state’s lobbying registration database. He’ll remain vice president of Crisafulli Enterprises, his family’s 100-year-old agribusiness, with focuses on cattle, citrus, real estate, and development. The 47-year-old was first elected to the House in 2008, and served his last two years as Speaker. Crisafulli replaced then-Rep. Chris Dorworth, who was in line to become head of the chamber but lost his 2012 re-election bid. As Speaker, Crisafulli staked claims on issues such as water quality improvement, increased vocational education options for students, and economic development. Most recently, Crisafulli served on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture. That committee made recommendations on issues ranging from restoring the Everglades to controlling the red tide and green algae that have polluted Florida’s waterways. Although a new constitutional provision — OK’d by voters in November — extends the state’s lobbying ban on former elected officials to six years from two years, Crisafulli is grandfathered in under the old two-year ban. He follows other recent legislative leaders who wound up in lobbying. Former Speaker Dean Cannon (2010-12) and past Senate President Mike Haridopolos (also 2010-12), for instance, now lobby for GrayRobinson and MJH Consulting (his own firm), respectively. And Dorworth, the man Crisafulli replaced? He’s now a lobbyist at Ballard Partners.


Tim Stanfield joins Greenberg Traurig


im Stanfield, a veteran influencer in The Process, joined Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee office. He will be of counsel to the Government Law & Policy Practice. “We are very pleased to welcome Tim, who is known within Florida’s capital for his deep subject matter knowledge and resolute advocacy,” said David C. Ashburn, the managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee office. “He will no doubt be an effective and zealous advocate for our clients.” Stanfield will lobby on behalf of numerous private and public clients before the Legislature, Cabinet, and state agencies, the firm said. He’ll concentrate his practice in the areas of sovereign immunity, budget, transportation and highway safety, insurance, law enforcement, education, and health care. Some background: He was assistant general counsel at the Florida League of Cities, an associate at Colodny Fass, and senior adviser at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. He’s also the founding member of the Governmental and Public Policy Advocacy Committee of The Florida Bar. Also, he’s married to Meredith Brock Stanfield, CFO Jimmy Patronis’ legislative and cabinet affairs director at the Department of Financial Services. “I’m extremely excited to practice with such a talented group of professionals,” Stanfield said. “This presents a great new opportunity for my clients and myself to grow in the future.

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The new year ushered in a slew of firsts.It brought the first new gubernatorial administration in eight years. It saw the first woman sworn in as Commissioner of Agriculture. It’s the first time in three decades that both of Florida’s U.S. Senators belonged to the same party. One more first: The Florida Public Relations Association’s Capital Chapter teaming up with the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists to host a joint networking event. Despite PR pros and lobbyists sharing very similar occupations — both need to make their clients look good no matter what — the two groups have never comingled. That changed




1. Cathy Schroeder listens to Emmett Reed address FPRA crowd. 2. Christina Johnson of On 3 PR is always in the middle of things. 3. Scott Schroeder with Liquid Creative in the center of the action. 4. Emmett Reed, Jeff Hartley, and Carlos Cruz 70 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

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in mid-February with the FPRA-FAPL joint mixer, which is aiming to be the first edition of an annual tradition. The “Movers & Stirrers Never Shaken Sunshine Reception” helped to break the ice between the two associations while also breaking in the Florida Health Care Association’s brand-new Education and Training Center on West Park Avenue.The rooftop meeting at downtown Tallahassee’s newest premiere meeting space was attended by those new to their craft as well as seasoned pros, such as FAPL President Fran Gilbert and FPRA Capital Chapter President Cathy Schroeder. While the mixer allowed the two groups to share a couple of drinks and get to know each other, it also passed around the hat for Veterans Village. The Tallahassee nonprofit provides transitional housing and supportive services to homeless veterans to stabilize and prepare them for independent living. That’s not only a good cause, it’s a brilliant PR move.





5. Tanya Jackson and Robert Beck with PinPoint Results listen to Ron Watson. 6. Fran Gilbert, president of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists 7. Doug Wheeler and Cathy Schroeder 8. Joel Silver and Robert Burns SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 71

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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES WHEN SESSIONS WIND DOWN, HE’S ALL IN FOR SPREADSHEETS AND HANKY DROPS Significant other? Children? Grand kids? Currently, the only title I am honored to have is uncle. I am blessed to have six nieces and seven nephews. Thank God for birthday calendar reminders. In 25 words or less, explain what you do I translate client’s needs and desires to legislators, and I translate government, policy, and politics to clients. Successful translations yield positive outcomes for all. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. American. My politics have always supported candidates who place country over party, and people over profits. I do not vote a straight ticket because no party holds a monopoly on the truth. If you have one, what is your motto? The two mottos I live by are: “It can be done,” and “Faith without works is dead.” During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? My favorite pro bono client to date is the Women’s Breast and Heart Initiative. They provide breast and heart health education, and access to free screenings for breast cancer and heart disease through their unique door-to-door campaigns. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? My sole tradition is securing the closest location to the handkerchief drop with the hopes of my future grandkids noticing me years later in a historic photo at the Capitol.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Budget conference is my favorite part of Session because I am able to see the fruits of my hard work. It warms my heart to see worthy projects that I advocated for all year appear in budget spreadsheets.

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Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? In February 2020, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune will become the first African-American selected to represent a state in the National Statuary Hall. I’m so proud to have worked on the historic legislation that allowed Florida to honor Dr. Bethune for her service and contributions Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No, I tend to set my own path. While I respect the lobbying corps, I do not always emulate their styles or methods — nor have a strong desire for the loafers at the moment. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Whoever shares their spreadsheets with me during budget conference. What swear word do you use most often? Shit is my go-to for frustrating moments. I just find it very therapeutic because it perfectly sums up every thought and emotion I need to release in a given moment. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? My morning talk show guests would be House Speaker Jose Oliva, Sen. Oscar Braynon, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, and Brian Pitts. I would love to see them equally weigh in on the best and worst things about Florida politics, and how we can collectively move Florida forward. When you pig out, what do you eat? I love soul food. It provides Southern comfort to a 13-year South Floridian implant. Although my diet does not allow me to indulge frequently, it will always be my go-to when I need a taste of home. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? I am very fascinated by the psalmist, David. His faith never wavered, and his praises never ceased in the depths of despair. His ability to only see God through the chaos that surrounded him is inspirational. SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 73

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GUNSTER’S UTILITIES PLAYER IN THE PROCESS Significant other? Children? Grandkids? Jo An, my love and soul mate. We have two children, Ronald II and Elizabeth. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I help people connect with decisionmakers. I simply provide advice on how to effectively educate policymakers on the issues of interest. I also help my clients build relationships that will last beyond the current issue. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Pragmatic. If you have one, what is your motto? People matter.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Ron Brisé


Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I do not own a pair of Gucci loafers, it is not my style. I am more of a Cole Haan type of guy. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I would probably have to say Gary Fineout. He is generally thorough and evenhanded. Other than Florida Politics, your reading list includes … I enjoy reading about cars and travel. Politico, an array of local Florida newspapers, and energy, telecom, and water trade periodicals. What swear word do you use most often? I avoid using them.

Three favorite charities. Children’s Home Society, Central Florida Urban League, Florida Education Foundation.

What is your most treasured possession? A Bible that my parents gave me for my swearing-in ceremonies with their words of wisdom, admonition, and encouragement.

Any last-day-of-Session traditions? I really do not have any.

The best hotel in Florida is… Eau Palm Beach in Manalapan

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? The interplay between the new Governor with a bold agenda and the Legislature. Specifically, how the Governor and each legislative chamber manage to push forward their priorities.

You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Sen. George LeMieux, Sen. Joe Gruters, Andrew Gillum, Steve Schale.

Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? When I was elected by my peers to serve as president of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (SEARUC). During my term I was able to partner with energy, telecom, water utilities companies, and higher education institutions in Florida and Alabama to help expose students to opportunities in the energy, telecommunications, and water industries.

Favorite movie. I really enjoyed Black Panther! When you pig out, what do you eat? Haitian cuisine or Argentinian cuisine. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Being Haitian-American, I would love to have the opportunity to have dinner with Jean-Jacques Dessalines.




BRING ON THE APPETIZERS FOR THIS NOLE FAN FAMILY MAN Other than, your reading list includes …, Sayfiereview. com, The News Service of Florida, Sunshine State News, Politico Florida, tons of reporters’ Twitter pages. What swear word do you use most often? Unfortunately, it rhymes with duck. What is your most treasured possession? My wedding ring. The best hotel in Florida is … The Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Bill Galvano, Sean Pittman, Anthony Pedicini, and Susie Wiles. Favorite movie? That changes all the time. When you pig out, what do you eat? A bunch of appetizers. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Carl Sagan.

Jordan Connors PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Significant Other? Children? Traci Connors is my wife and I have a daughter, Ashley (25) and stepson, James (21). In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Advocate for my clients’ legislative and regulatory agendas. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Somewhere between the 40-yard lines. If you have one, what’s your motto? “It is just as easy to be nice.” During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Torrey Pines. Three favorite charities. Place of Hope, Big Heart Brigade, Meals on Wheels. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Driving home. What are you most looking forward to during Legislative Session? The end of budget conference. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … Anyone representing Florida State University. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? In 2013 Gov. Scott signed a bill that included a provision known as “Brittany’s Law.” It was named after a Port St. Lucie teenager who was murdered in 2006 by a 42-year-old sex offender who bonded out after being arrested. Under Brittany’s Law, when a sex offender or predator is arrested, they will be held until first appearance and not granted immediate bond. Ron Book helped make this law happen. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I don’t. Maybe I should broaden my fashion sense. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Gary Fineout. He is not bashful.

