Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, Joe Henderson, and Drew Wilson.
There is no doubt Florida can do much better with its statewide elections. And the people say open primaries are an excellent way to start.
The people are correct.
A Public Policy Polling survey in Florida Politics found 70 percent support for allowing all voters to participate in primaries. Only 14 states require party affiliation to vote in a primary. Florida has had a closed system since 1913.
Open primary advocacy groups paid for the poll, which reinforced what we already knew. Florida’s system disenfranchises the state’s 3.5 million registered voters with no party affiliation.
There must be a better way.
“If the parties want to continue to have taxpayers fund their primaries, then everyone should be able to participate. It’s that simple,” said Steve Hough, Chair of Florida Fair and Open Primaries.
The voter turnout for the primary was about 27 percent. That’s nearly half the number that turned out for the general election. Primary voters generally tend to be true believers in party ideology. They are less likely to support moderate candidates.
The current system gives those folks a lot of power.
It was painful watching Adam Putnam play to the Republican primary base by channeling Rambo. Andrew Gillum rode a progressive wave to an upset in the Democratic primary.
Could Gillum have held off Gwen Graham in an open primary? We’ll never know for sure, but it’s debatable.
Maybe Graham would have beaten Ron DeSantis. That’s another thing we’ll never know for sure.
What we do know: The 2020 presidential Armageddon will put Florida under a microscope again.
But we also need to have an eye on 2022, when the next round of major statewide elections take place. When those primaries roll around, it would be nice if every registered voter had a say.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: “There are now 77 major or significant Walls built around the world, with 45 countries planning or building Walls. Over 800 miles of Walls have been built in Europe since only 2015. They have all been recognized as close to 100% successful. Stop the crime at our Southern Border!”
—@MaggieNYT: “Recurring theme from sources over last two days: [Jared] Kushner is the de facto chief of staff, whether people realize it or not.”
—@GBennettPost: .@realDonaldTrump hasn’t played golf since Nov. 25, the final day of his last Mar-a-Lago visit, per @trumpgolfcount records. The 52-day golf drought is the longest of his presidency.
—@MDixon55: @RonDeSantisFL office sent release late last night inviting mostly out-of-town press to cover tour of storm damage with @FEMA_Brock. After we all scramble to make sure we have folks in place, they have closed-door meetings and kick out reporters. Good start, press shop.
—@SchmitzMedia: In the year 2019, government agencies and politicians should stop inviting reporters to events so they can use their b-roll for state-funded videos or campaign ads.
—@RepMattGaetz: I, along with the Florida Delegation, take seriously the responsibility of passing meaningful legislation to protect & defend our nation, provide assistance to those hurt by Hurricane Michael, & fully reopen the government to ensure our public servants receive pay they’ve earned.
—@Daniel_Sweeney: Is there any U.S. House committee that does not deserve the adjective “powerful” in front of it? Because from my reading, it appears that every House committee is a “powerful” committee. But they can’t ALL be, right?
—@CortesBob: Honored to have started my new job. Excited to be working for the @SeminoleSO & our leader @SeminoleSheriff as their Senior Administrator for Governmental & Community Affairs.
—@Aronberg: Progress! 41% drop in opioid overdose deaths in Palm Beach County in 2018. More cases to be reviewed, but preliminary data from @District15ME show opioids caused 326 deaths in 2018, compared to 558 deaths during the same period in 2017.
—@GNewburn: Small world — the nurse who did my blood work has a sister doing 15 years in Lowell. She said she wishes there were more people like me. I said I strongly agreed.
— DAYS UNTIL —
MLK Day — 4; State of the Union address — 12; Super Bowl LIII — 17; Scott Maddox trial begins — 25; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 26; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 26; Valentine’s Day — 28; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 47; Tampa mayoral election — 47; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 50; St. Patrick’s Day — 59; 2019 Major League Baseball season begins — 62; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 87; Easter — 94; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 106; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 141; Iowa Caucuses — 379; 2020 General Election — 656.
— TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis: Airbnb ‘on Florida’s hit list’ if West Bank policy doesn’t change” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis threatened sanctions against Airbnb, the vacation rental website, over a policy he says unfairly targets the Jewish population. Airbnb chose to remove listings of properties in the West Bank from its website. Those properties have been under dispute, as Palestinians see them as an impediment to any possible peace agreement between themselves and the Israelis. “We have a moral obligation to oppose the Airbnb policy,” DeSantis said at Tuesday’s news conference, held outside the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beaches building in Boca Raton. “It does target Jews specifically. I think that that is wrong.” But Airbnb says they are not aligned with BDS efforts and that the company remains committed to investments in Israel overall. “Airbnb has unequivocally rejected the BDS movement, and we remain deeply committed to our more than 20,000 hosts in Israel,” an Airbnb representative said. The company’s decision not to allow hosts in West Bank impacted about 200 listings.
