Saturday, February 18, 2017

Both Senators target Apalachicola water standards in letter to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Stunning legal malpractice by Florida AG PAM BONDI and outside law firms, led by LATHAM & WATKINS partner Gregory W. Garre led to special master concluding Florida failed to join USACE as an indispensable party in its lawsuit against Georgia. Thanks to our U.S. Senators for trying to clean up after the disgraceful waste of tens of millions of dollars on legal fees by AG PAM BONDI, who let us down and failed to protect our water resources from the wastrels in the City of Atlanta. Not one word of criticism from two lawyer-senators of the special master recommendation. They know he's right -- failure to join USACE as an indispensable party was a stunning act of legal malpractice. Who will sue?

Rubio, Nelson target Apalachicola water standards
By Lloyd Dunkelberger, News Service of Florida
Updated: 7:58 PM, February 17, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Following an adverse legal decision, Florida's two U.S. senators have joined forces to urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not finalize water-control standards for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.

The joint letter from Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general and chief for the Corps in Washington, D.C., came after a special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court recommended that Florida be denied relief in its claim that overconsumption of water in Georgia is damaging the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay in Florida.

"While we do not agree with his final recommendation, the special master correctly points out that Florida has indeed suffered real harm due to Georgia's unrestrained overconsumption of water," Nelson and Rubio wrote in the letter. "The master's report also emphasizes the need for the Army Corps to reevaluate its position with respect to the impacts on the Apalachicola River and Bay."

Florida's two senators urged the Corps not to finalize what is known as a “water control manual” for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system and instead "ensure these decisions are based on sound science and take into account the recommendations of relevant experts at the federal agencies and the very lengthy trial record."

"The master has credited the testimony of Florida's experts on the ecological harms to our state and to fail to consider all of this new information would violate both the spirit and the letter of the National Environmental Policy Act," the senators said.

Nelson and Rubio said the failure of Georgia and the Corps to adopt "meaningful limitations" on water use in the river system has damaged the ecology and economy of the Apalachicola Bay area.

"Last year, the ACF river basin was named the most endangered in the country," the senators said. "Apalachicola Bay used to produce plentiful oysters, but due to reduced water flows, is no longer a productive ecosystem."

Florida filed a lawsuit against Georgia in 2013, alleging that Georgia diverts too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin. The Supreme Court appointed Special Master Ralph Lancaster, a Maine lawyer, to hear arguments and make a recommendation for how the court should address the issue.

The senators noted the special master's report found "there is little question that Florida has suffered harm from decreased flows" into the Apalachicola River and that water consumption by Georgia's agriculture industry has gone "largely unrestrained."

Nelson and Rubio also noted the special master emphasized the role of the Corps in managing the water system. In fact, Lancaster said he could not find an equitable settlement of water use between Florida and Georgia without the Corps' participation, while noting the Corps was not a party in the lawsuit.

"It is imperative that the Army Corps take into account the special master's findings,"” Florida's senators said. "A matter as important as the health and financial well-being of an entire ecosystem deserves deep scrutiny."

Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican whose district includes Apalachicola Bay, also called on the Corps to suspend the possibility of allowing more water use in Georgia until the federal agency meets with Florida officials and others to discuss the impact of the court report.

ILLEGAL LOBBYING: Did our ex-Senator, FSU President JOHN THRASHER, violate lobby ban? (Naples News/Tallahassee Democrat)

Will JOHN THRA$HER be arrested for illegal lobbying?  Read article below.  St. Johns County's erstwhile rebarbative reprobate Republican State Senator, JOHN THRASHER, founded a lobbying firm called "Southern Strategy," yes the same name given to Nixon's pandering to racists and racism.  THRA$HER got rich as a lobbyist.  Big rich. Filthy rich.  He represented St. Johns County in the Senate, using a pied a terre as his "residence" when he really lived in a 5000 square foot home in Fleming Island.  THRA$GER was Speaker of the Flori-DUH House of Representatives, term-limited, then came back as our so-called Senator.  THRA$HER was Republican Party Chair, ran Governor Scott's reelection campaign,  got re-elected, then got Scott to name him President of Florida State University, where he also teaches law.

THRA$HER was barred from lobbying for two years.  He broke the law.  As a State Senator, Wikipedia reports, lawyer THRA$HER was Chairman of the Rules Committee and the Vice-Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations. Additionally, he served on the Budget, Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations, Community Affairs, Judiciary, Reapportionment, Regulated Industries, and Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections.

Enter MARK HERRON, louche Democratic lawyer, who fouled up Al Gore's election contest litigation (suing to block the soldier vote -- bad PR, while doing nothing on 27,000 uncounted votes in Jacksonville.  MARK HERRON makes his living representing alleged ethics violators, getting rich on sleaze like RANDY BRUNSON, who got free rent on his campaign HQ from hotelier KANTI PATEL (yes, that KANTI PATEL, the varmint who wants to delete underground parking from his proposed MARRIOTT RENAISSANCE HOTEL at San Marco & Castillo).

HERRON has a quote at the end of this article that expresses the ethically impaired milieu of the foul fetid sewer that is Tallahassee under one-party Republican rule -- he actually defends THRASHER: with hauteur ignoring the law on lobbying by ex-legislators, HERRON emits an unctuous ukase:  "'You need to consider the job of a university president would be to raise money,'” said Herron. "Then you’ve got to think if he’s representing FSU by lobbying or if he’s just acting as the president.”

Foornote: Trashy THRA$ER ran for re-election in 2014 knowing he would be FSU President created a vacancy, for which two state representatives ran (Travis Hutson was elected, defeating Ronald Renuart, M.D., who illegally campaigned for re-election with video from him walking in St. Augustine National Cemetery with Ray Quinn, the former Chief of Protocol and Command Sergeant Major of the Florida National Guard, a former County Commissioner -- both should have known campaigning in a national cemetery was low-class, asinine and illegal).    So at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, there were three (3) by-elections in 2015, electing Senator Hutson (R-HUTSON DEVELOPMENT), Cyndi Stevenson, and carpetbagger PAUL RENNER, a Jacksonville resident.


Did FSU President John Thrasher violate lobby ban?
Arek Sarkissian ,;
1:41 p.m. ET
Feb. 17, 2017

TALLAHASSEE - Florida State University President John Thrasher's push for a special law school appropriation includes a 2015 form with Thrasher named as the requester and dated before the former senator's ban on lobbying expired, records show.

Thrasher denies he unlawfully lobbied the Legislature for the $1 million a year, and said he's been careful to follow the rules as FSU president. But one gun rights group accused him of violating the ban during last year's legislative session when Thrasher opposed a failed plan to allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry handguns on campus.

The $1 million, tucked away secretly in this year's $82.3 billion state budget, is among the special lawmaker requests that have surfaced in a battle between House and Senate leaders over how to write the spending plan. Thrasher's name also was on another secret appropriation for the engineering college.

The Naples Daily News reported Sunday that lawmakers over the past seven years hid nearly $315 million for their projects into state budgets, hiding them in the billions they give to universities to operate with the understanding that this is extra money for special purposes.

Thrasher said his request for $1 million each year for FSU's law school was to pay for more scholarships and faculty. The request bearing Thrasher's name and his university title was dated Dec. 4, 2015, less than a year into a state mandate banning the former senator from asking for money from the Legislature for two years. The contact listed on the form is Kathleen Daly, who served at the time as the university's lobbyist.