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{ insiders’ ADVICE cohn spotlights the best The ryan ‘connectors’ on the internet. Top Social Media Influencers in The Process


ocial media use by Floridians over the past year has taken some interesting shifts in how people communicate with their peers online. While Facebook remains the “Social Media Behemoth,” with roughly two in three active users throughout the state, Instagram has quickly risen to the No. 2 spot, with more than one in three using the Facebook-owned property each day. Meanwhile, Twitter has taken a bit of a tumble in recent years, now ranking as just the sixth-most-popular social network behind Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and even LinkedIn. What caused Twitter’s surprising decline? Mainly, it’s a combination of artificially inflated user counts (Twitter suspended more than 70 million fake profiles in 2017) and real users shifting peer-to-peer communication to the likes of WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger. Still, Twitter’s purpose and value in the social media-verse hasn’t lost all significance. As the only major social network that still organizes published content solely by chronological order, Twitter continues to be the go-to source for news, sports, and politics. So it should come as no surprise that a recent survey of Florida legislative staffers found that 61 percent of lawmakers regularly get their news from Twitter – ranking only behind Florida Politics, Facebook, and POLITICO Florida. Besides Facebook and Twitter, the 2018 legislative class has ushered in greater use of other popular social networks, like Instagram and LinkedIn – reflecting how non-politicos communicate online. Notably, Republican Ardian Zika from Land ‘O Lakes and Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando have been two of the most active freshmen lawmakers on LinkedIn, where they are known for sharing bill updates, behind-the-scenes

photos from the House floor, inspiring news articles, and more. “As a candidate, I made the intentional decision to stay engaged on these platforms because I value the importance of transparency, access, and two-way communication.” said Eskamani Aside from lawmakers, which lobbyists are most active and engaged on social media? To answer this question, our Breakthrough Research team analyzed social media activity among Florida lobbyists and lobbying firms in 2018. We reviewed 12,780 pieces of content published by nearly 100 lobbying firms and individual lobbyists on Facebook and Twitter. In total, their social media content generated a staggering 103,672 social interactions (Shares, Comments, Likes), a 92-percent increase over the previous year. Interestingly, few firms put all their eggs in one social network basket. While government affairs law firms tend to rely more heavily on Facebook, lobbying-only firms focus their efforts on Twitter and Instagram.

game to the next level in 2018, expanding its social media presence beyond the corporate brand namesake. We saw heavy activity on Twitter from several top leaders at the firm, including Jose Felix Diaz, Susie Wiles, Justin Sayfie, and Amy Young. It also doesn’t hurt to have former NFL star Tony Boselli leading your Jacksonville office and sharing content with his 40K+ followers.

Top Government Affairs Law Firms: Gunster, Becker & Poliakoff

Top In-House Lobbyists: Kathy Mears, Bob O’Malley

Top Lobbying-Only Firm: Ballard Partners

Ryan Cohn, Partner and Executive Vice President at Sachs Media Group, is a strategic adviser to many of the firm’s largest clients, forecasting and navigating the changing communications and marketing landscape, and leading digital media initiatives.

With more than 3,500 social interactions each on Facebook, Gunster and Becker & Poliakoff share the top spot among Florida’s government affairs law firms. Each firm showcased well-developed strategies that balanced state-centric informative content with highlights of honors and accolades for individual attorneys and lobbyists.

The Ballard team has learned a thing or two from President Donald Trump, including the power of Twitter to communicate a message throughout political circles. Ballard Partners took its Twitter

Honorable Mentions: Capital City Consulting, Johnson & Blanton, Southern Strategy Group

If it weren’t for Ballard’s deep roster on Twitter, these three firms would have been strong contenders for the top spot among Florida’s lobbying-only firms. Each coupled a strong brand presence with two or three active and engaging individual lobbyist accounts. It was CCC’s Jordan/Pippen duo (Nick Iarossi and Scott Ross) versus J&B’s Kobe/Shaq (Jon Johnson and Darrick McGhee) vs. SSG’s LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh, aka the “Big Three” (Chris Dudley, Kevin Cabrera, and Kelly Cohen).

For the second year in a row, the Twitter feed of FSU lobbyist Kathy Mears earned her the top spot among in-house lobbyists. However, this year she’ll also be sharing the title with Brightline/Virgin lobbyist Bob O’Malley. These two Twitter pros published more retweet-worthy content than most lobbying firms.


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Time for Florida’s Tech Industry to Shine sarah matz sees more technology jobs in the state’s future.


any states across the country are focused on attracting high-paying technology jobs. For Florida, the jobs are here, and more are coming. The challenge will be ensuring a pipeline of skilled workers to fulfill the needs of companies in the Sunshine State. There is no doubt Florida is a national technology leader. Florida ranks fourth nationally with more than 539,000 information technology (IT) jobs and was fourth in aggregate tech job growth in 2017, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates guide to national, state, and metropolitan area tech sector and tech workforce analytics. Further, Florida’s tech-friendly policies give it an Innovation Score — a measure of tech startups/new tech business formation plus venture capital investment — that puts it at No. 2 in the country. The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity projects growth of up to 19 percent in software developer jobs in the state through 2025, and even greater growth in South Florida — an increase of up to 23 percent, depending on the county and the type of developer. 82 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

Florida’s tech industry contributes $64 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. But it could be an even larger player in the state’s economy. Florida ranks just 32nd, with only 5.7 percent of its workforce in tech-related jobs Technology leaders from across Florida descended upon Tallahassee to work with policymakers to identify tangible ways to bolster the state’s IT workforce, incentivize a culture of entrepreneurism and bring more high-paying jobs to the Sunshine State. Creating a skilled workforce starts with throwing out old-school stereotypes that have ingrained the belief that a four-year college degree is the only means of acquiring a high-paying job. IT provides a myriad of opportunities to enter the workforce whether that be via a technical high school, community college, certification program, or a fouryear degree. Too many workers don’t see a future in technology-oriented jobs because they don’t realize the pathways that exist regardless of education. Our infrastructure and social systems must be reevaluated

to anticipate economic changes brought on by new technologies. Gov. Ron DeSantis took a big step to tackling these societal challenges when he issued an executive order (EO) aimed at making Florida known as the best workforce and technical training state by 2030. The governor’s EO includes asks for $10 million in funding for workforce apprenticeships and $26 million for other jobs programs in state colleges and universities. In addition, Sen. Joe Gruters, a Republican from Sarasota, recently filed SB 750 to increase the Research & Development Tax credit to $35 million (up from $16.5 million in 2018). This is an important measure to help grow the Florida tech economy by encouraging strategic investment and job growth in target industries. The future is bright for the tech industry in the Sunshine State. There is no doubt. Now is the time to ensure that future reaches its full potential. Sarah Matz is director of state government affairs for CompTIA, the world’s leading tech association.

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Future still unclear for felon voting rights yolanda cash jackson looks at how Amendment 4 will play out.


he 2018 elections saw more than 64 percent of Florida’s voters change the state Constitution to restore the voting rights of 1.4 million felons upon the completion of their sentences. Floridians did the right thing by giving their fellow citizens a second chance at the ballot box. But if you think this story is over, think again. We’re entering the third act of an unfinished production. The people may have spoken with their votes, but Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature still have a say in crafting the rules to implement this and other amendments. Technically a successful citizens-initiated amendment can only be repealed through the amendment process, meaning lawmakers must draft another amendment to overturn an existing one. However, the Legislature is responsible for developing “enabling legislation,” which governs how new amendments will be implemented. It’s a process where lawmakers can either improve, undermine, or delay implementation. At best, the process goes smoothly. At worst, it sparks controversy. Think high-speed rail, school class size, land conservation and medical marijuana – all citizen-initiated amendments that won voter approval but were not as readily embraced by state leaders. How will Amendment 4 turn out? Will felons be able to simply register with their local supervisor of elections, or will regulations be proposed that hamper what many see as a true reform? The honest answer: It’s too early to tell. There are still so many moving parts in the process it’s hard to a make any call with certainty. Florida has a new Governor and a new set of department heads who will be responsible for administering any changes to voter-registration procedures. But now

key lawmakers have begun to share their ideas on possible ‘implementations’ of the amendment. We’ve already seen hearings where input from criminal justice reform advocates, court administrators, and voting officials can be evaluated. Now, as the Legislature has convened in Tallahassee, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee has cleared a committee bill that would require felons seeking voting rights to pay off court costs, fees and fines. And already, Florida and national Democrats, along with civil rights groups, have charged that the stipulation is a “poll tax.” As a lobbyist, I’ve seen this process play out in surprising and good ways. I also know that to ensure a successful outcome, the amendment’s proponents must stay engaged. Winning the vote is just the beginning. In 2004, Florida voters approved another Amendment 4, a citizens’ initiative which allowed voters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties to authorize slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities. The amendment was the first gambling initiative to ever win statewide approval, and it remained controversial if only because it passed by a razor-thin margin of 50.83 percent. The stage was set for a legislative review in which both supporters and opponents would determine how gaming in South Florida’s two largest counties would be implemented. For the amendment’s supporters, scheduled hearings before lawmakers presented an opportunity to present their best ideas to ensure gaming truly benefited the two counties. The stakeholders and their advocates – affected business interests, concerned citizens, and local elected officials – met with legislators and their staffs to work out important details overlooked during the amendment’s campaign.

The give-and-take resulted in a particular benefit for Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach, Dania Beach, and Broward County, where new slot machines at the already-popular horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons would generate even more traffic. Community leaders urged lawmakers to include new funding for street improvements and road maintenance, and their lobbying efforts paid off in a new revenue source and a noticeable savings to local taxpayers. The citizens’ initiative is now a fixture in Florida politics, and advocates and special interests show no signs of abandoning it as a means to get state leaders to address unmet needs. Thanks to petition drives and successful campaigning Florida now has a lottery, prohibitions against indoor secondhand smoke, a state minimum wage, and voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. The process, though, isn’t easy. It requires big money to collect more than a million signatures and obtain the necessary approvals from state government and the Florida Supreme Court before conducting a statewide campaign to win the 60 percent-plus supermajority vote needed to amend the constitution. In reality, the work of implementing any ballot initiative continues long after Election Day. Changing the Florida Constitution can be exhilarating, but the real work starts after the votes have been counted. That’s when stakeholders and their best representatives must win over enough legislators to make sure the voter’s intent is properly executed in the form of sensible guidelines and effective services. Yolanda Cash Jackson is an attorney and a shareholder in Becker & Poliakoff.