— THE NEW ADMINISTRATION —
“Okaloosa Superintendent challenges suspension” via the News Service of Florida — Five days after being suspended by Gov. DeSantis, Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson requested a formal hearing from the Florida Senate to challenge DeSantis’ decision. In a one-page letter, Jackson’s attorney, George Levesque, said Senate President Bill Galvano has the discretion to assign the case to a committee or a special master. Levesque said Jackson is asking to appoint a special master to preside over the hearing. The letter said Jackson is “disputing all of the allegations contained” in DeSantis’ executive order suspending her. In the executive order, DeSantis said he was suspending Jackson on the recommendation of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The governor pointed, in part, to child-abuse allegations against an Okaloosa County teacher and grand jury findings that were critical of Jackson.
“Will DeSantis take his shot at reshaping SFWMD Board?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Only a fraction of the South Florida Water Management District’s governing board heeded the call fromDeSantis to tender resignations. But with the terms of three more members expiring in March, state Rep. Ray Rodrigues believes the governor will soon have what he wants anyway. Three board members at SWFMD left and created vacancies; Melanie Peterson already resigned at the start of the year; Dan O’Keefe and Carlos Diaz quit following DeSantis’ request. Terms for board members Sam Accursio, Rick Barber and James Moran all end in March. That means within months, DeSantis will be able to appoint replacements for five of nine members.
“DeSantis plan: Move wildlife cops to agency not known for enforcing rules” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — The sweeping list of environmental programs and promises that new Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled last week included a lot of the usual targets. But there was one that wasn’t usual at all: Move “environmental crimes law enforcement” from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the state Department of Environmental Protection. A swap such as the one the governor has proposed is unusual, in part because the two agencies’ approach to enforcing environmental laws could not be more different. The Wildlife Commission has 853 positions for gun-toting officers patrolling the state’s fields, swamps, forests and waterways. They have racked up a series of high-profile arrests in recent years, sometimes by running lengthy undercover operations. Meanwhile, thanks to the anti-regulatory push by prior Gov. Rick Scott, the Department of Environmental Protection, which has no sworn law officers, has spent the past eight years retreating from enforcement.
“Hurricane debris remains ‘huge, huge undertaking’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Emerging from a closed-door meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long and local officials, DeSantis said that, in addition to upfronting disaster relief money to local governments, he would push the White House to increase federal reimbursements for debris cleanup. “I think that this warrants it,” DeSantis said after the meeting at A.D. Harris Learning Village in Panama City. “Obviously, there is a lot of stuff going on in Washington right now; it’s not the best of times. But I think that would be very good for the local community.” DeSantis and Long later planned to tour Tyndall Air Force Base, Mexico Beach and a site where temporary housing was being put up in Panama City. In addition to receiving the concerns from local officials about debris removal, Long said additional temporary housing is on the way.
Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a significant policy announcement, joined by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, Kraft Azalea Park, 1365 Alabama Dr. Winter Park.
“Richard Corcoran to make $276,000 a year” via The Associated Press — State records show that former House Speaker Corcoran is getting paid $276,000. That’s the same amount that former Commissioner Pam Stewart was paid. Stewart spent her entire career in education. She started as a teacher in the 1970s and spent time as a principal and a deputy school superintendent along the way. Corcoran is an attorney and Republican politician who was hired at the urging of Gov. DeSantis. While he was Speaker, he pushed to expand private school vouchers and charter schools. Marva Johnson, the chair of the State Board of Education, said Corcoran deserved to be paid the same as Stewart. In a statement, she said while he was House speaker he had “demonstrated keen knowledge” of Florida’s educational needs.
“Florida is taking applications — again — for a new banking regulator” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Former Gov. Scott and the Cabinet opened applications last summer after Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis forced out the previous commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation. But while many applied for the job, including former state representative and failed banker Jay Fant, the Cabinet chose to leave the position open to the new governor and Cabinet, which took office this month. Deputy Commissioner Pam Epting has been leading the office since then. OFR licenses and regulates banks, check-cashing stores, and payday loan operations. According to OFR, applications are being accepted through Feb. 14.
— ROAD TO SESSION —
“Bill Galvano says Supreme Court makeover could prompt ‘bold’ education reforms” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — “We have a new court,” Galvano told a sold-out crowd of 270 at the Argus Foundation event, adding that the more conservative court could prompt lawmakers to push “some issues that in the past we probably wouldn’t have.” “You’ll probably see some more bold steps in education and revisiting some of the ideas that Gov. [Jeb] Bush brought to the table back in the day,” Galvano said. A more conservative Supreme Court could give lawmakers additional flexibility to expand vouchers. DeSantis already has appointed two conservative judges to replace two liberal-leaning judges who are retiring. The new governor gets one more Supreme Court appointment. His appointees are expected to move the court in a much more conservative direction.
