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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.6.18

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

 

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Our apologies. We teased that the appointments of Richard Corcoran as Education Commissioner and Jared Moskowitz as Director of Emergency Management were going to be rolled out Wednesday. However, those announcements have been pushed back to today.

Florida Politics has steadfastly reported tips and tidbits from the Ron DeSantis transition as we’ve learned them.

We were the first to share the news that Shane Strum would be tapped as chief of staff, as we were about former House Speaker Corcoran in strong contention to be the next Commissioner of Education.

We quickly learned it’s best to report about people that we hear are being interviewed and really want a particular job — but maybe we’re not so sure they should get it.

Case in point: David Wilkins, who interviewed this week, we’re told.

Our take: Really?

Wilkins, formerly Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, quit in July 2013 “amid an escalating scandal over the recent deaths of four small children who had a history of involvement with child-abuse investigators.”

That’s from the Herald story, lead written by the great and inimitable Carol Marbin Miller.

“In recent months, Wilkins became mired in a simmering controversy over the deaths of four youngsters in a six-week period, all but one from Miami-Dade and Broward counties,” the story said. “A fifth child, also from Miami, nearly died from a lacerated liver after the agency failed to act when the infant suffered a broken thigh bone months earlier.”

Need we say more? (Of course, what resignation story about a DCF head — sadly — was any different?)

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@WillieGeist: With the memorial service finished, @jmeacham has given me permission to report that he had the chance to read that beautiful eulogy to President Bush before his death. After hearing his own eulogy, President Bush said, characteristically: “That’s a lot about me, Jon.

@Ryan_N_Wiggins: I miss the Republican Party on display today at President George H.W. Bush’s funeral. That was my party; conservative, classy, moderate, and inclusive. Today, as I am reminded of what was, I pray we are able to find our roots and our soul again.

@RonDeSantisFL: Thank you @realdonaldtrump for always protecting the American people. I will be your partner to fight the opioid crisis here in Florida. We will fully prosecute the lowlifes that peddle these drugs and commit to helping their victims.

@ChrisSprowls: .@GovGoneWild presided over the party during one of its most successful time periods. For his efforts, Republicans everywhere should be thankful.

@Fineout: Ok, let’s try again: Clemency and restoration of rights is controlled by the governor and Cabinet. It has not been controlled AT ALL by the Florida Legislature. @KenDetzner comments suggesting #FLLeg need to weigh in are completely at odds with his boss has said in fed court

@BurgessEv: “Don’t ever become a journalist,” Rubio warns a young man, jokingly points me out. “Lot of money in that. Look how they dress”

@TamaraLush: I literally just nearly broke my finger one-clicking on @LillyPulitzer‘s new Florida collection.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Partial government shutdown — 1; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 5; 116th Congress convenes — 28; College Football National Championship — 32; Florida’s gubernatorial inauguration — 33; Office of Insurance Regulation’s OIR Summit begins — 40; Super Bowl LIII — 59; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 68; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 89; Tampa mayoral election — 89; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 92; Iowa Caucuses — 424; 2020 General Election — 698.

— TOP STORY —

George W. Bush chokes backs tears eulogizing his father” via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO — In his eulogy, presidential biographer Jon Meacham described Bush as a man who questioned his life’s purpose after he was spared death when his plane was shot down, but who ultimately became president and governed with the same virtues as George WashingtonJohn AdamsTheodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. … Wednesday’s ceremony is officially the first state funeral since former President Gerald Ford died in 2006. But it bears similarities to former Arizona Sen. John McCain‘s funeral in September, albeit with one glaring difference: President Donald Trump is welcome. … Bush’s death has brought some civility to an often-divided Washington. Congressional leaders are finalizing a short-term deal to avoid a government shutdown Friday and delay a bitter fight over billions of dollars in funding for Trump’s border wall out of respect for Bush.

George W. Bush breaks down eulogizing his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

— TRANSITION NOTES —

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Jeanette Nuñez: Nursing home, ALF backup power likely an ‘ongoing discussion’” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Nuñez said a law requiring long-term care providers to have generators and a 72-hour supply of fuel on-site may need to be re-examined, given the large numbers of nursing homes and assisted living facilities unable to meet deadlines for the new mandates to go into effect. The DeSantis administration may “look at the timelines and see if they were reasonable and realistic.” “I know there was some concern, both at the House level and I suspect at the Senate level, in terms of the reality of that, especially on the ALF side, being able to come to fruition,” she said in an interview. “That’ll likely be an ongoing discussion.”