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The Polls Are Always Wrong!



was giving a talk to a group of business leaders a few weeks after the recent midterm elections and the first question asked was, “Why are the polls always wrong?” Emphasis on “always.” I asked the questioner, “Do you know who Tony Fabrizio is? Tom Eldon? Dr. Jim Kitchens? Have you ever heard of Clearview Research? How about Ryan Tyson?” Blank stares. “Of course, you haven’t. But you have heard of…” and then I named off a few of the polling operations that poll with the intentions of getting clicks. (I, of course, won’t name them here under advice of counsel.) You know who they are; news outlets and educational institutions pushing their polling programs by releasing their polls to the media. There are four reasons many people think the polls are “always” wrong:


To be fair, ALL polls released to the media usually make news. But those polling for public relations purposes most often do so on the cheap. They cut corners, use inexpensive methods and, as a result, their polls are less reliable. News sources who commission these products of course publish them, send them to your in-box and put them

steve vancore on the problems and potential of pollsters.

on the front pages (then later complain that the “polls were all wrong.”) And — this is vital — they make the published poll aggregators which the press and many pundits rely on.


Recall the Adam Putnam campaign sending out that one outlier which came out weeks before the primary when virtually all polls (as well as their own internal polls) showed him down by double-digits. Candidates send polling results out repeatedly when they look good for them because, well, that’s how they can raise more money. It’s hard to blame them, but it most certainly adds to the problem.


We call it “modeling” and it’s actually a very educated “guess”. The reality is we only can rely on past elections and factor in current trends, but in the end if one group of voters turns out in unexpectedly high numbers, even the best polls will be off. Very few saw the GOP Election Day surge for Republican voters in the general election and some of us had our models off by a point or two. Which brings me to the last point .…


On a typical week, the scores at the start of the fourth quarter on any NFL Sunday predict the winner right 75 percent to 80 percent of the time. Why not 100 percent? Because each week there are a few late-game comebacks. Consider this: Andrew Gillum (we now know) lost Vote-By-Mail and Early Vote handily in the primary, but he crushed it on Election Day. He actually had a measurable fourth-quarter comeback. And, the polls showed that! Democratic Primary polls weren’t necessarily wrong, they were just polling what the score was (a few weeks out) at that time. Few knew he would surge enough to win, but most professional pollsters (this one included) saw serious movement. Sometimes we get it wrong, much in the same way even the most sophisticated weather models cannot predict the exact landing of a hurricane or even an afternoon shower. But, like the local weatherman, nobody seems to remember when we get it right, just when it rains and the umbrella got left at home. Steven J. Vancore is the President of Clearview Polling and Research and has been polling and conducting focus groups in Florida for over 30 years.





disrupting the future by jim rosica

Be it taxation, regulation, health, transportation, criminal justice, and beyond, telecom is at the fore in many laws filed for the 2019 Session


he stakes are the highest they’ve ever been for Florida’s technological landscape, says Brad Swanson, the head of Florida Internet & Television (FIT), Florida’s leading telecommunication trade group. “Our industry is the reason education, entertainment, and commerce can happen anywhere at any time, and our investments made that a reality in less than 20 years,” he says. “So a key issue is also ensuring we keep a healthy taxation and regulatory environment in place so our members can continue to invest billions in upgrading current infrastructure and expanding access where we still need it.” The message: Without lower taxes and better connectivity, Florida will fall behind. “We need to help our friends in the legislative and executive branches understand we’re no longer your father’s cable company,” Swanson says. “Our members are leading the way in innovations that are changing the way we live, work and enjoy the things we love, from virtual reality innovations and telehealth, to content streaming and autonomous cars.” “Disruptive industries” are the economic and workforce drivers employing tens of thousands in Florida. They donate millions to charitable and community programs,


and deliver robust, high-speed internet and content delivery technology to millions of Florida homes and businesses. And they do it every day. Now, a series of bills teed up for the 2019 Legislative Session could well determine the contours of the future: — HB 311, filed by House Republican Jason Fischer, would allow self-driving, or autonomous vehicles on the state’s roadways. It would “authorize the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to fund and operate test facilities (and) provide requirements for operation of on-demand autonomous, vehicle networks.” — SB 542, filed by Senate Republican Jeff Brandes, would allow “micromobility devices,” such as motorized skateboards, and motorized scooters. It would allow “a county or municipality to regulate the operation of micromobility devices and forhire motorized scooters” and make sure they be licensed. A sidenote here: Companies like Bird and Lime offer pay-per-use scooter rentals where commuters can pay by the minute to use the vehicles to get from one place to another. The app-driven service shows riders where to find a scooter and, in most cases, they can leave it wherever they want without having to locate a docking area. This bill will allow for more accessibility for using these devices on the road, Swanson says.

Our industry is the reason education, entertainment, and commerce can happen anywhere at any time, and our investments made that a reality in less than 20 years. Brad Swanson

Brian Musselwhite, Marva Johnson, and Brad Swanson on set at the recently redesigned HQ of Florida Internet & Television.


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— HB 693/SB 1000, filed by Fischer and Senate Republican Travis Hutson, would “reduce communications services tax rate on sales of communications services” and limit counties’ ability “to impose permit fees on providers of communications services” who use public right-of-way. — HB 987, filed by House Republican Jamie Grant, would reserve to the state — not local governments — the ability to regulate vacation rentals, such as through the Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway websites, would change licensing requirements and make sure license information is available online. Other policy issues sure to be discussed are related: Florida could become one of the first states allowing drivers to use electronic versions of driver’s licenses (“electronic credentialing”) on their mobile phones as proof of identification. Cybersecurity measures – through, say, an official state smartphone app – could be put in place to ensure there is no fraud. One thing’s for sure: The need for bigger, faster broadband, which equates to a “more competitive and modern Florida that’s ready for the latest tech — and tomorrow’s unknown,” Swanson says. After the feds restored the Clinton-era (and bipartisan, by the way) rules for light regulation on internet deployment, major wired and wireless companies raced to upgrade and deploy more connectivity. The next big thing is 5G, which stands for “fifth-generation cellular wireless, and the initial standards for it were set at the end of 2017,” PC Mag explained. “But a standard doesn’t mean that all 5G will work the same … There will be slow but responsive 5G, and fast 5G with limited coverage. “5G brings three new aspects to the table,” the report added. “That is, greater speed (to move more data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices).” The need for speed and access is being driven by the demand for things like self-driving vehicles and “smart houses,” and the need for laws that

address privacy concerns surrounding law enforcement and devices like Alexa and the Google Home Assistant. Brandes, for example, has in the past tried to pass measures requiring law enforcement to get a warrant before searching communications and location data contained in devices. “As technology continues to become more integrated in our daily lives, it is critical that the law recognize that electronic devices are the modern-equivalent of papers and effects, falling under the protections of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution,” Brandes said. Moreover, the prospect of virtual reality or help for the elderly in using connected devices to be treated by doctors remotely, something known as “telemedicine,” has to be addressed by deployment. The technology we enjoy, even need, rides on the backs of networks. The latest and fanciest gadgets seem like a luxury, but even for hardhit socioeconomic groups, “connectivity is an equalizer,” Swanson says. Take the state’s communications services tax (CST), which charges “direct-to-home satellite service,” cable TV, and other telecommunications, like mobile phone service. Florida’s CST is the ninth highest in the country among the states, ranking in the top 20 percent of the most expensive states. That tax, however, hits most people on multiple bills – and that includes the ones least able to afford it. “At an average of over 2½ times Florida’s sales tax, reducing this tax affects nearly everyone who lives a connected life,” Swanson says. “A one percent cut is estimated to impact the state budget at over $115 million. While the business rent tax appears to be at the front of the line, a CST cut will help all the people paying a wireless or cable bill.” In the end, “how much and how well we can invest in expanding and improving our broadband infrastructure is greatly connected to how well Florida can compete in the 21st century, global, online economy,” he adds. Lawmakers and other policymakers ignore that advice at their peril.

As technology continues to become more integrated in our daily lives, it is critical that the law recognize that electronic devices are the modern-equivalent of papers and effects, falling under the protections of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. Sen. Jeff Brandes



Autonomous Vehicles Ahead When it comes to self-driving cars, the future is (almost) now by janelle taylor


omewhere in the world there’s a baby or a toddler — maybe even a preschooler — who will be the last person to ever have a driver’s license. It seems surreal, Jetsonian almost, to think about the cherub-cheeked little baby down the road growing up without the age-old dream of taking a driver’s test and clutching his or her first set of car keys. It’s almost unthinkable to imagine a new parent not having to teach a hormone-ridden teenage girl how to navigate a four-way stop. But there’s no mistaking, this is the reality we live in today. The youngest children alive today may never have to drive a car that doesn’t drive itself. Just about every major auto manufacturer is already testing driverless vehicles, and many already have cars capable of navigating roads unassisted by a human driver. But the seemingly overnight explosion of autonomous vehicles on the market is creating a policy conundrum in states nationwide. Does there have to be a licensed driver in the car? On which roads can these super high-tech cars operate? What safety regulations need to be in place to ensure actual drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists can share the road with AV cars? Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes is at the forefront of that conversation, and he has been fighting for years to put Florida at the front of the line for the prospects afforded by vehicle autonomy. “The possibilities are nearly endless,” Brandes said. Driverless cars could disrupt all sorts of industries. They could reshape grocery delivery. The technology could change the face of retail — even more than it has already with the rapid and continued emergence of online shopping — by simplifying and expediting shipping. It could even change the way restaurants provide takeout delivery service. “Can we put an oven in the back seat?,” Brandes asked. And he’s not even joking a little bit. To him, it’s important that Florida be a prime target for companies looking to tackle that disruption in order to protect the state’s economy from a decline in traditional services by placing it at the vanguard of the new ways. By ensuring a business-friendly regulatory environment for emerging autonomous vehicle technologies, businesses that choose to test projects in Florida might also


choose to locate within the state. “Investors want to stay close to their investments,” Brandes said. Brandes sponsors legislation every year to make that happen. This year he’s sponsoring a bill that would exempt drivers of fully engaged autonomous vehicles from any prohibition on using wireless communication devices. That would mean someone sitting in the “driver’s seat” of an AV would be able to use a cell phone or use active display television or display monitors, which are currently prohibited. Like bills filed in past years, Brandes’ bill (SB 932) would also exempt autonomous vehicle operators from needing a driver’s license

and would allow vehicles operating in fully autonomous mode to be unoccupied. The bill would provide uniform regulations throughout the state, which makes conducting research on the emerging technology easier for companies who operate across municipal boundaries. Like any disrupting technology though, driverless cars come with controversy. Supporters of autonomous vehicles say their introduction into the market would alleviate traffic congestion. Stop-and-go traffic can be caused by just one driver tapping

the brakes. That slowdown creates a ripple effect as other drivers follow suit. Autonomous vehicles buck that human instinct to slow down by using computers to follow closer to cars in front of them and by matching speed to avoid hitting the brakes. Studies have shown even one autonomous vehicle operating in traffic could reduce congestion and could as much as double vehicle lane capacity. But as driving becomes less of a chore for commuters who can use their commutes actively, critics worry the influx in technology could actually put more cars on the road as more people opt to