“Jeff Brandes: Limit tax referendums to general elections” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Brandes is again sponsoring a bill that would require counties to place tax increase referendums only on a general election ballot. Currently, counties are not limited on such tax initiatives and can place them before voters in a Special Elections. “It stops cities and counties from hosting special elections with a ridiculously low turnout where a small [number] of constituents will decide on a tax increase on all the taxpayers,” Brandes said of the bill (SB 336). “General elections get a majority of voters who are able to vote whether their taxes are raised.”
“Brandes joins the ranks of AOB reform optimists” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Count Brandes among those who believe this is the year for assignment of benefits reform. The main vehicle to get there, Brandes said, likely will be a bill (SB 122) by Banking & Insurance Chair Doug Broxson, reforming Florida’s one-way attorney fee system in insurance litigation. “Absolutely,” Brandes told reporters during the Office of Insurance Regulation’s annual industry summit in Tallahassee. “I think you’re going to see a stand-alone AOB bill, a stand-alone one-way attorney fee bill, and a stand-alone BI (bodily injury auto insurance) bill this year,” he said. Brandes is a key adviser to Senate President Galvano and occupies several leadership posts, including the chairmanship of the criminal and civil justice budget subcommittee and a seat on the insurance panel.
“Legislature takes on eternal challenge: prioritizing spending” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — State Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff and their more experienced colleagues face big challenges — such as paying for the recovery of northwest Florida devastated by Hurricane Michael, rising health care costs and following up on the Legislature’s commitment to school safety after last year’s Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School massacre — and some more modest. One of the legislators’ most challenging jobs will be settling on a budget, with no shortage of requests from local organizations and communities. Affordable-housing needs have only grown as a result of the devastating Hurricane Michael, which has left some Panhandle residents still living in tents. Recovery costs are also expected to require a big chunk of the 2019 budget, making longer the chances for some local projects to get funded.
“AFP-Florida plans major push to criminal justice reform” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — That’s according to Skylar Zander, the new state director for the nonprofit conservative advocacy group. Zander suggested many don’t know AFP for its criminal justice reform — but that’ll change. He said the Sunshine State is overdue for bipartisan changes that have been done in other states and most recently at the federal level with the passage of the First Step Act. “There’s been a lot of splash about it in the past few years, so we’re going to focus on making sure we’re passing solidly measured criminal justice reform.” Specifically, AFP-FL will prioritize changing the state’s felony-theft threshold. Lawmakers last year tried but failed to increase the current limit of $300. Zander said he’d like to see that number get to “at least $1,000.”
Today’s legislative delegation meetings — St. Lucie County — 9 a.m., Indian River State College, Fort Pierce Campus, Knight Center for Emerging Technologies, 3209 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce. Palm Beach County — chaired by Wellington Democrat Matt Willhite — will hold workshops with the Palm Beach County Commission, Palm Beach County School Board and Palm Beach County League of Cities; workshop with County Commission at 12:45 p.m., with School Board at 2:30 p.m., with League of Cities at 4 p.m., Florida Atlantic University, John D. MacArthur Campus, 5353 Parkside Dr., Jupiter. Putnam County — Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Bobby Payne — 1 p.m., Putnam County Commission board room, 2509 Crill Ave., Palatka.
— STATEWIDE —
“Confusion reigns over Marsy’s Law: Critics and supporters agree it’s going to need more clarity” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Florida was one of six states to pass a variation of Marsy’s Law in November, making a total of 11 states around the country who have passed its provisions. But the transition hasn’t been so smooth in some of those other states, providing a cautionary tale for Florida lawmakers as they consider legislative improvements to the measure. “We didn’t need it at all,’ says Andy Thomas, a public defender in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit which includes Leon County. “Under the jurisdiction under (former State Attorney Willie) Meggs and under Mr. (Jack) Campbell, victims’ rights have been safeguarded to the point where it’s held up in court already. I’ve tried to negotiate cases in the past, and they’ve said — not until we hear from the victim. We have to have the victims’ OK.” Marsy’s Law is already changing how public defenders do their job. Last month, the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee issued an administrative order ruling that in criminal appeals, the court will now accept a request for extension before a court date of only 30 days, whereas it was previously 90 days. “That’s going to create a bottleneck in appeals,” says Thomas.
“Utility ballot proposal nears Florida Supreme Court review” via Florida Politics — The committee Citizens for Energy Choices had submitted 60,880 signatures as of midday Tuesday, drawing closer to a 76,632-signature threshold that would trigger a review of the proposed ballot language by the Florida Supreme Court, according to the Division of Elections website. It takes 766,200 valid petition signatures for a proposed ballot measure to go before voters. The proposal calls for wholesale and retail electricity markets to “be fully competitive so that electricity customers are afforded meaningful choices among a wide variety of competing electricity providers.” It would set up a right for customers to choose electricity providers and would limit the role of investor-owned electric utilities — private companies such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power Co. — to constructing, operating and repairing transmission and distribution systems.