Mike Grissom named interim President/CEO of Enterprise Florida” via Florida Politics — The Executive Committee of Enterprise Florida’s board of directors unanimously approved Grissom as interim President and CEO during a conference call. The move was announced via a news release from the state’s jobs-creating and economic development organization. Grissom takes over from previous CEO Pete Antonacci, whom Gov. Rick Scott tapped to become Broward County Supervisor of Elections after suspending Brenda Snipes for “misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty” … Grissom joined EFI in March 2015 as vice president of external affairs. He more recently served as Executive Vice President.

— LATEST ON RACE FOR FLORIDA GOP CHAIR —

Joe Gruters emerges as top contender to chair Florida GOP” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The state Senator from Sarasota appears to have the backing of the White House, incoming Governor DeSantis and legislative leaders. With Republicans already looking ahead to 2020 and Trump’s re-election effort, former Trump Florida campaign co-chairman Gruters appears to be the front-runner to lead the GOP in a state that will be critical to the president’s prospects for securing another term. Gruters, a 41-year-old state senator who has chaired the Sarasota GOP for the last decade and was an early Trump supporter, announced he is running to be the Republican Party of Florida’s next chair. The news release announcing Gruters’ bid states that he “has the support of Governor-elect DeSantis and Senate and House leadership in his run for Chairman.”

Tweet, tweet:

— ROAD TO SESSION —

David Smith riding new wave of veteran-advocates in the Florida Legislature” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Smith was elected to succeed Jason Brodeur in representing House District 28 in east Seminole County. Riding in with him in this class are state Reps. Anthony Sabatini of Howie-in-the-Hills, Elizabeth Fetterhoff of Deland, Tommy Gregory of Sarasota, and Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers, all military veterans, joining returning lawmakers such as Paul Renner of Palm Coast. They have restarted a veterans’ caucus in the Florida House, Smith said. “I think there is going to be new excitement to address issues for veterans,” Smith said. “The one thing I’m committed to is systemic solutions. I don’t want band-aid solutions or giveaway programs. They don’t work, and they’re insulting to veterans.” Specifically, Smith is looking at creating a state contracting set-aside preference for veteran-owned businesses, much as currently exists for women- and minority-owned businesses.

Seminole County’s David Smith is among the wave of veterans newly elected to the Florida Legislature.

Buckle up the kids … or else” via Florida Politics — Is it the state’s business if parents don’t ensure their kids buckle up? If newly filed legislation passes, it will be if those kids are injured in car wrecks …. Sen. Aaron Bean seeks to expand the Department of Children and Families’ ability to investigate to two new areas …. seat belt or booster seat violations that lead to children being injured … [and] abuse victims from out-of-state being treated in Florida hospitals … The belief is that DCF has the staff and the wherewithal to expand its scope here without more budget or staff.

Should police use drones for crowd control? This lawmaker says yes.” via the News Service of Florida — Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough has introduced legislation (HB 75) for the 2019 Legislative Session that would expand the use of unmanned aircraft. In addition to crowd control and traffic management, Yarborough’s proposal would allow law enforcement agencies to use drones to collect evidence at crime scenes and traffic crashes. Other state agencies and local governments could use the unmanned craft to assess damages from floods, wildfires and other natural disasters, or for land management. A 2013 Florida statute bans law enforcement agencies from using unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance or evidence gathering.

Broward County Commission highlights its 2019 priorities” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The commissioners met with several members of the Broward County legislative delegation at the Broward County Governmental Center in Fort Lauderdale. Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen led the discussion. Bogen said the county’s main priorities are substance abuse and mental health funding, affordable housing, criminal justice reform and a state beach management program. “We support state funding and resources to address the significant unmet behavioral health needs in Broward County,” Bogen said, lobbying the legislators for additional money on the issue. Commissioner-elect Lamar Fisher of District 4 also called for legislation “to allow Broward County and municipalities to be able to provide stricter regulation for” sober homes.