“I’ve probably touched the steering wheel 3 percent of the trip, That means that for 97 percent of this trip I’ve been sitting here listening to podcasts, listening to music, and staring out the window while the car does most of the work.” —Jeff Brandes

use a private autonomous vehicle rather than public transportation. Other consequences also could include “zombie cars” circling urban streets, which also adds to road capacity. “There will be incentives put in place for those vehicles to not be zombies,” Brandes said, referring to driverless cars that drive aimlessly to avoid parking or otherwise stay on the road unoccupied. As autonomous vehicle technology becomes more and more prevalent, Brandes and other lawmakers will have to answer with further policy decisions. To Brandes, those solutions are simple. He proposes restructuring vehicle taxes to keep up with mobility changes. Driverless cars entering the market typically also are electric, so they don’t use gas. That means a possible shift away from fuel taxes into more innovative ways of charging drivers to use public infrastructure. Driverless cars and their owners could be subjected to a mileage tax, one that would encourage vehicles to identify the shortest routes for commutes and stay off the roads as much as possible. Time is of the essence. The technology is already here and it’s becoming more and more mainstream every year. Brandes, for example, answered questions about his bill and the technology en route to Tallahassee in his new, mostly autonomous Tesla. “I’ve probably touched the steering wheel 3 percent of the trip,” Brandes said. “That means that for 97 percent of this trip I’ve been sitting here listening to podcasts, listening to music, and staring out the win96 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

dow while the car does most of the work.” That’s more common than most people realize. Just about every modern car on the road today has at least a minor component of autonomy — think cruise control. High-end cars have option packages that can provide varying degrees of autonomy. Lane assist reads the lines on roads to help the car stay in its lane. Sensors can help cars follow at a safe distance. GPS can map a route. The technology already is in place in some closed communities in Florida. Oliver Cameron is the CEO of Voyage, an autonomous vehicle company that provides on-demand service in retirement communities. The company is based in California, but it’s operating six vehicles in The Villages, the massive privately owned retirement community north of Orlando. “There is definitely a welcoming feel in this state,” Cameron said. He doesn’t see any regulatory hurdles in Florida, and his company is thrilled to have an advocate in Brandes. Instead, Cameron said, there are still technological obstacles to overcome. Those obstacles are easier to face in places like The Villages where the roads are privately owned and well kept. Lines on the road are easy for technology-equipped vehicles to read and traffic can be better managed. “It came from this idea that senior citizens might just be the best customers for AV,” Cameron said, noting older folks face more mobility challenges than younger commuters. “Many of these

folks either cannot drive or perhaps shouldn’t be driving.” Voyage’s service is similar to Uber or Lyft. A group of testers chosen to try out the company’s service can summon a car to take them anywhere in the community. The service relies on subscriptions from users. The service also uses seven-passenger Chrysler Pacifica vehicles so it can provide multiple rides at once. As companies like Voyage continue to roll viable products and services out in some communities, the idea of driverless cars becomes more and more normalized. As that happens, infrastructure improvements can move forward with autonomy in mind. As for that last licensed driver, by the time they’re of age, the world of transportation, like it or not, will look entirely different. An unmanned car might take them to soccer practice when their parent is tied up with dinner. They might be able to summon a car the whole family uses to pick them up from school and they might be able to get their homework done on the drive, rather than navigating through traffic. And maybe, they might already be quite familiar with the concept. “In a year you’re going to see more functionality on interstates for vehicles,” Brandes said. “By 2025 it’s a standard feature in most cars over $50,000.” And for more-affordable cars? “It’s not hard to imagine that in five years you’ll be able to buy this feature in cars for $2,000 to $5,000.”




By Drew Wilson

Lawmakers grapple with regulating electric scooters for commuters






The process is simple: download a company’s app, locate a nearby scooter on a map, and scan a bar code on the scooter to activate it.




few years ago it was bike sharing, but now electric scooters are the big thing in first- and last-mile transportation. Lime, Spin, Bird and others are showing up in cities across the country with small battery powered scooters riders can rent through an app to get from the bus stop to campus, or from the commuter lot to the office. The process is simple: download a company’s app, locate a nearby scooter on a map, and scan a bar code on the scooter to activate it. After that, customers can ride wherever they need to be and leave the scooter at their destination for the next person. While the process is easy and the ride is faster and cheaper than hailing an Uber, the rapid expansion of scooter companies has had its fair share of hiccups. Like other major players in the sharing economy, scooters have shown up in cities unannounced, drawing the ire of local governments and some residents who weren’t too keen on stepping over a pile of scooters on their way to the bus stop. Some riders have zoomed through traffic signals, injuring pedestrians or injuring themselves by colliding with cars. The companies also had to work out ways to make sure riders had helmets in order to get their businesses rolling in some states.

Despite those challenges, the opportunity for a viable, reliable mode of first- and last-mile transportation is alluring for many Florida cities. Jose Marquez, a frequent renter, said scooters have made a major impact on his daily commute. “I live in Boca Raton and work in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Just with the increase in traffic it makes it difficult to drive,” he said. Marquez lives about 27 miles from his office and Tri-Rail gets him most of the way, but he has to travel another couple of miles from the train stop to get to work. The bus is an option, but not a good one. “It’s basically a homeless taxi,” he said. Uber also is an option. The ridesharing company has rolled out a pilot program in Central Florida offering a 25 percent discount on intercity travel for workers hailing a car from SunRail stops, but that program hasn’t come to South Florida’s Tri-Rail, so it’s not viable for Marquez financially. Marquez also could tackle that last leg of his commute on a bike, and luckily for him his workplace has a gym complex with showers, because he has to pack a couple of changes of clothes to look presentable after making that trek in the heat. That leaves e-scooters as his best option. Since he took his first ride Nov. 9, he’s shown up to work on time


without breaking a sweat. A typical ride costs him about $2.80, and the most he’s ever paid for that convenience over the past four months is $3.25. Marquez has heard the complaints about scooters being strewed about on sidewalks, but to him it’s not a big deal. He says the scooters are tiny enough that they only take away a couple of inches of space at most. “I think the people who have the most boisterous complaints are the people who don’t use them,” he said. “The people who don’t see the benefit for someone like me.” Despite those benefits, scooters face some major hurdles in Florida. A motorized vehicle needs to be able to hit 30 miles per hour at a minimum in order to be street legal in the Sunshine State, otherwise they’re relegated to sidewalks. “We just don’t think that’s safe in our downtown,” St. Pete Director of Parking and Transportation Management Evan Mory recently told Florida Politics. “We have a compact downtown with a lot of pedestrians, and we allow A-frame signs on sidewalks in front of businesses.” It’s equally unworkable in Tampa, which consistently ranks among the most dangerous cities in America for pedestrians and cyclists — there were more than 100 pedestrian deaths in the greater Tampa Bay area in 2017 alone.

The legislative solution on tap is simple: cut that 30-mph law down to 20 mph and treat e-scooters like their pedal-powered cousins. Bills by Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, would do that. Just like cyclists, scooter riders would have access to bike lanes and, in some cases, roads so long as they follow the same rules as bikes — including a requirement that riders younger than 16 wear a helmet. Their bills also put some requirements on scooter rental companies. Namely, they must carry liability insurance with at least a $1 million-per-incident cap and a $5 million aggregate limit. If they do that, then a local government must grant them a license to operate. While the change to allow scooters to be treated as bicycles in state law is widely seen as common sense — bikes, after all, are limited to 20 mph — that latter provision has left some home rule advocates crying foul. The Florida League of Cities contends local governments should have the final say in how many companies are allowed to rent scooters, if any at all, though Toledo’s counter is that such regulations would undermine a key intent of the legislation.



... the opportunity for a viable, reliable mode of first- and lastmile transportation is alluring for many Florida cities.

Vivian Myrtetus, Lime’s community affairs and government relations manager in Florida.


“If you have one vendor, they may not provide the quantity that’s needed for that city,” she said. “So, if you go and rent a scooter, and you get out of the building you’re at and try to rent another scooter and it’s not there, you’re probably never going to use that mode of transportation again.” Marquez echoed that sentiment. Lime and Bird are the most reliable of the bunch, he said, but sometimes there’s not a scooter nearby when he needs one. That’s why he’s also downloaded the apps for Bold and Gotcha. Between the four, he’s never had to go without on his daily commute. As far as whether cities can opt out, Toledo and other proponents say the free market should be the arbiter. If business isn’t too hot in one community, it’s in the company’s best interest to close shop and double down on densely populated areas where scooters are in greater demand. Local governments also say an influx of competing scooter rental companies would undercut deals already in place between cities and rental companies, some of which have agreed to abide by

more rigorous rules to land a contract. For those concerns, the free market shield is more of a buckler than a hoplon. In South Florida, for instance, bikesharing companies have agreed to have warehouse space on hand and create an emergency operations plan to collect all their equipment and secure it indoors in the event of a hurricane. Without such a plan, scooters — or docked bikes, for that matter — could transform into projectiles, magnifying the natural devastation. That imagery opened the eyes of some lawmakers during the first committee hearing for Toledo’s bill, but Vivian Myrtetus, Lime’s community affairs and government relations manager in Florida, said her company is committed to building positive relationships with municipalities, not invading them and ignoring their concerns. “Lime is focused on working with local governments across the state to build micromobility programs that meet local needs at the first and last mile — all while creating jobs in the communities we serve,” she said. Whether the emergency management provisions will be addressed, if at all, by adding additional regulations at the state level or giving local governments more latitude in the licensure process is unclear. Either way, it’s likely scooters are here to stay.