“School leaders face hurricane, security issues” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Those issues drew discussion during a State Board of Education meeting in Pensacola that also included new appointee Andy Pollack taking his seat on the board. Pollack’s daughter Meadow was among 17 students and faculty members killed in February during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, representing the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, outlined a handful of major issues facing public schools, including a need to provide support to districts that face rebuilding or replacing schools damaged by Hurricane Michael. Board Vice Chairman Andy Tuck also raised a question about whether the hard-hit counties face an exodus of students — an issue that could affect how much money districts receive through the state’s school-funding formula. “When you start losing students, it’s just going to make it that much tougher,” Tuck said.
Homeowners still waiting on post-Michael insurance claims — Homeowners who suffered property damage when Hurricane Michael hit Northwest Florida three months ago are still waiting on their insurance checks. Panama City homeowner and real estate agent Jean McDougall told Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida that insurers “are not doing their jobs,” holding up rebuilding plans for many Panhandle residents. McDougal says she has filed claims totaling $200,000 but has only received $40,000. Other homeowners shared similar stories of receiving payments weeks late and several thousand dollars short. The frustration of homeowners comes ahead of a Legislative Session where assignment of benefits, also known as AOB, reforms will be on the table. AOB allows homeowners can sign over their policy to contractors, who will complete the repairs and seek payment from the insurance company directly, often in court.
“DCF finds agencies screwed up big-time in ‘disturbing’ Jordan Belliveau death” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A Department of Children and Families investigation found disturbing negligence by agencies overseeing the child-welfare case of Belliveau, the two-year-old boy who died as a result of injuries sustained by his mother, Charisee Stinson, last September. The investigation found the decision to reunify Belliveau with his parents was made in error. The department considered only the parents’ perceived compliance to required tasks and behavioral changes required for reunification with their son and failed to address other issues including the parents’ ongoing domestic abuse and likely substance abuse and mental health challenges. The investigation also found that policies and procedures to ensure child safety and well-being were not followed, including the caseworker’s failure to address Stinson’s noncompliance with a DCF-mandated reunification program both before and after reunification. The caseworker failed to identify an active danger toward the boy that the investigation found should have been “clearly observable.”
>>>Lauren Book reacts: “The death of two-year-old Jordan Belliveau is a tragedy on multiple levels, and until the department accepts responsibility for what went wrong, I do not have any confidence that other vulnerable individuals across the state can be kept safe by DCF. I was outraged by the last line of the department’s report, which oversimply places blame primarily on the local agencies of Circuit 6 in Pinellas.
“To be clear: a child died, and everyone involved in this colossal and preventable failure should be held accountable. However, when I read the DCF report, I see a passing of blame. That stops with me. These issues may have occurred locally, but they are absolutely NOT localized to Pinellas County. The blatant and unacceptable failures of communication, threat identification, and case management are occurring in child welfare systems in every single county in our state.
“It is a systemic problem, and until DCF changes its philosophy of case management, we will continue to see preventable child deaths occur in communities across Florida.
“In my current position as Chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, I am continuing to study what went wrong and will be working with staff and my colleagues in the House and the Senate to address and correct these issues as is possible legislatively. As was revealed through the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and in the report on Jordan’s death, the issue of siloed communication is one of the greatest dangers facing the citizens and the state of Florida – and it’s something I will lead our Committee to examine and address.
“I know Gov. DeSantis and [DCF Secretary Chad] Poppell share my commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of each and every one of Florida’s children, families and vulnerable adults, and I look forward to working together to create the change so badly needed in our welfare system.”
Former state Ethics Commissioner Ivan “Marty” Ford dies — Virlindia Doss, executive director of the Commission on Ethics, on Wednesday shared the news that Ford died Jan. 4 in Vero Beach. He was 83. Ford served on the panel January 2010-December 2015. He also served in the Air Force during the Korean War, was a Secret Service agent during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and was an FBI special agent, retiring in 1988, Doss said. He later was a member of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. An obituary said he is survived by wife Beverly, three children, and six grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Feb. 9 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Vero Beach. Burial will be later at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Hearing delayed on school shooting suspect’s guard contact” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — A hearing has been delayed on whether Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz should still be supervised by a corrections officer he’s accused of assaulting. The hearing was postponed because a court reporter became ill. It was reset for Friday. Cruz’s lawyers want a judge to stop Cruz from being supervised by Sgt. Raymond Beltran. Cruz is segregated from other prisoners and is under close watch at the Broward County Jail. Authorities say Cruz attacked Beltran in November amid increasing friction between the two and faces several felony charges.