The College of Engineering shared by FSU and Florida A&University also received $2 million in a one-time secret appropriation that lists Thrasher as the requester on a form also dated Dec. 4, 2015 with Daly identified as the contact, records show. FAMU President Elmira Mangum's name was not included on the form.

The Florida Commission on Ethics has said former legislators can visit the Capitol when invited. Cases from the ethics commission cite examples of allowable activities during the visits such as providing lawmakers with specific information or appearing before a legislative committee.

But asking for money, a form of lobbying, is strictly forbidden, according to a 2009 opinion written by the nine-member ethics commission.

"Former members are prohibited from representing, for compensation, another person or entity, be it public or private, before the Legislature for a period of two years following their leaving office," the opinion states, paraphrasing the actual ban listed in the state Constitution.

When asked last week about his special request for FSU, Thrasher said the law school needed the money to compete against other law schools in the region. He said he asked Sen. Joe Negron to include money in the budget.

"I had asked my old friend, Sen. Joe Negron, to come pay a visit to the law school," Thrasher said. "He saw the things that we're doing over there."

State Senate President Joe Negron

Negron, in turn, sent Thrasher to Sen. Bill Montford, a Democrat whose legislative district includes FSU.

But when asked later if this request violated the state law that forbids former lawmakers for a two-year period from lobbying the Legislature, Thrasher said he confused the years that he made the request. He said he made the request to Negron in 2014 while he was a senator. Thrasher left his senate position in September 2014 to become FSU president.

Thrasher said he did not violate the lobbying ban, and he only visited the Capitol at the invitation of lawmakers requesting information.

“I took the lobbying ban seriously, and, with the help of my team, I was careful not to violate it," Thrasher said. "We were responsive to legislators when they requested to speak with me. I visited the Capitol only when I was invited by legislators, and I provided information only when asked.

"I have a very good lobbyist in Kathleen Daly, and she and I made sure that all rules were followed,” he said.

Only one other university president is listed as a requester in dozens of special budget requests for universities included in this year's budget. Republican Sen. Lizabeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers submitted a request with Florida Gulf Coast University President Wilson Bradshaw listed as the requester. FGCU received the $2.8 million secret appropriation to develop new academic degrees.

All other university requests list the lobbyist or another representative on the form as the requester.

Also, other university requests that Montford filed did not list a president as the requester. Montford, for example, earmarked $3 million for Florida A&University's campus in Brooksville, at the request of the university's director of government relations, Tola Thompson.

A copy of Thrasher's university calendar shows he paid visits to Negron and the state Capitol in the months before Montford completed the FSU forms. A Nov. 2, 2015, entry in the calendar notes a meeting with Negron at his office. Another entry for Dec. 2, 2015 was to attend the Senate Chamber ceremony for Negron's ascension to senate president. That same night, Thrasher planned to attend a private celebration for Negron at a venue east of Tallahassee, according to the calendar obtained through a public records request.

Thrasher did not respond to questions about the purpose of the 2015 meetings with Negron.

Negron, R-Stuart, said he followed state law when inviting Thrasher to the Capitol for his November and December visits. Daly joined Thrasher as the university's lobbyist for Negron's chamber ceremony, according to Thrasher's calendar.

Negron said Thrasher took great care not to violate the law. Negron could not recall the topic of his November 2015 meeting with Thrasher.

"President Thrasher is my ally and a friend and someone who I've looked to for advice throughout my career," Negron said. "And I'll say he never lobbied during the ban and for that matter, out of an abundance of caution, he doesn't lobby now."

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, President of Florida Assn of School Supts.

Montford, in an interview last week, initially recalled being asked by Thrasher to set aside the law school cash. But when asked Thursday about the request, Montford said he misspoke by saying Thrasher requested the special money.

"Since he has been gone, he has been very careful not to come to me about any lobbying," Montford said. "His lobbyist has, but John Thrasher has never asked me anything."

The Legislature also gave $1 million for scholarships and salaries to the FSU law school in the 2015 budget. That money would have been added to the budget during the spring 2014 legislative session. Thrasher, then an influential chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, could have filed his own request for the law school cash. But he said he asked Montford instead to handle it.

Thrasher, through spokesman Dennis Schnittker, said he asked Montford to handle the request because his district includes the university and Montford served on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"The Florida Senate is a very collegial body and they help each other," Schnittker said.

However, there are no documents corroborating that request, according to Negron's staff.

Negron, who was then chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, recalled Thrasher working on the request with Montford.

"I believe projects like this should come from lawmakers who can tell me their ideas, and not just submit a form," Negron said. "I distinctly recall adding this into the budget after discussing with them."

The FSU law school did not get the $1 million requested for scholarships and faculty salaries in the 2016 budget. A letter dated Feb. 9, 2015, sent by then Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Don Gaetz and Vice Chairman Montford, asked Thrasher to explain why the university should receive the money. Now-former FSU law school Dean Don Weidner responded with a lengthy overview of how the money was spent, which included awarding more scholarships and two professors who specialize in the areas of environment and finance.

"In short, we have spent the money as we promised," Weidner wrote.

On an unrelated matter, gun rights groups accused Thrasher of violating the lobbying ban during last legislative session. Florida Carry lobbyist Eric J. Friday said he believes Thrasher urged lawmakers not to pass a bill allowing concealed weapon permit holders to carry a gun on university campuses.

"Florida Carry absolutely believes he was engaged in lobbying during his two years after the senate,” Friday said.

The 2009 state ethics case that says former lawmakers are prohibited from lobbying as heads of public institutions was brought by former House Rep. Joe H. Pickens, who was appointed as president of St. Johns River State College less than two years after he left public office. Previous rulings allowed former lawmakers to avoid the ban if they accept appointed positions in public offices, but the ethics commission reversed that stance for Pickens.

"Which, you try to do the right thing, I brought this case to them to be absolutely clear and they decide to change their minds," Pickens said. "But it was the law, so I laid low for those two years until the ban was over."

Pickens said even with the ban, his name and title came up on requests his college made for money.

"Can I say my name didn't ever show up on a document or if I never signed something? No, but that doesn't mean I did any lobbying," said Pickens, whose college is within the senate district Thrasher served.

Tallahassee ethics lawyer Mark Herron, the former state ethics commission chairman, said it's not clear if Thrasher's actions amounted to lobbying and, therefore, violated state law. The ethics statute defines a lobbyist as “a person who is employed and receives payment, or who contracts for economic consideration, for the purpose of lobbying, or a person who is principally employed for governmental affairs by another person or governmental entity to lobby on behalf of that other person or governmental entity.”

“You need to consider the job of a university president would be to raise money,” said Herron. "Then you’ve got to think if he’s representing FSU by lobbying or if he’s just acting as the president.”


Less oxygen in oceans threatens life on Earth (Washington Post)

Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate
By Chris Mooney
February 15
Washington Post

Big waves generated by the Nazare canyon just off the coast of Nazare, central Portugal, in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. (Francisco Leong/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.

The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010. The loss, however, showed up in some ocean basins more than others. The largest overall volume of oxygen was lost in the largest ocean — the Pacific — but as a percentage, the decline was sharpest in the Arctic Ocean, a region facing Earth’s most stark climate change.

The loss of ocean oxygen “has been assumed from models, and there have been lots of regional analysis that have shown local decline, but it has never been shown on the global scale, and never for the deep ocean,” said Schmidtko, who conducted the research with Lothar Stramma and Martin Visbeck, also of GEOMAR.