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Technology as bridge, not ‘moat’

Tech-savvy lawmakers discuss some of the more ‘disruptive’ issues facing Florida by trimmel gomes photos by colin hackley



he future of technology in Florida is paved with an overabundance of exciting opportunities, according to a handful of legislators helping to break down barriers and push boundaries — all while being bold enough to take risks with their innovative policies. We recently assembled a panel of legislative leaders making an impact in Florida’s tech sector for a deep dive in what’s trending and what’s helping the industry to flourish in the Sunshine State amidst all the challenges. “One of the things I kind of recognized early on in my legislative life was that, in the private sector, the rule is innovate or die,” said Rep. James Grant, a Republican from Tampa, and co-founder of a health IT company. Grant explained how the public sector isn’t necessarily welcoming to entrepreneurs like him. “From any startup I’ve been a part of, it’s run as fast as you can because somebody is gonna try and kill you. The moment you walk into the doors of the

Capitol the rule is very different,” he said. “It is innovate, and they will all come to try to kill you.” Grant says his point extends to dealing with bureaucracies in general, which he thinks often promote an incentive for people to “don’t screw up,” he said. There was widespread agreement as Grant spoke alongside Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from Tampa and an early backer of ride-share technology; Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican who filed the first autonomous vehicle legislation of 2019; and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Webb of St. Petersburg, who is embracing technology to find solutions in transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, and community health.

Prototype Culture

Brandes, who sits on the Senate’s Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee, lamented a need for more innovative thinkers in state government. “These agencies aren’t made for SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 105

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Jennifer Webb

courage,” he said. After helping to advance Florida’s landscape, making it friendlier for ride-sharing platforms, he’s now hoping to make similar breakthroughs for other tech companies like Bird and Lime, by calling for an update to Florida laws to allow for “micromobility.” The idea is to use small electric vehicles like scooters and bicycles to take larger cars off the roads while giving people a convenient option to get around within the zero-to-five-mile range. “I think that the big challenge is how do we get communities to recognize that they can take risks?,” Brandes said. “How do we create a prototype culture amongst our cities, amongst our transportation leaders?” He called for community leaders to allow more experimentation, pointing to The Villages, the 55-and-over adult community in Central Florida that’s testing door-to-door self-driving taxi service provided by the company, Voyage, and Ford doing the same in Miami. To propel this culture change, Fischer, who is championing legislation for fully autonomous vehicles — ones without an actual person in the seat — believes the state should hire differently. “I’m a big believer that in order for organizations to change, you have to change the culture,” said Fischer. “And sometimes that means hiring different people. And that’s not to say that I don’t think that we have some fine, capable people that are currently serving in different government roles.” Webb, who disrupted the status quo with her “Blue Wave” victory into the Florida House, is excited to be in the policy driver’s seat of disruptive innovation. She would like to see more two-way communication between the private and public sectors to solve problems on both sides. “Talk to our businesses that are currently here, especially in the tech sector, and find out what challenges that they’re facing,” she said. She added a lot of the challenges in Florida’s

tech industry are workforce development and infrastructure. “Making sure that we’re working in those spaces to provide an ecosystem in which the tech industry, autonomous vehicle industry, next-generation transportation, micro transportation, transit options can all thrive.”

Just Do IT!

The consensus among the group of tech-minded lawmakers is finding a hub or clearinghouse dedicated to managing and pushing innovative ideas forward. “If you gave me my wish, my wish would be that we had a Department of Innovation and Technology, shorthand ‘Do It,’ just to tell people to frickin’ do it, said Grant. “that would house some of the stuff we’re describing.” However, the closest entity to “Do It,” is the Agency for State Technology, which Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed eliminating to assign the role of managing IT operations to the Department of Management Services. Fischer thinks an innovative workforce and mindset is needed regardless of where the agency functions are located. “Not just for the different agencies that look at technology but when we give a mandate to the agency for state technology or whatever the new iteration is to change this, we need to bring people in with that tech background and that tech culture,” Fischer said. However, Grant expressed some reservations with the elimination of AST, highlighting a lack of understanding between data governance and data centers. He said the data center could move to DMS but also said “data governance should probably be wholly separate, that there should be one person responsible or one entity responsible for … establishing the identity of a person, an organization, a device, or an application for the purpose of a digital transaction,”

Jeff Brandes


James “J.W.” Grant

Grant said. “That is first and foremost foundational — the only way that interoperability can ever happen.”

Moat & Dragons

Another universal concern among the group is lack of interoperability and infrastructure. “I agree with Jamie about … a centralized office that’s responsible for rolling this out and organizing it,” Webb said. She piggybacks on a concern raised by Brandes about the need to prepare for the challenges of the next statewide evacuation with a population that will be more dependent on electricity and electric cars. “To Jeff’s point, if you’re at the table for evacuation during emergencies, you have somebody from agriculture now at that table, you have people from the business community, you have all of these different players,” Webb said. “Right now, you don’t have someone who’s there considering how our data and how this infrastructure can be helpful and moving people and getting people out and so that’s absolutely essential.” Grant likens Florida’s lack of interoperability, or the inability for computers systems to be able to communicate with each other, to the dramatic fight scene in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty between Prince Phillip and Maleficent. “There are silos or fiefdoms that are these castles and the moat dragon exists solely to keep you out,” he explains. “So, they don’t actually want collaboration between the 108 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

Jason Fischer

different villages. They want to make sure that their castle is sovereign — that nobody comes in — and so the moat dragon is there to literally kill you.” Fischer said as an engineer, he believes infrastructure is the single biggest key to making sure state and local computer systems are connected in every community. “You’ve got to lay the infrastructure and the foundation for all of the technologies to work on top of,” Fischer said. “They’ve got to talk to one another to, so interoperability is important.”

Future is Now

The panel agreed there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to the future of tech in Florida. Brandes stressed the tools to drive innovation are readily accessible. He’d like to see more Senate and House staff along with agency heads attend conferences like the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show and HIMSS19, which was held in Orlando and is dubbed the “Super Bowl” for health information and technology professionals. “Florida should be a leader in telemedicine. Florida is a state with 21 million people (and) it’s going to have 6 million more people here by 2035,” Brandes said. Grant said it was the Florida Health Information Exchange Services that was most helpful in reuniting families during Hurricane Irma evacuation. “A health care system was actually significantly impactful in being able to identify where families were to reunite them,” Grant

said. “It’s an example of why I say, it’s not about the type of data like we like to call it, it’s about the facilitation of data so that we can put kind of a lens on top of it to get the most value.” Everyone agreed the people pushing innovation can do a better job telling the human story of how technology can be an asset in the lives of everyday Floridians. “If you’ve got the infrastructure to be in place, where autonomous vehicles are safely operating on our roads, less people are dying, less people are being injured, less people are getting on opioids because they’re having less accidents and they’re less likely to get on them,” Fischer said. “You’re not telling the human stories — which is what drives the real interest.” Webb said it’s not just telling the story of how many lives can be saved but recognizing the potential for sustaining and improving the quality of life for all. “Making sure we are expanding areas where we can connect people to telemedicine to solve real-life problems today,” Webb said. “Making sure that people can move around urban environments easily through microtransit and demonstrating how tech can improve our lives to make a compelling argument for why we need to continue to move forward, and to institutionalize this important aspect of modern-day living.”

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) proudly recognizes the 2018 winners of the Champion for Business award and the 100% Voting Record club. We extend our gratitude for extraordinary efforts by these legislators on behalf of the business community.

2018 Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) For his diligent work to pass glassware legislation during the 2018 Session, thereby allowing Florida businesses to accept beer branded glassware from a wholesaler at no cost. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) For her effort to introduce bad faith reform language to every iteration of automobile liability legislation during the 2018 Session. Sen. Passidomo proved to be a fierce advocate for common sense in our tort system. Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) For her committed work in advocating for sector plan language during the 2018 Session. Her unwavering pursuit to ensure the rights of Florida landowners was exemplary. Rep. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) For his diligent work to pass glassware legislation during the 2018 Session, which reduces the operating costs for businesses within our state. Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando) For his committed work in advocating for sector plan language during the 2018 Session. His dedication to ensure the rights of Florida landowners was exemplary.

Rep. Thad Altman (R)

Rep. Matt Caldwell (R)

Rep. Chuck Clemons (R) Rep. Richard Corcoran (R)

Rep. Bryan Avila (R)

Rep. Jim Boyd (R)

Rep. Bob Cortes (R)

Rep. Travis Cummings (R)

Rep. Byron Donalds (R)

Rep. Brad Drake (R)

Rep. Randy Fine (R)

Rep. Jason Fischer (R)

Rep. Julio Gonzalez (R)

Rep. Gayle Harrell (R)

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R)

Rep. Sam Killebrew (R)

Rep. Mike La Rosa (R)

Rep. Chris Latvala (R)

Rep. Tom Leek (R)

Rep. Amber Mariano (R) Rep. Ralph Massullo (R) Rep. Lawrence McClure (R) Rep. Kathleen Peters (R)

Rep. Cary Pigman (R)

Rep. Mel Ponder (R)

Rep. Elizabeth Porter (R)

Rep. Jake Raburn (R)

Rep. Paul Renner (R)

Rep. Rick Roth (R)

Rep. Ross Spano (R)

Rep. Charlie Stone (R)

Rep. Matt Willhite (D)

Rep. Jayer Williamson (R)

Associated Industries of Florida

The Voice of Florida Business Since 1920 SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 109


Legislators Seek to Assure Florida Laws Keep Up With Fast-Changing Technology by danny mcauliffe


here’s something archaic about legislative procedure. The process is slow and, at-times, grueling. Language rings of an earlier time. Still, in the modern technological world, government finds a way. It’s not always clean — characterized often by a hasty catch-up to regulate ever-evolving enterprise — but it’s certainly always there. Look no further than the titles of committees to see tech momentum. Senate President Bill Galvano created the Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee in his chamber almost for the express purpose of bringing laws up to speed. “Innovation and industry and technology, in my opinion, are the next phase to really blossom in Florida’s economy,” Galvano said. A few lawmakers routinely push legislation with the goal of bridging technology and government. Among them: State Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican who has filed a number tech-related bills this year. One of Grant’s measures seeks to create a “Department of Interoperability and Technology.” It would set up “back-end functionality” and “facilitate the kind of experience people are used to having outside of government,” he said. Grant also is working a bill “all about health care technology and data interoperability.” It would address the ability to automate functions in health care and establish new methods for data transfer, “whether it’s provider to provider or whether it’s a patient taking their data with them,” he said. Tech is the tool for innovation — or disruption, Grant said. Opponents, he added, are typically the “entrenched industry.” “I think we’re getting close to a point where no big dinosaur is safe,” he said. By no means exhaustive, the following list highlights some of the unique tech issues lawmakers are considering this year.