“FPL rolls out ’30-by-30’ solar road map” via Florida Politics — Florida Power & Light said Wednesday that it plans to have 30 million solar panels on the grid by 2030 … FPL’s initiative, dubbed “30-by-30,” will see them continue the rapid expansion of their solar portfolio over the next decade. FPL and sister company NextEra Energy Resources are already the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, much of it in Florida. … “FPL is not your traditional electric company,” said FPL CEO Eric Silagy. “We’re a technology company that delivers power, and we’ve long believed in making smart, forward-thinking infrastructure investments to produce tangible, long-term benefits … Now we’re taking our long-standing clean energy commitment to the next level.” … FPL’s announcement included statements of approval from several of the state’s top elected officials, including Gov. DeSantis … “We live in the Sunshine State, and solar energy is a natural resource that should be seriously considered. FPL’s initiative is important. … This is vital to the economic well-being of our State and quality of life for residents,” he said.
“John Kasich to speak at UF next week” via Florida Politics — Former Ohio Governor, congressman and 2016 presidential candidate Kasich will be in Gainesville next week to give a talk at the University of Florida. The Jan. 23 event will be held at the on UF main campus at the University Auditorium, 333 Newell Dr. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with Kasich expected to take the stage at 7:30 p.m. … He is being paid $60,000 plus travel expenses for the speaking engagement. The event is being hosted by the UF ACCENT Speakers Bureau, a student-run organization funded via student activity fees. … ACCENT says Kasich will speak about his life and define what it means to be a leader. At the conclusion of his speech, there will be a 15-minute Q&A. … UF students will get priority access to the tickets. Non-students will be able to claim any remaining tickets at 6:30 p.m. on the day of the event.
“Meet Florida’s newest strawberry variety, the ‘Brilliance’” via Ken Suarez of Fox 13 News — Members of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association gathered for their Strawberry Field Day to discuss the latest developments in their industry. This year, the hot topic was the Florida Brilliance. The Brilliance is the newest variety of strawberry developed by the University of Florida. “It seems to have larger fruit, better color, and overall better taste than some of the other varieties we have had,” said Adam Young of Strawberry Ranch in Dover. “It has exceeded expectations.”
— LOCAL —
“Jason Shoaf releases first TV ad for HD 7” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Shoaf is hitting North Florida televisions with a message of family, faith, community and support for Donald Trump. Shoaf released his first campaign ad — just days after reporting a $50,000 haul over three weeks in December. The spot features a handful of community members, presumably from Port St. Joe, where Shoaf lives. At one point a pastor says Shoaf “is guided by his faith.” Others cite Shoaf’s business experience (he’s a vice president for the St. Joe Natural Gas Company) and reference the need to rebuild in the area following Hurricane Michael. Shoaf’s wife, Ashley, and two children, Madelyn and William, also appear in the ad.
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“Shawn Harrison may be planning a comeback” via Florida Politics — Former state Rep. Harrison has only been out of office for a couple of months, but there’s a chance he’ll be back Tallahassee sooner than expected. Zephyrhills Republican Rep. Danny Burgess is expected to leave the House to lead the state Department of Veterans Affairs. Once that happens, Gov. DeSantis will need to call a special election to fill his seat. There’s been some speculation Harrison would take another shot at his old seat in 2020 — after all, he was in the same position after the 2012 election before piloting a comeback in 2014. But according to some in Harrison’s circle, he’s giving Burgess’ district a serious look.
“Hallandale Beach Commissioner facing censure over claim Muslim congresswoman may ‘blow us Capitol Hill’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hallandale Beach Commissioner Annabelle Lima-Taub is now facing possible censure after writing a Facebook post claiming U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Muslim, might “blow up Capitol Hill.” Lima-Taub posted the social media comment alongside a resolution she signed to remove Tlaib from office. Now, Commissioner Michele Lazarow says she’ll introduce a censure resolution at a commission meeting next week. “Proudly signed,” Lima-Taub said on Facebook regarding the anti-Tlaib petition. “A Hamas-loving anti-Semite has NO place in government! She is a danger and would not put it past her to become a martyr and blow up Capitol Hill.” Lazarow released a statement explaining her push for censure. “While individual commissioners have spoken out against Commissioner Lima-Taub’s hateful and bigoted remarks, I believe we need to take action as a city,” Lazarow said.
“Lehigh Acres wants more municipal service. Is it ready for cityhood?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Representatives for the Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District want lawmakers to implement new powers and allow for increased salaries there. Maggie Mooney, general counsel for the district, presented draft legislation to the Lee County Legislative Delegation that could advance the district’s governing role. “When you look at the host of other powers available to us, some of these powers will require a significant amount of examination before we just haphazardly take it on,” Mooney told Florida Politics. Draft legislation will allow for feasibility studies for utility service, something district authorities say must be done before any significant expansion on municipal-level utilities. It will also provide for a greater role in disaster response. Mooney said when the Florida Legislature authorized the current district in 2015 officials had envisioned a gradual evolution to cityhood.