Ocean oxygen is vital to marine organisms, but also very delicate — unlike in the atmosphere, where gases mix together thoroughly, in the ocean that is far harder to accomplish, Schmidtko explained. Moreover, he added, just 1 percent of all the Earth’s available oxygen mixes into the ocean; the vast majority remains in the air.

Climate change models predict the oceans will lose oxygen because of several factors. Most obvious is simply that warmer water holds less dissolved gases,  including oxygen. “It’s the same reason we keep our sparkling drinks pretty cold,” Schmidtko said.

But another factor is the growing stratification of ocean waters. Oxygen enters the ocean at its surface, from the atmosphere and from the photosynthetic activity of marine microorganisms. But as that upper layer warms up, the oxygen-rich waters are less likely to mix down into cooler layers of the ocean because the warm waters are less dense and do not sink as readily.

“When the upper ocean warms, less water gets down deep, and so therefore, the oxygen supply to the deep ocean is shut down or significantly reduced,” Schmidtko said.

The new study represents a synthesis of literally “millions” of separate ocean measurements over time, according to GEOMAR. The authors then used interpolation techniques for areas of the ocean where they lacked measurements.

The resulting study attributes less than 15 percent of the total oxygen loss to sheer warmer temperatures, which create less solubility. The rest was attributed to other factors, such as a lack of mixing.

Matthew Long, an oceanographer from the National Center for Atmospheric Research who has published on ocean oxygen loss, said he considers the new results “robust” and a “major advance in synthesizing observations to examine oxygen trends on a global scale.”

Long was not involved in the current work, but his research had previously demonstrated that ocean oxygen loss was expected to occur and that it should soon be possible to demonstrate that in the real world through measurements, despite the complexities involved in studying the global ocean and deducing trends about it.

That’s just what the new study has done.

“Natural variations have obscured our ability to definitively detect this signal in observations,” Long said in an email. “In this study, however, Schmidtko et al. synthesize all available observations to show a global-scale decline in oxygen that conforms to the patterns we expect from human-driven climate warming. They do not make a definitive attribution statement, but the data are consistent with and strongly suggestive of human-driven warming as a root cause of the oxygen decline.

“It is alarming to see this signal begin to emerge clearly in the observational data,” he added.

“Schmidtko and colleagues’ findings should ring yet more alarm bells about the consequences of global warming,” added Denis Gilbert, a researcher with the Maurice Lamontagne Institute at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Quebec, in an accompanying commentary on the study also published in Nature.

Because oxygen in the global ocean is not evenly distributed, the 2 percent overall decline means there is a much larger decline in some areas of the ocean than others.

Moreover, the ocean already contains so-called oxygen minimum zones, generally found in the middle depths. The great fear is that their expansion upward, into habitats where fish and other organism thrive, will reduce the available habitat for marine organisms.

In shallower waters, meanwhile, the development of ocean “hypoxic” areas, or so-called “dead zones,” may also be influenced in part by declining oxygen content overall.

On top of all of that, declining ocean oxygen can also worsen global warming in a feedback loop. In or near low oxygen areas of the oceans, microorganisms tend to produce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, Gilbert writes. Thus the new study “implies that production rates and efflux to the atmosphere of nitrous oxide … will probably have increased.”

The new study underscores once again that some of the most profound consequences of climate change are occurring in the oceans, rather than on land. In recent years, incursions of warm ocean water have caused large die-offs of coral reefs, and in some cases,  kelp forests  as well. Meanwhile, warmer oceans have also begun to destabilize glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, and as they melt, these glaciers freshen the ocean waters and potentially change the nature of their circulation.

When it comes to ocean deoxygenation, as climate change continues, this trend should also increase — studies suggest a loss of up to 7 percent of the ocean’s oxygen by 2100. At the end of the current paper, the researchers are blunt about the consequences of a continuing loss of oceanic oxygen.

“Far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems and fisheries can be expected,” they write.

Why researchers nearly doubled sea level rise estimates for the year 2100

Play Video1:13
If carbon emissions continue unabated, expanding oceans and massive ice melt would threaten global coastal communities, according to new projections. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Right whales disappearing?

Posted February 14, 2017 12:02 pm
St. Augustine Record
WHERE ARE THE RIGHT WHALES?: Surveyors have only spotted 3 calves in 2017

It looks like the North Atlantic right whales have abandoned Florida this season. That’s the conclusion of Jim Hain, program director of the Marineland Right Whale Project.

“The news from the Florida right whale calving and wintering ground is in, and it is not good,” Hain admits.

“Unlike the ‘old days’ prior to 2011 when nearly 200 right whales were reported from the coastal waters of southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida, in 2017, that number has dwindled to seven,” Hain said.

“Where scientists estimate about 25 calves might be born in a given year, in the 2016-2017 season, there have only been three so far. This has all occurred despite relatively good weather and good survey conditions,” Hain explained.

More than 100 volunteers began the right whale surveys at various lookouts along the beaches, after being trained in late December by Hain and Joy Hamp, program coordinator.


Despite the disheartening news, the search effort continues — with planes flown by three survey teams (Georgia Department of Natural Resources, St. Simons Island, Georgia; Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, St. Augustine; and the Marineland Right Whale Project, Marineland, Florida). In addition, a shore-based volunteer sighting network, the Marineland Right Whale Project and the Marine Resources Council, Palm Bay, Florida, continue their daily lookouts.

Hain, who is affiliated with the Associated Scientists at Woods Hole (Massachusetts), said scientists and volunteers alike are scratching their heads. “The changes that are occurring with the right whales have raised concern at the national level,” said Hain. “As Florida residents bask in unseasonably warm weather, questions arise: Are we seeing the effects of climate change?”

The Marineland Right Whale Project receives daily reports on sea and surface temperatures which confirm that the water is warmer this season, but Hain cautions that these temperatures changes have occurred in the past.

“While climate change may be a factor, so too may be cyclical temperature events,” said Hain.

And as his colleague Frank Bromling of Flagler Beach points out, “We have studied right whales for 30 years which is actually a short time in both whale and geological history.”

Analyses by scientists at the New England Aquarium of Boston and at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center indicate that after years of steady but slow population growth for the species, it has plateaued,” said Hain.

“Perhaps more worrisome, the species numbers may be exhibiting a decline,” Hain added. “The current best population estimate is 524.”

Scientists and managers will gather for a three-day workshop in Gloucester, Massachusetts, March 14-16, to address the issue and begin developing a path forward.

“Despite all of the gloom, there is always room for the unexpected,” said Hain who reminds beachgoers, mariners, fishermen, and volunteers to continue to scan the ocean.

“If and when a whale is sighted,” Hain pleaded, “please note time and location, photograph if you are able, and call toll-free 1-888-979-4253 (1-888-97-WHALE). And lastly, boaters and aviators should be aware of and respect the 500-yard approach rule of no approaches within this distance.”

Locally, whale watchers will continue their surveys through Feb. 26. Hamp will also survey the waters in an AirCam, a lightweight airplane that was designed for National Geographic to conduct wildlife surveys, at least once a week.

Essential seagrass beds dying at alarming rate (The New York Times)

Disappearing Seagrass Protects Against Pathogens, Even Climate Change, Scientists Find
Carl Zimmer
FEB. 16, 2017

Continue reading the main storyVideo

The Prairies Beneath the Sea

The Prairies Beneath the Sea
Seagrass is an underappreciated marine organism. New research shows how important it is to the health of the oceans, and people, too. By JOLEAH LAMB and ROBIN LINDSAY on Publish Date February 16, 2017. Photo by Reinhard Dirscherl/UllsteinBild, via Getty Images.