Digital IDs

A smartphone does it all. Now, some lawmakers think iPhones and Androids should also be used to show an official record of a government-issued identification card. Grant is pushing legislation that would, in part, allow Floridians to store their driver’s license information on their cell phones, making it an acceptable way to prove identification. The measure is another example of updating government to match the tech of the day, giving citizens a second option for when they’ve left their licenses at home. But it could draw criticism from those worried about security. Grant last year sponsored a similar bill that made it out of committee but died on calendar.


Legislation guiding use of unmanned aircraft is about as new-millennium as it gets. The Legislature for a while has considered measures guiding the use of drones. State Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican whose House tenure so far has been marked by pioneering drone usage, wants lawmakers this year to allow law enforcement to remotely pilot surveillance aircraft to assist with crowd control, crime scene evidence collection and traffic management — but not traffic enforcement. The measure has prompted concerns of constitutional privacy, meaning it could bring nuanced policy debate as lawmakers in the House and Senate consider the language this year.


Proposals guiding an innovative method of practicing medicine could be deliberated again this year. Telehealth, coined for patient-practitioner video conferencing and transmission of clinical data, already is happening across Florida and the country.


Some lawmakers are looking to implement recommendations included in a state-backed council’s findings. The Florida Telehealth Advisory Council in October 2017 issued a report that defined the tech-savvy practice and offered guidance on regulating it. Another measure from Yarborough, one of a handful of telehealth bills filed this year, would among other things codify in statutes standards of care for the practice, including instances in which telehealth is and is not viable.

Artificial intelligence

The automation of human tasks is a daunting concept to wrap one’s head around. Maybe that’s why some want to encourage intellectual pursuit of the subject. Among the many tech-related issues on the radar this year is a simple budget request to kickstart the Center for Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Florida. “The Center will develop a road map for AI development/deployment,” reads a request form attached to the nearly $8 million ask. Grant, who’s sponsoring the appropriation, called AI “a major part of our future,” and said creating the center is a key step in ensuring Florida is on the “front end” of development.

Privacy and tech

iPhones and Androids — even the Amazon Alexa — all collect personal information. That’s led some to attempt to clarify laws guiding law enforcement access to records stored by the electronics. A bill by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, and the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this year would require a search warrant for investigators to access electronic communication records. It’s a matter of updating Fourth Amendment rights to align with the tools through which people store information in modern times.

Genetic information

Rep. Clay Yarborough wants to allow law enforcement to use drones for crowd control, evidence collection and traffic management.

Private services allow people to find out more about their genetic information, which among other things can show whether a person is more likely to develop a disease. The question lawmakers are asking is whether a life insurer should have the right to require or ask for that information. State law already prohibits the use of genetic information by health insurance companies. State Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, and state Rep. Jayer Williamson, a Pace Republican, are pushing legislation this year that would prohibit life and long-term care insurers from asking for genetic testing to help price a policy, so long as the person doesn’t have a “condition related to genetic information,” according to the bill’s language.


While it’s the technology that supports transactions of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, some believe blockchain could help streamline and improve government services. There’s a push this year in the Legislature to spawn a study group that would examine the digital ledger’s use in government services, from data storage to financial transactions.


State Rep. David Santiago, who’s sponsoring the House’s blockchain plan, suggested that the possibilities are endless for the technology, and that creating the group would send a signal that Florida wants to be ahead of the curve on innovation. “Even announcing it and showing the country and the world that we want to be innovative on that, there are benefits to that and what potential investment may come in the future,” said Santiago, a Republican from Deltona.


Agency for State Technology

Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed eliminating the Agency for State Technology (AST), citing internal problems at the agency and confidence that its duties could be transferred to the Department of Management Services. “The closest thing to eternal life on earth is a government bureau,” DeSantis said, invoking the late President Ronald Reagan to justify axing AST. “They kind of never go away.” The relatively nascent bureau boasts a mission of achieving “success through technology.” It’s not a tech issue per se, but it does merit mention. After all, the pattern of reviewing, revising and moving forward is fundamental to innovation in any space.



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fresh men MEET THE



Given Florida’s term limit rules and the two-year cycle for state House seats, there are a bundle of fresh faces in Tallahassee after every election. Some bring serious political pedigrees, others fascinating origin stories, but all have to hit the ground running in order to keep up and be effective during the 60-day Legislative Session. There’s a recurring theme among the new crop of lawmakers: They know a thing or two about Tallahassee, proving to be quick studies on everything from dealing with lobbyists to figuring out where the bathrooms are in the Capitol complex. The 2019 freshman class is stacked with leaders from all walks of life, and Florida Politics had the chance to sit down with five first-termers — three Republicans and two Democrats — to suss out their policy goals, pet issues and what set them on the path to seeking public office.


“I was a young boy growing up in Kosovo when President Reagan sent the powerful message to ‘Tear down this wall.’” Adrian Zika | 39

Adrian Zika belongs to the Reagan generation. “I’m a Republican because of U.S. President Ronald Reagan,” the freshman House member told Florida Politics. “I was a young boy growing up in Kosovo when President Reagan sent the powerful message to ‘Tear down this wall,’” Zika said. “A day where the gates of freedom began to open for millions of East Europeans to join the free world. As an American, who started my journey as an immigrant, I’m very thankful to my fellow Americans for blessing me with the gift of a lifetime — the gift of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Land O’ Lakes businessman represents District 37, which covers a big piece of inland Pasco County, and where he and his wife, Tasha, are raising five kids. The district encompasses Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. It’s Richard Corcoran’s old seat. Zika got his start in politics running for the student senate at Louisiana Tech University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing — he subsequently received an MBA at St. Leo University — and said his drive to run for public office was centered around his firm belief in American exceptionalism. “I ran for the Florida House of Representatives to serve my community, and I will continue to work tirelessly so that no Floridian is left behind as they embark on their journey toward the American Dream,” he said. Last year’s campaign was Zika’s first bid for public office, but he so impressed the Republican State Leadership committee that it named him an “up-and-comer.” He was the only Floridian to receive that honor. When Election Day came, he earned more than 60 percent of the vote. Zika’s Facebook page lists his credentials in this order: “Husband, Father, Business Owner, Banker, Conservative Republican.” As far as his legislative priorities, the former banker told Florida Politics he’s laser focused on education, with expanding school choice, slashing higher ed costs and boosting vocational training topping his list. “Education is the single most important ingredient to any society, and there is a direct correlation between strong education policy and strong economy,” he said.

Rep. Ardian Zika, R-Land O’Lakes, during a Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meeting. SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 115

“I am a Republican first because of my love for what President Abraham Lincoln did to save our country and how he did it.” Chip LaMarca | 50

Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, at the Capitol in Tallahassee.


Chip LaMarca is a Broward County Republican. In fact, he’s the only Republican in the heavily Democratic County’s legislative caucus. So, his political stands are a little more moderate than those of other GOP legislators. He recognizes the need to respond to rising sea levels. He’s on the record in support of marriage equality. Which is not to say LaMarca’s a liberal. “I am a Republican first because of my love for what President Abraham Lincoln did to save our country and how he did it,” LaMarca told Florida Politics. “Secondly, because I watched candidate Gov. Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential debates and knew that he represented my beliefs in government.” So, while he counts himself among “the growing majority that cares about our environment, water quality and the future of Florida’s Everglades,” he’s also keen on keeping Florida business friendly. LaMarca, who lives in Lighthouse Point with his wife, Eileen, won the election in November to take over for term-limited former Rep. George Moraitis. His District 93 seat covers northern coastal Broward and slightly tilts toward the GOP. He first got his feet wet in party politics by joining the Young Republicans when he attended Florida Atlantic University in the late 1990s and, after years of working his way up the Broward GOP ladder, he won two terms on the County Commission. LaMarca passed on another commission term to run for state House because he wanted “retain the last Republican seat on the Broward delegation.” “I come from the second most populous county in the state, and the people of Broward County should have a voice in the majority party,” he said. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel agreed with that logic when it endorsed LaMarca for the seat. His legislative priorities include cutting government spending; increasing funding for beach management; and protecting “our children and families, as well as supporting our first responders who do this work every day.” A somewhat unique characteristic of LaMarca’s political ethos is his “no lobbyist” policy, which has kept him informed but not unduly influenced. He plans to continue that policy during his state House tenure. “I have and will continue to say ‘No’ when necessary.”

“I wanted to have an opportunity to bring change both in my district and throughout the state of Florida.” Dianne Hart | 63

Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, listens during a State Affairs committee meeting.

Dianne Hart came close to winning the Democratic primary for East Tampa’s District 61 in 2016, losing to former Rep. Sean Shaw by a mere 124 votes. With Shaw leaving his seat in a failed bid for Attorney General, the second time was the charm for Hart. “Ms. Dee” prevailed in a four-way primary in the heavily African-American district, earning the backing from sitting and former elected leaders including U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, St. Petersburg Sen. Darryl Rouson and former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis. No Republican bothered to run in the deep-blue district. “I wanted to have an opportunity to bring change both in my district and throughout the state of Florida,” Hart told Florida Politics. “I feel as though I’ve been running my entire life because helping my community has always come first.” Hart earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from Springfield College in 2017. She is the mother of three children and grandmother to four. Her House bio lists her as a businesswoman — CEO of the East Tampa Business and Civic Association and owner of Ms. Dee’s World of Beauty. She is quite familiar with the Capitol and its ways, having lobbied there amid service on the Hillsborough County Children’s Advisory Board and NFL YET Center, a youth program sponsored by the football league. During the campaign, Hart spoke of her district’s “struggles and the needs,” highlighting the demand for better schools and access to health care, and better services for the elderly and disadvantaged families. Today, Hart lists education as her No. 1 priority. No. 2? “Addressing the raiding of the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund,” she said. As a member of the Ways & Means Committee, Hart would seem well positioned to advance both goals. She promises to maintain “cordial” relationships with the lobbying corps but reserves the right to say “No.” While she has been named one of her party’s floor leaders, the same goes for fellow Democrats. “Our caucus is the most diverse the state of Florida has ever seen, and with that will come ideas that I both agree and disagree with, and I can always say no,” Hart said. And how does Hart hope to achieve her goals in the face of the recent constitutional amendment requiring supermajority votes in the House and Senate to raise taxes? “First, we must start collecting our taxes from internet sales,” she said. “And I would also ask my Republican colleagues the same question.”