City leaders from Broward County push legislators to respect Home Rule” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Municipalities within Broward County are adamant that the state should respect Home Rule in legislation going forward. And those legislators from the Broward County delegation were a friendly audience when it came to issues of local control. Home Rule powers are enshrined in the Florida Constitution and give discretion to local governments to pass measures without prior state approval. Over the years, localities in Florida have complained that the state government has trampled over their Home Rule powers. But as Coral Springs Commissioner Dan Daley said, many of Broward’s local officials haven’t given up their desire to push back.

Happening today — The Charlotte County legislative delegation — State Sen. Ben Albritton of Wauchula, Sen. Gruters of Sarasota, and Rep. Michael Grant of Port Charlotte — meet, 9 a.m., Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association, 2001 Shreve St., Punta Gorda.

Happening today — The Marion County legislative delegation — State Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala; Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island; Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville; Rep. Brett Hage of Oxford; Rep. Stan McClain of Ocala; Rep. Charlie Stone of Ocala; and Rep. Clovis Watson of Alachua — meet ahead of the 2019 Legislative Session, 1 p.m., Southeastern Livestock Pavilion and Extension Auditorium, 2232 N.E. Jacksonville Road, Ocala.

Happening today — The Palm Beach County legislative delegation will hold a public hearing ahead of the 2019 Session, 9 a.m., Green Cay Nature Center, 12800 Hagen Ranch Road, Boynton Beach.

Meanwhile …”Judge issues gag order in sexual harassment case” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Everyone involved in state Senate staffer Rachel Perrin Rogers‘ gender-discrimination-and-retaliation complaint against the Florida Legislature has been barred from speaking publicly about the case that follows Perrin Rogers’ sexual harassment allegations against disgraced former Senate budget chairman Jack Latvala. Perrin Rogers and her attorney are no longer commenting on her complaint, now being reviewed in federal administrative court by Judge Alexander Fernandez, or on a separate case overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle wherein the Senate is attempting to block the first case.

— LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND (SENATE VERSION) —

Off and on: Andrew Liebert and Jae Williams became legislative assistants, and Karen Whaley became district secretary, to Republican Sen. Ben Albritton of Bartow. Williams previously worked for former Sen. Denise Grimsley. Whaley worked with Albritton during his time in the House.

Off and on: Taylor Ferguson became legislative assistant to Republican Sen. Rob Bradley of Orange Park. Ferguson previously served as legislative assistant to former Rep. Jake Raburn.

On: Jena Kingery and Sebastian Belloni are legislative assistants to Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz of Tampa.

Off and on: Mauricio Montiel and Judith Ruiz became legislative assistants to Republican Sen. Manny Diaz of Hialeah Gardens. Montiel worked for Diaz in the House and former Rep. Carlos Trujillo before that.

Off: Kathy Galea is no longer chief legislative assistant for Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton.

On: Darlene VanRiper became legislative assistant to Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell of Stuart.

On: Brian Flaherty and Mari Riba became legislative assistants to Republican Sen. Ed Hooper of Clearwater.

On and off: Melonie Hoyt replaced David Ballard as a legislative assistant to Sen. Tom Lee. Hoyt previously worked for former Sen. Dana Young of Tampa. Ballard is now legislative assistant to freshman Rep. Tommy Gregory.

On: Teri Cariota is a legislative assistant to Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami. She’s also listed as legislative assistant to Rep. Dotie Joseph. Cariota previously served as legislative assistant to former Rep. Roy Hardemon.

On: Laura Jimenez returned as legislative assistant to Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami.

— STATEWIDE —

Happening today — U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse will give an opening address during the annual National Summit on Education Reform. Other speakers are expected to include state Rep. Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor and Miami-Dade County Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho, 8:30 a.m., Marriott Marquis, 901 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C.

Ben Sasse will be the last-minute replacement for Jeb Bush, who is spending time with his family.

Life expectancy keeps falling under opioid crisis. Here’s how Florida bucks the trend.” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Here’s the good news: The study found that Florida reduced its sales of opioids by nearly 62 percent — from 77 kilograms to 29.4 kilograms per 100,000 people — in the years 2010 to 2017. On the state rankings survey, Florida ranks No. 17 among the states for the most opioid sales per capita at 29. 4 kilograms per 100,000, which still places the Sunshine State ahead of the national average of 24.4 kilograms. Three reports recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the U.S. life expectancy rate dropped for a third consecutive year due to the drug crisis and climbing suicide rates. Broken down by gender, the Smithsonian reported that men could expect to live an average of 76.1 years, down from 76.2 in 2016. Women could expect to live until 81.1, the same age projected in 2016.