Every continent save Antarctica is ringed by vast stretches of seagrass, underwater prairies that together cover an area roughly equal to California.

Seagrass meadows, among the most endangered ecosystems on Earth, play an outsize role in the health of the oceans. They shelter important fish species, filter pollutants from seawater, and lock up huge amounts of atmosphere-warming carbon.

The plants also fight disease, it turns out. A team of scientists reported on Thursday that seagrasses can purge pathogens from the ocean that threaten humans and coral reefs alike. (The first hint came when the scientists were struck with dysentery after diving to coral reefs without neighboring seagrass.)

But the meadows are vanishing at a rate of a football field every 30 minutes. Joleah B. Lamb, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University and the lead author of the new study, said she hoped it would help draw attention to their plight.

“We call seagrass the ugly stepchild of marine organisms,” said Dr. Lamb. “They don’t get a lot of respect, compared to corals and mangroves.”

Seagrass first evolved tens of millions years ago, when some flowering plants moved from land into the ocean. They still grow flowers, pollen and seeds, but they now do so underwater, with a powerful form of photosynthesis that allows them to thrive in dim light at depths of up to 190 feet.

The sediment in which they grow is loaded with deadly hydrogen sulfide. They detoxify by pumping some of the oxygen they release during photosynthesis into their roots.

With these adaptations, seagrass meadows became more productive than today’s fertilized cornfields. As they spread across the planet, the meadows altered the sea floor, building soil and supporting entirely new ecosystems. Animals like manatees and juvenile fish took up residence.

“Killer whales are a big tourist attraction, but people probably don’t realize that seagrass beds are really important as nurseries for the fish that the salmon require, which the killer whales require,” said C. Drew Harvell, a marine biologist at Cornell University and senior author of the new study.

Humans depend on these nurseries, too. Many of the species harvested in commercial fisheries begin life in seagrass meadows. Without them, fishermen would catch far less, and make less money.

In 2014, University of Cambridge researchers studied seagrass meadows in southern Australia to estimate the value they bring to the fisheries industry. They estimate that each acre of seagrass  adds about $87,000 per year..

A school of fusiliers swimming over seagrass in the Indian Ocean. Credit Reinhard Dirscherl/UllsteinBild, via Getty Images

The plants also draw fertilizer runoff and other pollutants out of the water, locking them safely away in meadow soil. Scientists have estimated that an acre of seagrass provides more than $11,000 worth of filtering every year.

These services alone would make seagrass meadows among the most economically valuable ecosystems on Earth. But now Dr. Harvell, Dr. Lamb and their colleagues have found that these plants may help us in another way: by wiping out pathogens.

Their new study, published in the journal Science, began with a scuba diving trip in Indonesia. The scientists were inspecting coral reefs for infections with bacteria and fungi; some reefs are increasingly falling prey to these diseases.

“By the end of the four-day workshop, we all came down with amoebic dysentery,” recalled Dr. Harvell. “One scientist developed typhoid, and we had to ship her out.”

The experience left Dr. Harvell wondering if the illnesses of the scientists might somehow be connected to those of the reefs. “It just got me thinking about human health and environmental health and how they’re linked,” she said.

She discussed the idea with Dr. Lamb, who began to investigate.

Seagrass meadows can release so much oxygen that the surrounding water fizzes like champagne. That oxygen might be able to kill pathogens, Dr. Lamb realized. The plants also host fungi, which are known to producing bacteria-killing compounds.

Dr. Lamb and her colleagues decided to study sites around four islands in Indonesia with and without nearby seagrass. The scientists devised two strategies to search for pathogens.

In one survey, they collected seawater and put it in petri dishes to see if colonies of disease-causing bacteria known as Enterococcus grew from the samples. Levels of the bacteria in water from seagrass meadows, they found, were a third of the levels in water from other sites.

In a second search, the scientists grabbed fragments of DNA floating in seawater. By examining the sequences, they identified 18 kinds of disease-causing bacteria. Water from the seagrass meadows had only half the level of this DNA, compared with water collected at other sites.

The scientists next turned their attention to coral reefs around the islands. Reefs next to seagrass meadows, they found, were half as diseased as those without meadows.

Thorsten B. Reusch, a marine ecologist at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Germany who was not involved in the study, called it “truly fascinating and innovative.” He also warned that “it remains to be seen what the exact mechanisms of the pathogen removal are.”

Vast mixed-species seagrass meadows in front of a village in the Spermonde Archipelago, Indonesia.
Credit Joleah Lamb

Dr. Lamb and her colleagues are now searching for those mechanisms. They’re also trying to put a number on the value of seagrass’s disease-fighting powers. “There could be a huge potential in how valuable they become,” said Dr. Lamb.

Robert J. Orth, a seagrass expert at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who was not involved in the new report, predicted it would lead to similar research on seagrass meadows in other parts of the world. “It’s going to make people think,” he said.

The growing recognition of this plant’s importance comes even as it is disappearing. Nearly a third of the world’s seagrass meadows have died off since the 19th century. A number of studies indicate that they are now disappearing at an accelerating pace.

Last week, Dr. Orth and his colleagues published a  a detailed study  of the retreat of seagrass in Chesapeake Bay in the journal Global Change Biology. Since just 1991, they estimate, 29 percent of the bay’s seagrass meadows have vanished.

Their research points to two main culprits. Eroded dirt washes into the Chesapeake, making the water cloudy. Seagrass get so little sunlight that the resulting dimming can be deadly.

Seagrass is also being pummeled by climate change. Warmer summer temperatures in Chesapeake Bay cause the plants to lose much of their oxygen through their leaves. With less oxygen to pump into their roots, they are poisoned by toxic sediments.

The cloudiness of the water makes the heat even worse. With less sunlight, the plants produce even less protective oxygen to begin with. “We have a double whammy,” said Dr. Orth.

As the underwater meadows disappear, economic value disappears with them. The Chesapeake Bay meadows are a nursery for blue crabs, for example. Dr. Orth and his colleagues estimate that the seagrass die-off has eliminated more than 500 million juvenile blue crabs since 1991.

Seagrass meadows can store enormous amounts of carbon. Their soils don’t decompose because they have very little oxygen in them. As a result, seagrass meadow soil around the world has accumulated  an estimated nine billion tons of carbon.

As seagrass meadows disappear, that carbon is being released back into the ocean. Some of it may make its way into the atmosphere as heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

As dire as the situation has become, there is cause for hope. In recent years, Dr. Orth and his colleagues have successfully restored seagrass meadows off the coast of Virginia.

“Now we have 6,200 acres of seagrass,” he said, “where in 1997 there wasn’t a single blade of grass.”

Follow Carl Zimmer on Twitter @carlzimmer

Friday, February 17, 2017



White House dismisses 6 over failed background checks
By TARA PALMERI 02/16/17 05:12 PM EST

Several White House staffers were dismissed Thursday morning after failing FBI background checks, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Some of the aides were "walked out of the building by security" on Wednesday after not passing the SF86, a Questionnaire for National Security Positions for security clearance.

Among those who won't be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former campaign manager for Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury.

She's among others who failed to pass the intensive background check, which includes questions on the applicant's credit score, substance use and other personal subjects.

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Marc Caputo contributed.

Modified from report on this blog, from 2016:

We defeated her last year on the proposed slot machine gambling referendum in St. Johns County -- slot machines aren't even legal here, so why on Earth did County Commission waste any time on it? Oh, because louche lobbyist SUSAN WILES is DONALD TRUMP's Florida campaign manager and Governor RiCHARD LYNN SCOTT's campaign manager? How utterly corrupt. Enough.