Assignment editors — Surterra Wellness will host the official grand opening of its newest medical cannabis Wellness Center in New Port Richey, the first in Pasco County, between 10:30 a.m. and noon, 4218 U.S. Highway 19, New Port Richey.
Assignment editors — The Able Trust, joined by state Reps. Elizabeth Fetterhoff and Paul Renner, will award CareerSource Flagler Volusia a $64,000 grant, 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, CareerSource Flagler Volusia Center, Speedway Business Plaza, 329 Bill France Blvd., Daytona Beach.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Shutdown’s economic damage starts to pile up, threatening an end to growth” via Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction. White House officials are now cautioning Trump about the toll it could take on a sustained economic expansion. Trump, who has hitched his political success to the economy, also faces other economic headwinds, including slowing global growth, a trade war with China and the waning effects of a $1.5 trillion tax cut. For now, the White House shows no signs of being ready to relent, and Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, continued to blame Democrats for the economic damage. The administration now calculates that the shutdown reduces quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for every week that it lasts.
“Unpaid because of the government shutdown? Here are discounts, deals and food for you” via Monique Madan and Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and DIRECTV customers affected by the shutdown are eligible for flexible payment options to keep services including cellphones, television and internet running. American Homes 4 Rent, FirstKey Homes, Front Yard Residential, Invitation Homes, Progress Residential and Tricon American Homes are offering deferred rent payment options with no late fees to any renter who has been furloughed. Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo are offering financial assistance or hardship programs. Also, furloughed employees are eligible to receive an interest-free loan up to $500 from Check Cashing USA. The Islamic Foundation of South Florida Food Pantry in Sunrise and The Islamic School of Miami are offering free food baskets for as long as the most extended shutdown in U.S. history lasts.
“Super Bowl planners: Shutdown brings ‘uncharted territory’” via Jeff Martin of The Associated Press — A day after travelers waited nearly 90 minutes in snail-speed security lines at the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Mayor is concerned about the waits that could result when the city hosts the 2019 Super Bowl. The ongoing partial government shutdown is “uncharted territory” amid planning for one of the world’s biggest sporting events, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said. But the government shutdown is a wild card that arose relatively late in that planning process. “Certainly there are factors that we don’t control such as what’s happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines,” Bottoms said. “We are continuing to encourage people to get to the airport very early.”
“Waiting on Washington: Shutdown holding up disaster relief for Florida citrus growers” via James Jones of the Bradenton Herald — The stage seemed to be set for embattled Florida citrus growers to finally receive financial relief from the federal Farm Service Agency for damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Then came the partial government shutdown on Dec. 22. That frustrates Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. Approximately 2,000 Florida citrus growers have been waiting well over a year for the lifeline from the federal government, Sparks said. “For the citrus industry, it is frustrating that this program was caught in the government shutdown.”
“Rick Scott backs bill to pay Coast Guard” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Senate Bill 21 was introduced by U.S. Sen. John Thune, the Republican from South Dakota, and now has a bipartisan list of 23 co-sponsors including Scott and Florida’s other Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. It seeks to make continuing appropriations for Coast Guard pay in the event of any expiration of appropriations acts that lead to partial government shutdowns. The bill also provides for such other benefits as housing allowances. “Our men and women risk their lives every day to protect our freedom and our way of life. Congress has failed to pass a budget and keep the government funded; the men and women of our Coast Guard shouldn’t be punished for the dysfunction of Washington,” Scott stated in a news release issued by his office.
Assignment editors — Scott will hold a news conference on the ongoing dysfunction in Washington, 9:15 a.m., Senate Radio-Television Gallery Studio, Capitol Building, S-325.
“Matt Gaetz seeks again to expand research into medical cannabis” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Following the introduction of a similar bill last year, Gaetz says he’s sponsoring the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019. The bill would increase the number of licenses available to institutions, such as universities, to study the extent of marijuana’s beneficial effects on patients treating cancer, PTSD, epilepsy, and other conditions. “For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law,” Gaetz said. “The Medical Cannabis Research Act helps break that logjam, allowing researchers to study medical cannabis without fear of legal jeopardy.”
“Charlie Crist subcommittees oversee defense, science and general government” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Crist announced three subcommittee assignments: Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Jurisdiction; Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Jurisdiction; and Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Jurisdiction. The appointments give him budgetary oversight of several agencies critical to Florida, including the military, NOAA, and NASA, as well as government offices and operations as varied as the White House, the District of Columbia, National Science Foundation, Commission on Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Special Counsel, and U.S. Postal Service. “These subcommittees oversee funding for programs critical to Pinellas County, the Tampa Bay region, and entire state — from the defense industry to harmful algal bloom research, to veterans treatment court programs,” Crist said in a news release.