“My drive to get involved as an advocate is rooted in my personal experiences as a working-class daughter of immigrants from Iran.” Anna Eskamani | 28 Anna Eskamani is painfully aware that the personal is political. She learned it firsthand as her Iranian refugee mother struggled in vain to secure visas that would have allowed her sisters to travel to the United States. “My drive to get involved as an advocate is rooted in my personal experiences as a working-class daughter of immigrants from Iran,” Eskamani told Florida Politics. “This, coupled with a deep passion to support and empower others, is what motivated me to run for office as a first-time candidate in 2018.” At 28, Eskamani belongs to a brash new generation that rose to elective office in November. The veteran activist for reproductive rights and expanding health care flipped the GOP-leaning District 47, which includes Winter Park, Edgewood and Belle Isle. To get there, she raised $523,000 from more than 4,000 individual donors. “My intent is to be as transparent as possible, and keep our constituents engaged every step of the way,” she said. Did we say “brash”? When her Republican opposition sent mailers attacking Eskamani for using profane language, she wore the condemnation as a badge of honor. “Yes, I am a woman who curses,” she wrote in a piece for Florida Politics. “But no, I am not what’s wrong with politics today. I am the sum of those around me, a facilitator for change, a challenger of the status quo, and someone who is damn ready to serve the great people of Florida State House District 47.” Now that she’s in Tallahassee, she hasn’t wavered from her commitment to constituent service. As far as lawmaking, she’s hoping to expand health care access, enhance public schools, protect the environment, support innovation, reduce gun violence and fight for equality. Eskamani struck out on her favored committee assignments. What she got were seats on the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs; Oversight, Transparency & Public Management; and PreK-12 Quality; and Ways & Means committees. “Though I did not receive the appointments that reflected my requests, I am eager to get to work on the committees I have been assigned to,” she said. “I offer a fresh perspective of a legislator who does her homework and isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions or make courageous decisions.” Regarding the minority caucus, she looks forward to “doing my part to inspire bold leadership on issues that matter the most to everyday Floridians.” About taxing and spending: Eskamani wants to make sure the state spends money efficiently and collects all the tax money it’s due — including for online commerce. 118 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, speaks during the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meeting

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“The governments that did not allow freedom were also miserable places to live in economic terms.” Mike Beltran | 34

Mike Beltran was just a kid when the Berlin Wall came down, but now he says that when “the big government authoritarian policies of the Warsaw Pact countries were finally being rejected by the people,” it made an impression. It seemed clear to him even then that “the governments that did not allow freedom were also miserable places to live in economic terms,” he said. “Socialism and big government were finally being rejected in Eastern Europe and even the U.S. and U.K.,” under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It set him on a conservative political path that led to his election last fall as the Florida House member for the 57th District, representing a big share of Hillsborough County. “I believe in limited government, separation of powers, regulatory restraint, religious freedom, and an independent judiciary that stays within its sphere,” Beltran told Florida Politics. Beltran, 34, was born in New York City and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. He served a federal judicial clerkship and stints at litigation powerhouses Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Boies Schiller Flexner, and today runs Beltran Litigation P.A. Given Beltran’s experience, House leadership rewarded his request for a seat on the Judiciary Committee. Beltran lives in Lithia with his wife, Hope, and their two children. The Eagle Scout’s House biography lists his kicks as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, distance running, poker, reading, sports, target shooting, travel, weightlifting and wrestling. He ran for the House “because I believe that decisions by the Legislature profoundly impact the quality of life of millions of Floridians. I thought this would allow me do the most possible good.”


Mike Beltran, R-Lithia, listens during a Health Quality Subcommittee meeting.

“Although I am always willing and interested to hear from all sides of a matter, I can and will say ‘no’ to lobbyists if their proposals are not good for my constituents or do not align with my values,” he said. Same goes for his Republican colleagues and his campaign donors. “I believe that my values align with my caucus and leadership. Again, I am always willing to listen to each side of a matter. At the end of the day, however, I represent my constituents, who ultimately decide who will represent them.” Beltran hasn’t spent a lot of time in the state capital, “but I have enjoyed my visits and have a good working knowledge of the town.” He is perfectly willing to live within the new supermajority threshold for approving tax increases. “As I said during my campaign, I do not believe tax increases are necessary, and I will oppose them,” Beltran said.

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i r e p x Peak E When He’s Not Lobbying, Florida Chamber’s David Hart Adventures on the World’s Highest Mountains by rosanne dunkelberger

David Hart atop the summit of Mount Vinson in Antartica, where the sun never sets in the summer.




ight now, he’s hard at work roaming the halls of the Capitol advocating for the legislative agenda of The Florida Chamber, but two months ago, Executive Vice President David Hart was on top of the bottom of the world. At the summit of Mount Vinson, the tallest peak in Antarctica, to be exact. This Florida native has had climbing adventures on six of the Seven Summits — the tallest mountains on each of the world’s continents. He has his sights set on the ultimate climbing challenge, Mount Everest, in 2020. At just over 16,000 feet high (Everest tops 29,000), Mount Vinson is the “least-climbed of the Seven Summits because of its remote location,” Hart said. He took five flights to get there, including a four-anda-half-hour hop on a Russian plane from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Antarctica. Another flight in an Twin Otter plane fitted with skis was required to get them to the base camp, where Hart and his group of 10 climbers and three guides would spend the next eight days. “We were on our own,” he said. “Our guide had a satellite phone, but that’s it. It keeps you very focused on the climb.”


David Hart and his fellow climbers landed on the Union Glacier and enjoyed some R&R before beginning their trek up Mount Vinson the highest peak in Antartica’s Ellsworth Mountains. The mountain is the coldest and driest of the Seven Summits. It was summertime when the group was at Mount Vinson, just 660 miles from the South Pole, but temperatures can range between -10 to -25 degrees, and they can drop precipitously to -50 during wind and severe storms. Hart said the sun was shining and there was almost no wind on his summiting day, Jan. 9. His group, which included climbers from around the world, was the only team on the summit. “It was a special experience,” he said. “One for which I will always be grateful.” One might wonder what motivates a native of Floridia, where the highpoint is 345 feet above sea level (Britton Hill, north of Defuniak Springs near the Alabama border), to tackle the world’s highest peaks. Hart said he has always led an active lifestyle — growing up he enjoyed camping, scouting and hiking, including on many segments of the Appalachian Trail. At 29, he took up running and considers himself “in pretty good shape.” He also lifts weights and practices yoga. He had a dream of climbing Mount Whitney the highest peak in the continental United States, and because he’s “a dreamer, but also a doer,” he and two friends made the trek. In 2013, he and a childhood friend climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and Hart realized he had just checked off one of the Seven Summits. Between 2014 and 2018, he would climb Aconcagua (South America), Elbrus (Europe), Denali (North America) and Kosciuszko (Australia). The latter is a mere 7,310 feet, but for Hart it was made all the more special because he was accompanied by his son, Hayden, who had just graduated high school. Daughter Savannah is getting a trip for her graduation after the Legislative Session. She and her father will spend 33 days making the Camino de Santiago


pilgrimage in Spain. Speaking of family, Hart give props to his wife, Jill, for letting him leave home, sometimes for weeks at a time, to do his mountaineering — within reason. The dangers of Mount Everest are legendary, and the couple compromised. Hart could climb the behemoth, but only to the base camp — which still sits at a respectable 17,600 feet. It typically takes eight days to get there. In fact, Hart was not able to actually summit two mountains. He was felled by the flu part way up Aconcagua. On Denali, he and his group were stalled by vicious storms near the summit for four days, and they had to descend when winds of 80 mph were forecast. While many of his fellow climbers are from higher altitudes and climb the Rockies on weekends — not to mention most are 20 years his junior — Hart is not cowed. “It makes me train a little extra hard,” said the 54-year-old. That training begins four months before a trip and usually includes treadmill walking wearing a backpack with increasing elevation. He took one mountaineering guide’s advice and took eightmile hikes on a dirt road near his home wearing the backpack and dragging a 50-pound tire. In his job as a lobbyist for The Florida Chamber, “it important to me to be engaged in a meaningful way in making sure Florida is the best place to live, work, play, and prosper and can compete with anywhere on the planet,” he said. “But, I am equally passionate about seeking adventure, exploring our world and pushing myself in athletic endeavors. “The Legislative Session and climbing mountains both take focus, teamwork, preparation and endurance,” he continued. “Sometimes you experience triumph and sometimes you have to be patient and wait for another day. As different as they sound, perhaps they are a lot alike.”




FACESof MICHAEL by rosanne dunkelberger photos: mark wallheiser

Rebecca Adkisson, and her husband stand in front of what’s left of their home in Mexico Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Michael.




TOP LEFT: Mike Danner gobbles down a quick sandwich while he waits for a wind insurance inspector in front of his damaged home in Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael. TOP RIGHT: Wanda Walker talks with a FEMA representative outside City Hall in Mexico Beach. BOTTOM LEFT: Teri and Bryan Leverett stand in the kitchen of their home in Southport, 20 miles inland from Panama City Beach, where they’re still living in a hotel months after Hurricane Michael made landfall. BOTTOM MIDDLE: Charles Smith stands next to what used to be his Gulf View Motel in Mexico Beach. BOTTOM RIGHT: Erin Crawson, inside her townhouse in Mexico Beach.