Typical Florida lobbyist for slot machines, manager of Governor RICHARD LYNN SCOTT's campaign, manager of DONALD TRUMP's campaign.

Throwing her weight around trying to get another slot machine referendum on the ballot, even though the Florida Supreme Court has not ruled that they are even legal in St. Johns County (and won't be issuing any more decisions until August 25, 2016).

Louche lackey of corrupt developers and gamblers, attacked opponents of wetland-destroying Ponte Vedra "Preserve" development without disclosing she was a lobbyist and SCOTT-TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER, saying she was "angry" and "offended" at citizen's First Amendment protected activity.

What a lugubrious goober -- it was magnificent watching Commissioners unanimously reject her at July 19, 2016 County Commission meeting, declining to allow referendum for slot machines, which are not legal here.

Our Team.
Susan "Susie" Wiles, Managing Partner, BALLARD PARTNERS, Jacksonville Office

Susan 'Susie' Wiles
With a professional history based in government relations, communications and public affairs, Susie Wiles has more than two decades of political insight. As a public affairs/media relations professional, Susie brings this expertise to Ballard Partners' client portfolio. Her record of success has been recognized nationally, receiving numerous awards in the fields of organizational leadership and communications in Florida.
Susie was Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman's first national campaign manager and worked to recruit the team and develop early-stage processes before a departure after six months. In 2010, Susie served as campaign manager for Florida Governor Rick Scott's successful election. Her national political experience includes service for President Ronald Reagan, former Congressman Jack F. Kemp and includes a senior role at the Department of Labor. Susie also previously served as co-chairman of the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign in Duval County and as a Transition Team member for former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Susie's political and communications experience is also well-rooted in Jacksonville and throughout North Florida. Susie served in senior level positions in the administrations of the two most recent mayors of Jacksonville. In the office of former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney, Susie served as Chief of Staff and later as Communications Chief for Mayor John Peyton until August 2008.
With a history in managing a variety of complex campaigns and initiatives, Susie's private practice experience has led her to work with many of Florida's most important corporations. Susie previously represented clients in the areas of environmental permitting, education, insurance, grassroots activism, water services and railroads.
Throughout her extensive career, Susie has maintained her dedication to Jacksonville and the State of Florida, serving on a number of local and statewide organizations such as the Jacksonville Women's Network, the Jacksonville Journey Oversight Commission, Republicans for Environmental Protection, Preservation North Florida, FreshMinistries, the Mission House and is a past board member of St. Johns Forever.

Letter: Unfair attacks on PVB Preserve
St. Augustine Record
Posted: November 24, 2015 - 8:46pm | Updated: November 24, 2015 - 11:30pm
By Susan Wiles
Unfair attacks aimed at PVB Preserve
Editor: As a resident of the community closest to the planned Ponte Vedra Beach Preserve community, I am angered at the systematic misinformation campaign being waged by a few wealthy oceanfront residents who want to block the construction of this new neighborhood.
I am well-acquainted with the project developer, GreenPointe Communities and its owner Ed Burr, as I serve on philanthropic boards with him and know them to be quality developers of great communities in North Florida. I am fully informed about his plans for Ponte Vedra Beach Preserve.
St. Johns County staff at all levels — in fact, every regulatory agency that has reviewed the plans — has recommended approval and the neighborhood will be developed in an environmentally sensitive manner resulting in a high quality, single-family community with homes that are compatible and complementary to the surrounding area.
It offends me, as a longtime Ponte Vedra resident, that misinformation has been perpetuated over the past weeks and months, and this misinformation has been represented as the truth. It is not the truth, and it may well have been designed to mislead. I fear that many of my neighbors have been duped.
On Dec. 1, St. Johns County Commissioners will consider an appeal to the variance for this property. I encourage our elected officials to learn the facts, review the process and approve this variance with no further delay.

Ponte Vedra Beach

Special Magistrate Terry Schmidt Selected On Preserving 32 Granada Street (1880 Victorian Home)

32 GRANADA STREET preserved and protected by City of St. Augustine and Historic Architectural Review Board as City historic landmark

Mediator Terrence Edward Schmidt

A dispute resolution session will be held before a special magistrate on the City's designation of 32 Granada Street as local landmark, frustrating the indecent demolition demands of louche speculator LOUIS JOHN ARBIZZANI. This was known to the City Attorney as of February 6, 2017, but at the February 13, 2017 there was no report to Commissioners of the status -- once again, is City Attorney ISABELLE "IZZY" CHRISTINE LOPEZ keeping our Mayor and Commissioners in the dark?

I plan to attend the special magistrate dispute resolution session as one who spoke in support of the designation of this wonderful home as a City local historic landmark, before both HARB and City Commission. Will let you know when it is scheduled.

Jacksonville lawyer-mediator-magistrate Terry Schmidt will preside. Mr. Schmidt is also the mediator in the case of Bruce Bates et al. v. City of St. Augustine (Bates II), the visual artists' First Amendment case.

Last year, mediator Schmidt spent 3.5 hours with Bruce Kevin Bates, Elena Hecht, Kate Merrick and Helena Salas, the four visual artist plaintiffs, St. Augustine City Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E., plaintiff attorneys William Sheppard, Bryan DiMaggio and Thomas Elijan Cushman and Assistant City Attorney Denise May, accompanied by two insurance defense lawyers from the MARKS GRAY law firm, hired by the Florida League Cities insurance scheme.

For 3.5 hours on Friday, September 23, 2016, federal court appointed mediator Terrence Edward Schmidt met with the City Manager of St. Augustine, four artist plaintiffs who have won yet another injunction against the City for violating their First and Fourteenth Amendment in their second lawsuit against the City of St. Augustine since 2009.

Mediator Terry Schmidt will schedule a second mediation session after the City of St. Augustine City Commissioners hold yet another shade meeting to discuss legal issues outside the Sunshine -- a full court reporter transcript will be available after the litigation is resolved.

Mr. Schmidt was a naval officer in charge of nuclear and other weapons, on the USS William M. Wood (DD 71 5), was Duke University Law Review Editor, co-wrote a 1974 scholarly Florida Law Review article with Duke classmate Kenneth W. Starr, worked for the Florida Bar in its successful effort to disbar F. Lee Bailey a/k/a "Flea" Bailey, and has since 2001 worked exclusively as a respected mediator, arbitrator and special master.

Mr. Schmidt was Lieutenant and Weapons Officer on the USS William M. Wood (DD 715)

In 1974, Mr. Schmidt published a scholarly article in the University of Florida's Law Review, co-authored with his fellow Duke University Law School classmate Kenneth W. Starr, later a United States Court of Appeals Judge, Solicitor General of the United States and Whitewater Prosecutor

Mr. Schmidt was one of three lawyers representing The Florida Bar in its successful effort to disbar F. LEE BAILEY

Mr. Schmidt's law firm biography states:

Mr. Schmidt received his B.A. degree from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio in 1967 and his law degree from Duke University Law School in 1973 where was an editor of the Duke Law Journal. He was an officer in the United States Navy from 1969 to 1972, serving as Lieutenant and Weapons Officer on the USS William M. Wood (DD 715) at the time of his discharge to return to law school. He joined the firm of Mahoney, Hadlow, Chambers & Adams (then the oldest firm in the State of Florida) in Jacksonville in 1973 and became a shareholder in that firm in 1978. On January 1, 1979, he left the Mahoney Hadlow firm to start the firm of Bledsoe, Gallagher, Mikals & Schmidt, the predecessor of the Firm. He has practiced continuously with the Firm since that date specializing in civil litigation. In 1997, he became a Florida Supreme Court certified circuit court civil mediator and a Federal court certified mediator. In 1999, he qualified as an AAA arbitrator and mediator. Since 2001, his practice has been limited to providing alternative dispute resolution services as a mediator, statutory and AAA arbitrator, and special master.