Adam Putnam stays on sidelines in concealed-weapons dispute” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — As he helps his Democratic successor, Nikki Fried, transition into office, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam is staying out of the fight over the future of the state’s concealed-carry permit program. Putnam sidestepped the issue when asked about competing proposals aimed at shifting where the concealed-carry program is housed. “There’s a lot of opinions about where they will move it if they move it at all, and I’ll let the Legislature sort that all out,” Putnam said. Putnam noted that two members of Fried’s transition team are already “embedded” in the office and he’s started meeting with Fried to help her with the transition.

Audit: Concealed-weapon permit process lacked oversight” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A follow-up report on the handling of the state’s concealed-carry permitting process pointed to a lack of management oversight by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but the agency claims it is addressing the issues. The examination of the department’s handling of the permitting program found the agency needs more controls over employees that review applications for private investigator, security officer, recovery agent and concealed weapon licenses. Issues with the background-check process where first highlighted over the summer, as Agriculture Commissioner Putnam was running for governor in a Republican primary against DeSantis. The Tampa Bay Times reported in June that state investigators found a former Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employee, who had been promoted from a job in the mailroom, failed for a year to conduct one of the national background checks for concealed-weapons licenses.

Judge rules over 20 other companies can join marijuana lawsuit” via Florida Cannabis Coalition — Circuit Judge Charles Dodson allowed nearly two dozen medical marijuana concerns to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the state’s licensing process for cannabis providers. Florigrown, which originally brought the suit, already won an order from Dodson against the Department of Health, which regulates the drug. Dodson ruled last month that state law — which, among other things, caps the number of medical marijuana licenses the Department can approve — was unconstitutional and ordered officials to begin registering Florigrown and other medical-marijuana firms to do business in the state. The intervenors include concerns seeking a license from the state that “registered” to be a marijuana dispensary and paid a fee. They also include those who applied under prior licensing rules, as well as those who attempted to register and received no response. Separately, the Florida House of Representatives is appealing Dodson’s decision denying it from intervening.

KidCare premiums to hold steady for 2019 plan year” via Florida Politics — The Florida Healthy Kids Corporation board recently approved the 2019 rate schedule for the health plans they offer, opting to stay the course with the current premium schedule. … That means prices will remain the same for the 2019 plan year — which began Oct. 1 for the subsidized plan and will begin on Jan. 1 for the full-pay plan. New and current full-pay policyholders will continue paying $215 a month for medical-only coverage or $230 per month for medical plus dental, while family contributions toward subsidy premiums will continue to be $15 or $20 a month based on household size and income. … The subsidized plan offered by Florida Healthy Kids covers more than 185,000 5- to 18-year-olds, and another 15,000 Florida children are covered under the full-pay option. … No matter the plan a family qualifies for, enrollment is open year-round, and each option covers doctor visits, immunizations, prescriptions, emergencies, surgeries, dental and other services children need at each stage of their growth and development.

Tom Lee opposed transportation tax. Now his wife is the judge in case against it.” via Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Laurel Lee‘s husband is Sen. Lee, who campaigned against the transportation tax. She was assigned the case challenging the charter amendment. Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the 30-year, $15.8 billion transportation sales tax that voters approved in November. Laurel Lee was assigned by a computer that uses an algorithm to select from about a dozen eligible judges for civil cases, spokesman for the clerk’s office Tom Scherberger said. “It’s a random process,” Scherberger said.

Sen. Tom and Laurel Lee, who will be presiding over the legal challenge to the transportation tax her husband opposes.

More freshman lawmakers file for re-election” via Florida Politics — A new state Senator and a quartet of fresh state Representatives opened campaign accounts for the 2020 election cycle this week, taking the first step toward another term in Tallahassee. … Sarasota Republican Gruters, who took over for U.S. Rep.-elect Greg Steube in SD 23, filed his paperwork Tuesday. … With Gruters’ filing, the only incumbent Senator who hasn’t started their 2020 prep work is SD 25 Republican Gayle Harrell, who won the special election to replace former Senate President Joe Negron … Looking further out, Miami Republican Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. opened a campaign account for a 2022 run in SD 36. … In the House, HD 15 Republican Rep. Wyman Duggan, HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory, HD 84 Democrat Delores Johnson and HD 103 Democrat Cindy Polo sent in their 2020 campaign forms. … As of Wednesday afternoon, 44 incumbents in the 120-member chamber had signed up for a 2020 run. Of those, 26 are Republicans, and 18 are Democrats.