TOP LEFT: Tim and Ramona Moseley at their home. The couple has been assisted by Feeding America. BOTTOM LEFT: Faith Bostick, 79, with her water-damaged Bible inside her Mexico Beach home. BOTTOM RIGHT: Toni Gainer with donations from Feeding America that she’s distributing. RIGHT: Jacqueline “Jackie” Jackson, with 8-year-old granddaughter Kanyla McDonald, talking about Hurricane Michael and being served by Feeding America.



TOP: Clark Smith, right, talks with Matt Putnam, left, and Jesse Bailey, with the Greenhills Fountain Volunteer Fire Department, after he made a Christmas Eve delivery of 1,000 “hoodie” sweat jackets that Smith’s group donated. BOTTOM: Photographer Mark Wallheiser on October 16, 2018, in Mexico Beach.


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What I’ve Learned

Mike Abrams 59, Miami Lobbyist, Former Lawmaker, Political Mentor, Longtime Advocate for Jackson Memorial Hospital AS TOLD TO RYAN NICOL

Former Democratic lawmaker-turned-lobbyist Mike Abrams may have the Florida Legislature in his rearview mirror. But Abrams continues to make an impact on the political scene, not only through his lobbying work, but also by mentoring several South Florida lawmakers now on the rise, both Democrats and Republicans alike. Jeanette Nuñez, who was chosen to be Ron DeSantis’ Lieutenant Governor, is an Abrams acolyte. State Reps. Vance Aloupis, Bryan Avila, Javier Fernandez, and Abrams’ son-inlaw, Nick Duran, also were mentored in part by the former lawmaker. Count Democratic fundraisers Jon Adrabi and Courtney Whitney in that group as well, along with former GOP state Rep. Jose “Pepi” Diaz. Abrams talked about his political career, his continuing influence on the Florida political scene, and the current political climate in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. ON JFK’S INFLUENCE ON HIS POLITICAL ASPIRATIONS: When I was really, really young, I was motivated and captivated by John Kennedy. It piqued my interest when he was running for president. I was all of 12 years old. But I got captivated by the campaign, followed it closely and went to rallies. Then when he was assassinated, it just impacted me. A lot of people that are my age and involved in politics will tell you the same story. His assassination had a traumatizing impact on us in a way that motivated us to want to get involved and try to continue some of the ideas and the legacy that we thought he had left.


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

I think all of us are measured, in part, no matter what profession you’re in, by how you empower other people, and if you empower other people. SPRING 2019 INFLUENCE | 137

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ON HIS PATH THROUGH THE POLITICAL WORLD: I ran for class office and student body president at the University of Miami. In the ’70s, a bunch of us took over the Dade County Democratic Party and took over the state Democratic Party. I did that through most of the ’70s and then ran for the Legislature myself in 1982, served 12 years and then departed from The Pro-

cess. Then, I was in investment banking and it somehow morphed into lobbying. That seems to happen whether you intend it to or not (laughs). It was never my intention to go into lobbying when I left the Legislature. But somehow, some clients started to come my way and investment banking was becoming a very difficult business at the time. So I made the transition.

ON WHETHER LOBBYISTS HAVE TOO MUCH INFLUENCE: When I look at … problems in our political system, I look at things like Citizens United, the decline of the media, and term limits as systemic issues that have led to a decline in quality of public officeholders. And when you have that, who’s going to fill the vacuum? Well, people like lobbyists do. So maybe the way politics has developed the last 20 or 30 years has allowed lobbyists’ influence to increase. ON HIS WORK WITH JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: When I was in the Legislature, I passed the half-penny sales tax for Jackson. Before I was elected to the Legislature, I was on the Jackson Board for a year. So there’s a long history of involvement in Jackson. Jackson is a consuming sort of institution. It’s so important to the community to providing the safety net of health care to so many people, and its mission is so encompassing and so important, that you don’t want to fail. You can’t fail in trying to achieve whatever their legislative or political objectives are because you’ve literally got people’s health care at stake.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

ON HIS WORK WITH FLORIDA’S NEW LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: I would say our relationship and our friendship developed when she was at Jackson. I had been a longtime supporter first, and now lobbyist of Jackson. It has been my primary community interest with the University of Miami through my entire adult life. When Jeanette came over to Jackson, we worked very closely at the federal and state level. We spent a lot of time together discussing the nitty-gritty of health care policy. She’s getting rave reviews, but she deserves them. She’s a high-quality person and really an amazing individual.

It’s so important to the community to providing the safety net of health care to so many people, and its mission is so encompassing and so important, that you don’t want to fail. 138 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

ON GETTING PEPI DIAZ HIS FIRST JOB OUT OF LAW SCHOOL: From the first time I knew Pepi, I knew he was a powerful personality. He was just a brilliant, charismatic guy. He went to Columbia Law School, and when I went to New York, we would catch up and have lunch. And then when he graduated law school, I was at Akerman [LLP], and I went to the people at Akerman and said, “We’ve got to get this guy. He’s going to be a superstar.” So I brought him over to Akerman, and they did something they never did before, which is give someone who just graduated law school an offer the same day they interviewed him. I’ll never forget it. He made the rounds through Akerman. And then the managing partner brought him back to my office and said,

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ON HOW TO BREAK THROUGH THE CURRENT POLITICAL DIVIDES: I’m still trying to get my arms around how we’ve had this disintegration of political norms. So I feel like almost anything I say is going to sound trite. But we’ve got to somehow eliminate the toxicity and the tribalism that exists in our political environment and our political institutions. This notion that we’re at war with each other because we have political differences — it’s so destructive to the country. And it’s also ungratifying if you’re serving, because what you really remember about serving in public life is, like everything else, the relationships you develop. If you’re automatically barred from establishing relationships because people are in a different party, so it doesn’t look good to socialize with them, I think it takes away from the quality of serving. I think it’s changing in the Democratic Party too now. We’re starting to see people that feel that they’ve got to be in full battle mode all the time with people of the other party and that’s the way things are. If you don’t pass a litmus test on issues and the way you behave with the other party, then it’s not acceptable. So it’s not just confined to one party. It’s infected both parties now.

“Mike, keep him here. We want to give him an offer today.” ON DIAZ’S ORIGINS AS A LAWMAKER: It just seemed logical to take Pepi up to Tallahassee. He was interested in politics, interested in government. So I took him up for a session as a lobbyist. He didn’t really like it. So my view was, OK, this just isn’t his cup of tea. He’s going to be a land use lawyer, and that was that. But what he did like was the idea of being a policymaker. So he ran and, naturally, I did everything I could to help him, even though I’m a Democrat. He was going to run in a Republican district. And yeah, [elections are] about party, but it’s also about, most importantly, getting quality people in the process. ON THE SHOCK OF SEEING HIS SON-IN-LAW JOIN THE LEGISLATURE: Of all these guys, the last guy I ever thought would be a legislator was Nick. I was probably the most surprised person on the planet when he told me that the party was recruiting him to run. I kind of went, “What?!” But listen, he’s a great legislator. He really is. I think that everybody would say that he’s an excellent legislator. I don’t think he’s as good at the nitty-gritty of politics as I was at his age. But he picked up the legislative process a lot quicker than I did. ON WHY HE REACHES OUT TO UP-AND-COMERS IN THE POLITICAL SCENE: To me, that’s the most important question. I think a lot of it comes from trying to build the [Democratic] Party. When you’re trying to build a party or build an organization, you want to build something that outlasts you. When you serve in the Legislature, you want to leave it behind to people that you think are going to be competent to serve the state well. I think all of us are measured, in part, no matter what profession you’re in, by how you empower other people, and if you empower other people. For me, that’s just a very gratifying thing. 140 | INFLUENCE SPRING 2019

ON WHY STATE POLITICS ARE MORE PRODUCTIVE: Things are never as bad at the state level as they are at the national level. I think it’s because it’s a more intimate environment at the state, and also because the stakes are lower. These trends always develop and start at the national level first. I always used to say about the Legislature: in one sense it’s like going to summer camp. Everybody goes up there for 60 days and it’s intense and you’re with each other all the time. So it creates a little bit of an intimacy that makes it hard to depersonalize how you deal with people. And in a lot of ways, the state issues are less partisan by nature, in comparison to the national issues. You have more issues of the nuts and bolts of how you’re going to deal with things. How are you going to put teachers in the classrooms? How are you going to build roads? How are you going to pay for prisons? You’ve got to balance the budget by law. So there are just things you’ve got to get done. ON CITIZENS’ ROLE IN IMPROVING THE POLITICAL DISCOURSE: What people have to do is be more discriminating about how they gather information and they interpret and discern sources of information. They have to remember that there’s no personal substitute for human interaction. Texting and online giving isn’t being an activist. It’s all important, but there’s no substitute for human interaction in the process. The technology is a great thing, but we’re learning it’s a trap also. It’s a double-edged sword. By the way, it’s so new that we don’t really understand all the implications of it yet. It’s changing so rapidly. I love what it gives us in the way of convenience. But on a macro scale, in terms of human relationships, it might be a disaster. ON HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN POLITICS: It goes back to that issue of getting engaged in a very personal way at some level in your community. You don’t have to go to a great school. You don’t have to come from great wealth. You don’t have to have any of those things that maybe used to be barriers to serve. But you still have to be willing to jump into the arena at some level in a very direct, human way. Pick an organization. Pick a cause. Pick a party. There are so many vehicles out there that are available to get engaged. Support a campaign. See what that’s like.


The Big Question





“I’m going to Disney World! Seriously, I’m a seasonal bartender at Walt Disney World and will be spending a few days making magic (and money).”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I understand the question. I’m familiar with the word ‘spring’ — the few weeks between unbearable cold and unbearable heat — but what does the word ‘break’ mean?”

MARC DUNBAR, DEAN MEAD “With three boys playing baseball across the Southeast, what do you think? Peanuts, hot dogs, and a healthy dose of Xanax and Zantac to ease the nerves and calm my baseball ulcer.”


“I am excited to be heading to Palm Springs, California, before Session for an early spring break.”

BRAD SWANSON, FLORIDA INTERNET & TELEVISION “I’ll have the pleasure of working with 160 Senators and Representatives in the 2019 Legislative Session.”


“What Spring Break? It’s an oddnumbered year, so I’m planning on lounging next to my pool, mojito in hand, listening to the soothing sounds of Lobby Tools updates hitting my phone.”



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