EXPERIENCE: I have specialized in litigation since 1974. My practice included litigation in the areas of breach of contract, fraud, employment discrimination, mechanics liens and construction defects, real property, probate, state and federal antitrust and restraint of trade, securities fraud, maritime, bankruptcy, ERISA, CERCLA, RCRA, trademark and copyright, medical and legal malpractice, and personal injury, representing both plaintiffs and defendants. E.g., Jaffe v. Grant, 793 F.2d 1182 (11th Cir. 1986); Woodman v. U. S., 764 F.Supp 1455(M.D.Fla) rev=d 121 F.3d 1430(11th Cir. 1997); VKK Corp. v. National Football League. et al., 55 F.Supp 2d 196 (S.D.N.Y. 1999); Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. Jones, 764 So.2d 677 (Fla. lst DCA 2000). I also served as special counsel to The Florida Bar in the F. Lee Bailey disbarment proceeding. The Florida Bar v. F. Lee Bailey, 803 So.2d 603 (Fla.) ce/f. den/ed 122 S.Ct. 1916 (2002).

REPRESENTATIVE CASES HANDLED AS MEDIATOR: I have mediated more than 4.000 cases in state and federal courts and for the American Arbitration Association over the past 19 years, including, among others, a breach of contract claim in the telecommunications industry involving a claim of more than $400 millions a commercial breach of contract and breach of warranty case involving claims of over $30 million; a first party bad faith insurance claim for over $25 million; a consolidated action involving multiple securities fraud and negligent supervision claims in excess of $20 millions a dispute between FDIC and a borrower and a subsequent dispute between the borrower and a third party involving real property valued in excess of $20 million; a dissenting stockholder’s rights dispute involving claims in excess of $15 million; a catastrophic burn case involving claims in excess of $10 million; a dispute between a sponsor and a cigarette manufacturer over a NASCAR promotion involving a claim in excess of $5 million; numerous condominium construction disputes involving claims in excess of $5 million; and numerous personal injury, employment discrimination, construction, and other commercial cases involving claims in excess of $l,000,000.

REPRESENTATIVE CASES HANDLED AS ARBITRATOR/SPECIAL MASTER: I have been a panel arbitrator in arbitrations involving breach of contract, construction disputes, a cable service agreement, and termination of an insurance agency in which awards were entered. I have also been the sole arbitrator in breach of contract, consumer fraud, employment, construction and Unfair Trade & Deceptive Trade Practices Act disputes in which awards were entered. Finally, I have served as special master and as statutory arbitrator appointed by the circuit court in commercial disputes .

MULTI-PARTY DISPUTE RESOLUTION EXPERIENCE: As an attorney representing a party to multi-party cases, I have been involved in numerous multi-party mediations or settlement conferences, including litigation involving antitrust and tort claims filed by a former National Football League team owner against the National Football League and others in which the claimed damages exceeded $450 million; an insurance insolvency case in which the claims exceeded $20 million; an ERISA class action against the trustees of profit sharing plan involving a claimed loss exceeding $10 millions a toxic tort case in which 43 families sued a major waste hauling company and the United States Government for personal injuries arising out of a contaminated landfill which was settled by one defendant for $8.5 million and was tried against the other defendants and construction litigation by a condominium association against the developer, architect, and contractor for damages exceeding $3.0 million. As a mediator, I have been involved in over 500 multi-party disputes involving all kinds of claims, including major construction cases.

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION TRAINING: National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals (NADN) 8/2012 Advanced Mediation Training Retreats ADR Section of Dispute Resolution (JBA), Fifth Annual CME Seminar (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015); NADN Advanced Mediation Training Retreat 2011; Fourth Annual Institute on Advanced Mediation-Advocacy Skills Training: 2005; DRC 1 3th Annual conference for Mediators and Arbitrators: Framing Our Future, 2004; AAA Advanced Mediator Skills for Court-Based Settlement Program, 2003; ABA Section of Dispute Resolution: New Vistas in Dispute Resolution, 2002; ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Collaboration in the Capital: The Power of ADR Program, 2001; AAA Commercial Arbitrator ll – Advanced Case Management Issues Workshop, 2001; Florida Bar sponsored Private Judges, Mediation and Arbitration Seminar, 2000; AAA Commercial Arbitrator Training Workshop, 1999; Florida Bar CLE Course on Alternate Dispute Resolution, 1998; Florida Dispute Resolution Center, 40-Hr. Mediation training, 1995.

PROFESSIONAL LICENSES: Admitted to the Bar: Florida, 1973; Admitted to United States Supreme Court, Ninth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal, and United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS: American Bar Association (Section on Dispute Resolution); Florida Bar Association (Section on Dispute Resolution); Jacksonville Bar Associations Florida Academy of Professional Mediators; National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals; Chester Bedell Inn of Courts The College of Master Advocates and Barristers.

AWARDS AND HONORS: Master, Chester Bedell Inn of Courts Senior Counsel, The College of Master Advocates and Barristers; listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2001 — present); listed in Florida’s Super Lawyers (2006 – present); listed in “Jacksonville’s Best Lawyers” by Jacksonville Magazine( 2001 – present); honored in 2002 with a Resolution by The Florida Bar for pro
bono service as Special Counsel to TFB in the F. Lee Bailey disbarment proceeding.

PUBLICATIONS AND SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS: Speaker, Eighth Annual N.E. Florida CME Seminar for Mediators, “ls There Anyone Who is Not Subject to Cognitive Dissonance… Except Me?” (2015); Speaker, 2nd Annual N.E. Florida CME Seminar for Mediators “Local Issues Facing Mediators and the Ethical Implications” (2009); Panel Member on alternative dispute presentations to the Chester Bedell Inn of Court (2004) and Florida Coastal School of Law (2005); Panel member, Winning Without Trial: The Mediation Roundtables Raymond Ehrlich Trial Advocacy Seminar (2003); Speaker, “The Florida Bar v. F. Lee Bailey: A Cautionary Tale”, Raymond Ehrlich Trial Advocacy Seminar (2002); co-author with Kenneth W. Starr: Inspection Rights of Corporate Stockholders: Toward a More Effective Statutory Model”, 42 Florida Law Review 173 (1974).

James A. Bledsoe, Jr.
Samuel S. Jacobson
Terrance E. Schmidt
Kenneth B. Wright
Stephanie A. Sussman
501 Riverside Ave., Suite 903
Jacksonville, Florida 32202
Tel: (904)398-1818


ST. JOHNS COUNTY has wasted more than one half million dollars on louche lobbyist MARTIN FIORINTINO, who also represents developers, their political whore, Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, and the City of Jacksonville, and falsely claims on his website to represent the City of St. Augustine. No government should hire lobbyists: it smacks of bribery and political influence peddling. The best lobbyists for governments are elected officials, not residents of Gucci Gulch. Last year, I asked County Administrator MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK for a report of his louche lobbyist's accomplishments: the response was there were no documents responsive to my request. Zilch. Nada.