Gary Bruhn stepping down as Windermere mayor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Bruhn, who also just served a term as president of the Florida League of Mayors, is moving out of the town of about 3,000 residents, to what he called “Winder-near.” He bought a larger house just outside the city limits. He announced his decision in advance of next week’s qualifying period for upcoming town elections, saying he wanted his status settled so there would not be a scramble and expenses for a special election. Bruhn said he would be leaving office as soon as his current home sells and he moves, or no later than March, when a new mayor is sworn in, if his Windermere house doesn’t sell quickly enough. Bruhn has lived in Windermere for 30 years and spent half of that as the city’s mayor.

— EPILOGUE —

Andrew Gillum meets with Barack Obama amid 2020 speculation” via Rebecca Buck of CNN — It is unclear what was discussed at the meeting between Obama and Gillum, who has been talked about as a possible 2020 presidential contender and hasn’t ruled out a bid. Gillum was in Washington to speak at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. There, he punted on the question of running for president in 2020, saying, “I plan on being married to my wife. That is all I am planning.” Gillum added, “What I am committed to doing between now and 2020 is doing everything I can to make the state of Florida available and winnable for the Democratic nominee for president.”

Amid 2020 rumors, Andrew Gillum meets Barack Obama in Washington D.C.

Miami-Dade’s Christina White says election supervisors need more time” via Florida Politics — White, the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections, won enormous accolades for not encountering problems during this year’s statewide recounts. That’s not to say she didn’t face any challenges. She told Florida Politics that, as lawmakers in Tallahassee explore election reform, taking a fresh look at deadlines for finishing recounts should be part of the conversation. “In a large county, what would be nice is more time,” she said. “Whenever you are dealing with a limited amount of time, but you are expected to have 100 percent accuracy, speed and accuracy do not always align.”

“Danny Kushmer questions Ross Spano’s credibility” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Add Republican Danny Kushmer to the list of former opponents now questioning U.S. Rep.-elect Spano’s credibility in the wake of an admission he violated campaign finance laws. Kushmer, one of five candidates who ran in the Republican primary in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, endorsed Spano after losing the party nomination to the Dover pol. But that was before Spano acknowledged he financed his campaign using personal loans. “On May 4, (when) my wife and I drove to Tallahassee and qualified to run for Congress, we knew it would be difficult, and we knew we would be up against career politicians with name recognition,” Kushmer said. “But we didn’t know we would face an opponent willing to look us in the face and tell us about his values and ethics while at the same time subverting campaign finance laws.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

DNC chair to scout Miami-Dade for possible 2020 conventionvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — On Friday, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is set to tour Miami-Dade County, to assess the area as a potential host for the DNC 2020 convention. Miami-Dade has been named one of three finalists to host the Democrats’ nominating convention in 2020, along with Milwaukee and Houston. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is co-chairing a committee to raise money for the potential convention, said Perez’ visit was timed during Art Basel to showcase the area’s ability to host an influx of visitors. “He’s going to actually see the city function during a huge international weeklong event,” said Levine, according to a report from the Miami Herald.

Tom Perez will make a Miami trip to scout out locations for the 2020 DNC Convention.

Ted Deutch, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen call for release of Americans held in Iran” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Reps. Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen have issued new calls for the release of all Americans held in Iran after several of those family members published an open letter to the public. “The international community must join together in forcing Iran’s leaders to end this practice of holding Americans and foreign nationals hostage,” said the lawmakers in a statement released in support of those hostages’ families. “Too many families have been suffering with missing relatives in Iran for far too long. They deserve answers and swift action to bring their family members home.” Monday saw the families of seven of those people being held release a letter requesting immediate action by world leaders, media outlets and other organizations to help return their relatives.

— OPINIONS —

If Rick Scott stays on the job he should finish the job” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times — This means Scott will have a chance to tie up some loose ends. For instance, calling a final meeting of the clemency board. After all, no one should minimize the importance of honoring the dead. And that’s exactly why Scott should reconvene the clemency board one final time. It will give him and the rest of the Cabinet another chance to recognize the atrocities committed against the Groveland Four. Those extra few days in office will also give Scott a chance to fix health care in Florida. He might also want to devote one of his remaining days to saving our natural resources. No doubt about it, there’s still work to be done. Luckily, Gov. Scott is still on the job.