“EMILY’s List backs pair of Florida freshmen for re-election in 2020” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — As 2020 presidential announcements continue to trickle in, EMILY’s List is making sure congressional races aren’t left behind. The group announced its support for a pair of female freshmen from South Florida in their upcoming 2020 re-election bids. EMILY’s List says it’s supporting Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida’s 26th Congressional District along with Donna Shalala of Florida’s 27th. The pair of South Florida congresswomen was one of 25 female freshman earning early endorsements from EMILY’s List. The group aims to promote the election of pro-choice women to Congress. “Newly elected Democratic congresswomen are already proving what a positive influence their leadership and fresh perspectives bring to Congress,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.
— OPINIONS —
“When it comes to saving Florida’s environment, DeSantis gets it — so far” via Carl Hiaasen for the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis got lots of attention when he focused on the environment for a handful of paragraphs during his inauguration speech last week. He began his green passage with an understatement: “Our economic potential will be jeopardized if we do not solve the problems afflicting our environment and water resources.” In truth, Florida’s economy won’t merely be “jeopardized” if we don’t clean up our act; it will be strangled. Witness the crushing impact of the marathon red-tide outbreak, and blue-green algae blooms upon businesses in coastal communities. That was a harrowing, nauseating, tourist-repelling glimpse of the future. But, unlike his predecessor, DeSantis seems to grasp that it’s a serious long-term challenge, not a fleeting scientific anomaly-turned-political inconvenience. Is DeSantis sincere enough, or gutsy enough, to try to roll back an environmentally destructive law passed by his own party? What would have once been a rhetorical question doesn’t seem so pointless now.
“Alexander Hamilton is smiling on DeSantis” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Never in modern Florida history has a governor started so bold, energetic and resolute as this fellow who barely won after running a campaign that signaled no bold agenda. … The patron saint of DeSantis’ style seems to be Hamilton. First came the damaging campaign revelations that Democratic nominee Gillum had accepted free Hamilton tickets from an FBI agent posing as a Tallahassee developer. Then there is the governing advice Hamilton offered in the Federalist Papers more than 200 years ago. “Alexander Hamilton wrote, ‘Energy in the executive is the leading character in the definition of good government,’” DeSantis noted in his inaugural address. “I agree.”
“Once again, Legislators want guns on campus, but banned near them” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — One example of particularly lame legislation that keeps getting filed (and then killed) is the “campus carry” bill that seeks to lift a ban on guns on college campuses — while keeping a ban on guns in legislative meetings. Yes, the lawmakers backing this bill argue citizens have a Second Amendment right to have guns near students — but that those same citizens should be arrested and jailed if they bring their guns near politicians. The bill is so eye-rollingly hypocritical that senators from both parties killed it back in 2015. But Florida legislators have never been ones to let go of a bad idea — especially when they’re trying to impress the NRA.
“Logan Mitchell McFaddin: Resolve to stop AOB abuse” via Florida Politics — In too many cases, some shady contractors, public adjusters, and lawyers seeking to prey on the misfortune of others and profit from the insurance payouts are not far behind. One of the abuses growing at an alarming rate involves the assignment of benefits (AOB). Lawyers and local contractors often work together to encourage homeowners to sign away their insurance rights. Homeowners are convinced to sign over control of their insurance policy. It’s not just homeowners who are the victims. Some auto glass repair shops try to convince unsuspecting consumers to sign over their insurance benefits. These shops aren’t affiliated with the insurance companies. They may inflate the glass claim and then turn around and sue the insurance company, often without the policyholder’s knowledge. Florida is ground zero for this type of abuse, and as we approach the 2019 Legislative Session insurers will continue to advocate for meaningful legislation to protect policyholders and lower costs.
“Jack Latvala’s accuser gets $900k settlement. Many Florida victims get nothing.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — In relative terms, the matter was handled lickety-split. From the time the first women complained about Latvala to the time the check was cut, only 13 months passed. It was a case that involved politicians, lobbyists and allegations of lewd behavior (which Latvala denied) — and legislators wanted the matter behind them ASAP. So they cut the check fast. Notably, they act much slower when other victims are concerned. Thanks to antiquated laws that say the Legislature must approve government payouts of more than $200,000 — even when the Legislature has nothing to do with the case — claims aren’t handled based on merit. They’re based on politics. Victims often have to hire lobbyists … with good connections. Legislators know the system is flawed. In 2013, members of both parties recommended raising the bar that triggers legislative approval to $1 million, so smaller verdicts and settlements don’t require votes. But the proposal died.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Micah Kubic has big shoes to fill as new ACLU of Florida head” via the News Service of Florida — Kubic faced what he called the “terrifying” challenge of replacing Howard Simon as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida late last year. Kubic spent the past three years in the same post in Kansas before taking up the mantle of the Sunshine State civil-rights organization that, under Simon’s 44-year watch, scored a series of victories in court battles about same-sex marriage, restrictions on abortions and voting rights. Kubic, 35, who has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, holds a master’s degree in political science and a doctorate in black politics from Howard University. Kubic said that while it was “terrifying” to succeed Simon, whose lengthy tenure in Florida made him prominent throughout the nation, it was also “deeply flattering” to be chosen to continue Simon’s legacy.