Speaker puts spotlight on local lobbying contracts

Gray Rohrer
Orlando Sentinel
Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE – Governments in Central Florida are spending at least $1.5 million to lobby the state this year, although the true figure is likely higher because all the numbers aren’t in yet.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has set up a system to track such spending as part of his push to require more reporting by lobbyists. The Land O’Lakes Republican says he doesn’t think local taxpayers should pay for lobbyists because local elected officials should be advocating for their communities themselves.

“A taxpayer-funded entity should not be allowed to use your tax dollars to pay a lobbyist to extract more spending and more taxes from the tax-paying citizens of this state,” Corcoran said. “It is an absurd government feedback loop that eventually eats away at the average taxpayer.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, however, said lobbyists are needed to push his city’s interests at the Capitol. Although he was in Tallahassee last week to meet with state officials in person, Tallahassee is remote, and lobbyists are better at bending the ears of lawmakers, he said.

“I had three 20-minute meetings and spent eight hours on the road,” Dyer said.

Orlando pays two firms to lobby on its behalf in Tallahassee. Southern Strategy Group receives $6,500 per month and the Peebles and Smith firm $80,000 per year, plus travel expenses.

Dyer pointed to approval of SunRail and funding for the UCF downtown campus as evidence the city’s lobbying efforts are paying off. A recent Senate bill to ban red-light cameras in Orlando and throughout the state was voted down as well.

But often local governments are outgunned at the Capitol, where special interests armed with a team of lobbyists can push the state to preempt local measures they don’t like. In 2013 lawmakers passed a bill outlawing local measures mandating paid sick leave, just before a scheduled vote in Orange County. In 2011 the Legislature passed a law banning municipalities from making their own gun laws.

The contracts add up, however, especially when all the local boards are tallied, including tax collectors, school boards, cities, counties and taxing districts.

For instance, Orlando is a member of the Florida Municipal Power Agency, a group of cities throughout the state that own utilities. The group pays the Peebles firm $50,000 per year. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority pays two lobbying firms $13,333 per month to “maximize appropriations” for airport projects at Orlando International Airport.

The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the Lynx bus system, paid both Southern Strategy Group $26,000 per year and Peebles and Smith $12,856 for four months of work.

In Osceola County, however, some boards have pooled their resources to pay for lobbyists. Osceola County, the Osceola County School Board, Kissimmee and St. Cloud all pay for the Osceola Legislative Effort, which pays the Ballard Partners firm $40,000 per year. Yet, Osceola County also pays two other firms a combined $164,200.

The lobbying contracts for the cities of Altamonte Springs, Apopka, Casselberry, Maitland, Mount Dora, Ocoee and Winter Park don’t appear on the database yet. House aides said there’s a lag time between when contracts are received and when they show on the database, and they continue to get information, but not all contracts have been submitted. A review of the outstanding contracts will be done in the coming weeks, they said.

Lobbyists say they aren’t fazed by the additional scrutiny.

“These contracts are public records to begin with,” said Nick Iarossi, a partner with the Capitol City Consulting firm, which receives $50,000 to lobby for the Brevard County School Board.

The reporting of the contracts is just one of the new rules imposed by Corcoran; lobbyists also have to report the issues and funding projects they’re working on. The House is also working on a bill to ban lawmakers from lobbying for six years after they leave office.

“Those are the rules we’re dealt, and those who will succeed will adapt,” Iarossi said.

Dyer said retaining funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, two economic development groups targeted by Corcoran for elimination, is at the top of Orlando’s priority list.

“We’re supportive of the agencies that bring economic activity to the state and to our region,” Dyer said. “That’s one of the key pieces of our economy.”

Dyer, a former Democratic state senator, said Democratic-leaning Orlando needs reinforcements in the struggle to keep the tourism-reliant region in the discussion during budget negotiations.

“Just about everybody that represents us [in Tallahassee] is in the minority party,” Dyer said. or (850) 222-5564

Florida Supreme Court Retains Frye Standard on Expert Witnesses, Rejects Daubert! Three cheers!

Three cheers for OUR Florida Supreme Court in retaining the venerable Frye standard and rejecting the Legislature's dubious efforts to impose the Daubert standard for expert witnesses. Read decision here. Toxic tort poisoning defendants persuaded Republicans to adopt Daubert. The Supreme Court rejected them. Evidentiary rules are for courts to decide, not Republican legislators. Courts as "gatekeepers" to exclude expert witnesses is a fascist concept. Our right to jury trial is violated when judges reject scientific evidence presented by experts, slamming the Courthouse door on injured parties.

Justices go against Legislature on expert witnesses


Pointing to "grave constitutional concerns," the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a controversial 2013 move by lawmakers to tighten a standard for expert witnesses in legal cases.

By Jim Saunders The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Pointing to "grave constitutional concerns," the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a controversial 2013 move by lawmakers to tighten a standard for expert witnesses in legal cases.

The 4-2 ruling blocked the use of a standard backed by business groups but opposed by plaintiffs' attorneys and The Florida Bar Board of Governors.

Testimony from expert witnesses can play a crucial role in complicated civil lawsuits and in criminal cases that involve scientific evidence. While the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott approved the revamped standard in 2013, the Supreme Court has constitutional authority to determine rules and procedures for the court system.

The debate focused on lawmakers' decision to move to what is known in the legal world as the "Daubert" standard, which is more-restrictive than the state's longstanding expert-witness standard. Federal courts use the Daubert standard, but opponents of using it in Florida courts said it make cases more expensive and time-consuming — effectively making it harder for people to pursue lawsuits.

In Thursday's ruling, the Supreme Court majority pointed to arguments by opponents that raised "grave constitutional concerns."

"Those concerns include undermining the right to a jury trial and denying access to the courts," said the ruling by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince. "While the (Supreme) Court does not address the constitutionality of a statute or proposed rule within the context of a rules case, the fact that there may be 'grave concerns about the constitutionality of the amendment' has been a basis previously for the (Supreme) Court not adopting an amendment to the evidence code to the extent it is procedural."

But Justice Ricky Polston, in a dissent joined by Justice Charles Canady, said the federal-court system and other states have successfully used the Daubert standard.

Justice Alan Lawson, who joined the court at the end of December, did not take part in the ruling.

William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, a legal group aligned with businesses, echoed Polston's dissent Thursday.

"The Florida Supreme Court seems to be implying the entire federal court system for the last 23 years has been denying a citizen's right to a jury trial and access to the courts, through the use of the federal Daubert standard," Large said in an email. "If that is the case, why has the Florida Supreme Court been citing federal courts for constitutional precedent for the past 23 years?"

Supporters of the Daubert standard have argued it can help prevent the use of "junk science" in court cases. The standard includes a three-part test in determining whether expert testimony can be admitted. That test involves whether the testimony is "based upon sufficient facts or data;" whether it is the "product of reliable principles and methods;" and whether a witness has "applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case."

That is more restrictive than a test long used in Florida courts, known as the "Frye" standard.

Rep. RON DeSANTIS pouts about "liberals" in government

(Flagler Live photo)

Liberals "wear [U.S. Rep. RON DeSANTIS'] scorn as a badge of honor."

This ambitious, anti-literate, vulgar energumen sounds like DONALD TRUMP.

DeSANTIS falsely claimed to be a Navy SEAL (he was a JAG Corps lawyer). He's ducking public Town Halls out of fear of liberals. See West Wing video where the fictional character Rep. Matt Santos explains why wing nuts hate liberals:

GOP rep: Many career civil servants are liberal
BY MARK HENSCH - 02/17/17 10:17 AM EST 275
The Hill

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) says a significant number of career government officials are politically left-wing.