Joe Henderson: ‘Oops’ doesn’t quite cut it as Ross Spano’s excuse” via Florida Politics — I live within the boundaries of Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which soon might be represented — but hopefully not — by Republican Spano. That feeling has everything to do with the coat of slime dripping off his empty suit. That’s what I thought Spano was when he was representing my district in the Florida House — an empty suit a title. I see now that I overestimated him. The charge that he broke the law to win the CD 15 Republican primary over Neil Combee, a bit of an upset, and then the general election over Democrat Kristin Carlson is serious. Since he already fessed up, it should disqualify Spano from being sworn into office. By his own admission, he broke campaign finance laws by borrowing about $180,000 from two different people and then categorized the money as personal loans to himself in the effort to win. That’s not the worst of it though. The revelation was followed by a clownish attempt to blame the misdeed on bad advice he received about the lawfulness of the gambit. Yeech.

Thank you, FDLE: Claims of strippers, excessive travel at Rick Singh’s office need probing” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — There were pages of allegations against the second-term Democrat — all of which he vigorously denies — about wasted tax dollars, excessive travel, questionable deals with vendors; even his office concocting bogus photographic evidence to help Singh dodge questions in a county audit. His former finance director, Aisha Hassan, claimed Singh took trips to Spain, Boston, New York and elsewhere, often using bogus reasons to spend public money on personal travel. His former communications director, Laverne McGee, said Singh went so far as to simply create a list of places he wanted to go, ordering her to “come up with justifications for these things to show why I’m going.” Singh said he welcomes the scrutiny … If he’s correct, then he deserves to be vindicated by an outside agency with no dog in the hunt. If even a portion of the accusations are true, Singh probably shouldn’t be in office. Either way, taxpayers deserve the truth.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Tim Cerio, GrayRobinson: North Manatee Investment

Douglas Darling, DDarling Consulting: Copley Consulting Group

Justin Day, Capital City Consulting: Lime

Hannah Kaplan Plante: Step Up for Students

James McFaddin, Paul Mitchell, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: LifeStance Health

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Baptist Health Care Corporation

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Association for Development of the Exceptional

Sam Wagoner, Sunrise Consulting Group: Hernando County School Board, Youth and Family Alternatives

Personnel note: Veteran Tallahassee photographer Mark Wallheiser joins FSU — The former longtime Tallahassee Democrat lensman, who shot the epic photo at an Alabama campaign event for Trump that went viral in 2015, is now a photographer/videographer for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Wallheiser announced the new job on Facebook. “I am excited to start this new adventure in my life,” he wrote. “So far this week, I’ve only added two new email addresses and 5 new passwords to remember. I’m sure more are to come.” Over his nearly four-decade career, he’s also freelanced for magazines such as Stern, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated and Business Week. More recently, he was a contract freelance photographer in north Florida for Reuters.

Congratulations to renowned photographer Mark Wallheiser. (Image via Facebook)

— HAPPY HOLIDAYS —

Christmas turkey, fruitcake rocketing toward space station” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — The SpaceX rocket booster missed its landing zone on the ground, however, and fell into the sea, just offshore. Besides smoked turkey breast and all the other fixings for Christmas dinner, the delivery includes 40 mice and 36,000 worms for aging and muscle studies. The launch was delayed a day when NASA discovered that the food for the mouse-tronauts was moldy because of contamination. More food had to be rushed in from California. Just two days earlier, three astronauts arrived at the space station to join the three already there. The crew includes two Americans, two Russians, one German and one Canadian. The newest residents will remain on board for six months, while the others will return to Earth on Dec. 20.

An elf thief in the night: Steal holiday decorations and you could wind up on Facebook” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — ‘Tis the season for giving, but also for taking, and it’s not just packages. Holiday decorations sprouting from lawns and porches make easy targets for thieves who are inexplicably compelled to make off with manifestations of holiday cheer. But with the ubiquity of surveillance cameras, crimes like last Wednesday’s elf-napping are often captured on video, and law enforcement agencies are happy to push the evidence out on social media platforms. That’s what the Tampa Police Department did this week after the elf’s owners reported the crime and shared the video. By Tuesday afternoon, the video had been viewed some 12,000 times on the department’s Facebook page.

To view the video, click on the image below:

Two Minneapolis officers put on leave after decorating precinct with a racist Christmas tree” via CNN — Two police officers in the 4th precinct of Minneapolis’ Police Department added some unusual items to their lobby’s Christmas tree: A collection of street trash, including packs of Newport cigarettes, a crumpled bag of Takis chips, a cup from a Popeyes fried chicken outlet, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor and some yellow crime scene tape. Critics say the items chosen play on negative stereotypes about African-Americans. “These pieces of trash were deliberately chosen to represent how certain officers feel about the community they serve: that Black people are a stereotype to be mocked and the lives of those they serve may as well be reduced to trash in the gutter,” City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham said on Facebook.

— ALOE —

Disney World: Animal Kingdom goes dark, gets roomy After Hours” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has cranked up an After Hours special event at Animal Kingdom theme park. The idea is to sell a limited amount of tickets to create an exclusive feel after regular park hours. In this case, Disney charges $125 per person, and the event officially runs from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. After Hours at Animal Kingdom had a dark, downright eerie atmosphere to the first night of the event this week. I’d generously call it “sparsely populated,” but that’s part of the idea/charm. So most of the available rides were walk-on. The queue for Na’Vi River Journey was completely empty as we went through. If you wanted to do Flight of Passage over and over and over again, this was the time. The event does not include the entire park. The bulk of the stores and restaurants are shut-up tight.

Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom After Hours makes guests feel special, for a price.

SeaWorld raising starting pay at Orlando theme parks” via The Associated Press — Company officials said it would raise the starting wage for hourly workers to $11 an hour from $10 an hour. The pay increase takes effect Monday. The wage hike affects only the theme park company’s Orlando parks — SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove. A spokeswoman says the company is always evaluating pay rates and adjusting them to stay competitive.

What Ben Pollara is reading  Parkinson’s Foundation holds first-ever medical marijuana conference — The Foundation will host its inaugural conference on medical marijuana and Parkinson’s disease in Denver this March 6 and 7. In a statement, Dr. James Beck, chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation, said now that “medical marijuana is legal in 33 states (including Florida) and in many other countries, people are equating access to efficacy. It is imperative that we address the clinical implications of medical marijuana use among people with Parkinson’s.” The goal of the conference is to bring together a diverse group of experts from academia, clinics, industry, government and the Parkinson’s community to establish a consensus on medical marijuana use in Parkinson’s, the statement said.

What John Lockwood is reading  “California card club owners fear new gambling regulations could force them to fold on blackjack-type games” via the Los Angeles Times — …(C)ard club workers across the state may have to practice something different or even find new work if California gambling regulators follow through with new restrictions on some of the clubs’ most popular table games. The state Bureau of Gambling Control is holding public workshops on new card club regulations but has provided no details on what changes might be under consideration or what sparked the need to consider new rules. That has caused an uproar among operators of the state’s 66 card clubs, which employ 23,000 workers and generate an estimated $300 million in local, state and federal taxes annually. The operators say they fear that if the new regulations are too tough they could put an end to games that represent up to 70 percent of their business. “I’m more than positive that they’re all worried,” Ron Sarabi, general manager of Gardens Casino, said of his fellow card club operators.

What David Johnson is reading — “Atlanta Braves’ new spring home to be known as CoolToday Park” via The Associated Press — The team announced a 20-year naming rights deal with the home service company. CoolToday Park will host Atlanta’s final spring game in 2019 and become the team’s full-time training home in 2020. It is set to replace the Walt Disney World complex near Orlando, which the Braves are leaving because of long travel times to other spring training sites in Florida.

Artist’s rendering of the completed CoolToday Park. (Image via WUSF)

Sage owners debut fine-dining Italian steakhouse Il Lusso in downtown Tallahassee” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The reservation-only restaurant opens to the public Thursday. Head Chef Terry White, whose business partner is Craig Richardson, said the 201 E. Park Avenue restaurant doesn’t repeat Sage’s French-inspired menu. At Il Lusso, dishes are inspired by authentic handmade food and techniques developed in Northern Italy, White said. “I want people to think they haven’t had a dining experience we hope to achieve here in town,” White said. The only thing his two restaurants share in common, he added, is creating “delicious and thoughtful food.” Patrons can expect a formal service experience with several staffers waiting a table per night.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to legislative aide Lara Medley.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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