“When you start getting into the bowels of the bureaucracy, intelligence but certainly the State Department, you have a lot of career officials who are supposed to be nonpartisan, but they really do have a liberal bent,” he said Friday on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”

“So you have the president of the United States, they don’t agree with him, so some of them are taking matters into their own hands,” DeSantis added. "That is not the way this system is supposed to operate.”

President Trump voiced frustration over repeated leaks from administration officials during a Thursday press conference.
“The leaks are real,” he said at the White House. "The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”

“Over the course of time I’ll make mistakes and you’ll write badly and I’m OK with that,” Trump added of journalists. "I’m not OK when it’s fake.”

Trump’s administration is struggling with leaks to the media about topics ranging from infighting in the White House to the president’s ties with Russia.

The president promised earlier Thursday he would punish those who gave the press damaging information about his administration’s inner workings.

“We’re going to find the leakers, and they’re going to pay a big price,” he told reporters in the Roosevelt Room during a meeting with GOP leadership.

Press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters last week that the White House has launched an investigation into the leaks.

Look who screwed up Florida v. Georgia water rights case over Apalachicola Bay water

The long-running case of Florida v. Georgia was recommended for dismissal due to a Bush league error by FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL PAMELA JO BONDI and GEORGE W. BUSH's last Solicitor General, who failed to name the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as an indispensable party under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  GREGORY G. GARRE, partner in LATHAM & WATKINS.  A former law review editor, Republican GREGORY G. GARRE was named "[i]n 2011 [by] the Chief Justice of the United States ... to the Standing Committee on the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States."  I have just left a voicemail message and asked GARRE why he did not name the Army Corps of Engineers as an indispensable party, for the name of his legal malpractice carrier, and what he plans to do now.  LATHAM & WATKINS has 2200 lawyers worldwide and grosses $2.6 billion annually -- highest grossing law firm in the world. It made a mistake that would be unworthy of a first year law student.

Gregory G. Garre

Washington, D.C.
  • 555 Eleventh Street, NW
  • Suite 1000
  • Washington, D.C. 20004-1304
  • USA
Gregory Garre is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins and Global Chair of Latham's Supreme Court & Appellate Practice. He handles an array of complex litigation matters at all levels of the federal and state court systems and counsels clients on constitutional, regulatory and other matters. Recently named an “Appellate MVP” by Law360, he is widely considered one of the nation’s top appellate advocates.
Mr. Garre served as the 44th Solicitor General of the United States (2008-2009), after being unanimously confirmed to the position by the US Senate. As Solicitor General, he was the federal government’s top lawyer before the Supreme Court and was responsible for overseeing the government’s litigation in the federal appellate courts. He also served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General (2005-2008) and as an Assistant to the Solicitor General (2000-2004). He is the only person to have held all of those positions within the Office of the Solicitor General.  
Mr. Garre has argued 41 cases before the Supreme Court and has briefed and served as counsel of record in hundreds of additional cases before the Court. His successful arguments include Ashcroft v. IqbalUnited States v. Home Concrete & Supply LLCMaples v. ThomasMonsanto v. Geerston Seed FarmChristian Legal Society v. MartinezFCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc.Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., Baze v. ReesJohanns v. Livestock Marketing Association and Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp
Recently, in Vance v. Ball State University, the Court issued a 5-4 decision in favor of Mr. Garre’s employer client, in one of the most closely watched employment discrimination cases in recent years. In addition, in United States v. Home Concrete, the Court recently sided with Mr. Garre’s taxpayer client and handed the IRS a rare defeat in a 5-4 decision that the Wall Street Journal reported could have a billion dollar tax impact. During the past three terms, he has argued nine cases before the Court, including in Fisher v. University of Texas.
Mr. Garre also has argued scores of cases before the federal and state courts of appeals. In recent appeals, for example, he has secured victories on behalf of in a high-profile patent case decided by the Federal Circuit (United Video Properties, Inc. v.; a group of major oil, gas and other Fortune 100 companies in a major environmental case decided by the DC Circuit (National Environmental Development Ass’n Clean Air Project v. EPA); and Ford Motor Company in a significant preemption case decided by the South Carolina Supreme Court (Priester v. Ford). 
In addition, in NJOY v. FDA, he secured a path-marking victory in the D.C. Circuit on behalf of an e-cigarette maker on the scope of the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory authority over e-cigarettes, which the Wall Street Journal identified as a "bet-the-industry case.” He was named a “Winning Litigator” by the National Law Journal and a “Litigator of the Week” by the American Lawyer for the victory he secured in the Fifth Circuit on behalf of the University of Texas in Fisher v. University of Texas, a high-profile constitutional challenge to the university’s admissions policy.
Mr. Garre has extensive intellectual property experience. He successfully argued Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., a leading trademark case, before the Supreme Court on behalf of the United States. In addition, he served as counsel to Comcast/NBC before the Supreme Court in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc.
He also has handled numerous patent cases before the Federal Circuit and Supreme Court, including in the areas of patent eligibility and claim construction. For example, he recently secured a complete victory before the Federal Circuit on behalf of in United Video Properties, Inc. v. He is also appellate counsel for WildTangent, Inc. in Ultramercial Inc. v. WildTangent Inc., named by Law360 as one of five patent cases to watch in 2014. 
Mr. Garre has handled cases involving an array of important matters, including in the areas of administrative law, alien tort statute, antitrust, bankruptcy, business and employment law, contract law, civil rights, education, environmental law (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act), First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, food and drug, Indian law, intellectual property (patent, copyright and trademark), international law, labor, preemption, separation of powers, tax, telecommunications, torts and voting rights. 
Mr. Garre has been recognized as a premier Supreme Court and appellate advocate by Chambers USAAmerican LawyerThe Legal 500 USSuper Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America, and was named by Washingtonian magazine as one of Washington's Best Lawyers and added to the publication's list of “Stars of the Bar.” In 2006, he was named to The American Lawyer's “Fab 50” list of top litigators under the age of 45 expected to be “leading the field for years to come.” In addition, he was one of the lawyers whose work was profiled in Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates (2011 Oxford University Press), a book highlighting “great writing” by “the most renowned and influential advocates.” 
In 2014, Mr. Garre was elected to both the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. In 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Rex Lee Advocacy Award. In 2011, his successful representation in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez was recognized by the Financial Times in its "US Innovative Lawyers Report.” In 2010, he was named “Appellate Lawyer of the Week” by the National Law Journal for his successful arguments before the Supreme Court in two different cases just eight days apart. In addition, the National Law Journal named his successful certiorari petition in Maples v. Thomas as its “Brief of the Week.” 
Mr. Garre also has received numerous awards for his public service, including the Attorney General's Medallion for his service as Solicitor General. He is a recipient of the Attorney General's Distinguished Service Award, the Attorney General's Award for Excellence in Furthering Interests of US National Security, and additional honors from the Department of Justice for his work on important civil litigation matters. In addition, he received the Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award — the Navy's highest civilian honor — for his winning argument in Winter v. NRDC, which secured a major Supreme Court victory for the Navy and its ability to conduct critical naval exercises.
Mr. Garre has taught constitutional law and Supreme Court practice for many years at the George Washington University Law School. He has testified before Congress and speaks and publishes frequently on issues related to the Supreme Court and appellate practice. In 2011, the Chief Justice of the United States appointed Mr. Garre to the Standing Committee on the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
Following his graduation from law school, Mr. Garre served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and to Judge Anthony J. Scirica of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.