“Mark Kaplan resigns from Port Tampa Bay Governing Board” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “I thought it would work to be two places at once. It turns out that was a little more difficult than I imagined,” Kaplan told Florida Politics. “I was not in Tampa as much as I wanted to be to do the job I wanted to do it. I think it was time to step aside so that Gov. DeSantis could put someone on the board who could be engaged on a full-time basis.” Kaplan was an appropriate pick for the board. He formerly served as the chief communications officer for the Mosaic Company, a Fortune 500 mining company that’s the largest U.S. producer of potash and phosphate fertilizer and has a huge presence at the port.
“Olivia Perez-Cubas exits Marco Rubio’s office; four will replace her” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Rubio announced Communications Director Perez-Cubas, his longtime spokeswoman, will leave his office after five years. To replace her, he promoted three members of his staff and hired a new press secretary as well. Rubio will divide Perez-Cubas’ responsibilities between three communications staffers: Arielle Mueller, Laura Ortiz and Justine Sanders. He also hired Nick Iacovella as his new Press Secretary for Domestic and National Issues.
Personnel note: Sarah Hansford Revell staying at State — Revell had been communications director at the Department of State since May 2017, starting under former Secretary Ken Detzner. She will continue to direct communications for new Secretary Mike Ertel. Revell has an estimable résumé, including once being Media and Marketing Manager at the Department of Health, an account manager at Tallahassee’s CoreMessage PR firm, and Director of Special Projects for the Department of Education. The FSU grad also was Chief of Staff to then-First Lady Ann Scott in 2012-13.
“Personnel note: Michael Waltz taps Micah Ketchel for Chief of Staff” via Florida Politics — Ketchel has worked as a political consultant, attorney and policy adviser for dozens of candidates and elected officials across the country. He also served as a staffer in both the Florida House and Congress, where he was a policy adviser and counsel to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller and the House Veterans Affairs Committee. In the 2012 cycle, Ketchel worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Independent Expenditure team where he oversaw numerous successful races on the east coast and in Florida. Ketchel continued his career in politics by joining the Republican State Leadership Committee and Republican Attorneys General Association for the 2014 and 2016 cycles, helping steer political and issue advocacy spending across all 50 states. In his new job, Ketchel’s work for Miller and the House Veterans Affairs Committee will be of particular use.
On the latest edition of the “Fluent in Floridian” podcast by SalterMitchell PR — John Lux got his start in Florida working for Walt Disney World, but after leaving the mouse’s house, he was drawn to a career in film production. Since becoming involved with Film Florida, Lux progressed from volunteer to treasurer before being named full-time executive director in 2016. He discusses how the Sunshine State’s industry growth stacks up to other regions. He also talks about some of the many memorable shows that were shot in Florida, as well as the engagement of companies like EA who help to expand the video game industry in the state. The link is here: fluentinfloridian.com/johnlux/.
— ALOE —
“Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Lego mural inspires Peabody students” via CBS Boston — The GOAT and the coach, two Patriots heroes now the subjects of a unique portrait, made by Peabody school kids out of Legos. And what you see, depends on how you look at it. It’s a project brought to the students at the Brown Elementary School in Peabody by artist Rob Surette, using more than 20,000 Legos. Using angled Legos, you see a different person from each side of the artwork. Look on the left; it’s Belichick. Walk around to the right, and Brady emerges. It’s very cool. About 400 students and teachers made the double portrait no matter their abilities or disabilities. The Brady-Belichick theme ties in with the school motto, “Aim High … Together We Will Fly.”
“The year in Central Florida theme park injuries” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Forty-two guests at Central Florida’s theme parks reported injuries and illnesses that required at least a 24-hour hospital stay in 2018, including one death at Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Major theme parks in the region are required to report such incidents to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to avoid state inspections. In the quarterly report covering October through December 2018, a total of 13 incidents were reported. One notable incident occurred at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon on December 8, when a 44-year-old man riding on Miss Adventure Falls got his arm caught on the ride’s conveyor belts. Disney’s other water park, Blizzard Beach, was the site of the year’s only theme park guest fatality. James Persons, 71, of Waterford, Pa., suffered a heart attack in the park’s Melt-Away-Bay wave pool on June 10. FDACS confirmed he had a pre-existing heart condition. Overall, Disney World accounted for 27 of the 42 injuries and illnesses reported in 2018. Universal reported 13, SeaWorld Orlando reported 3 and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay reported one incident late in the year when a 53-year-old guest experienced chest pain on the Kumba roller coaster.
“Universal opens reservations for Endless Summer Resort’s 2nd phase” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Universal Orlando is now accepting reservations for the Dockside Inn & Suites, the second phase of its Endless Summer Resort being built at the corner of International Drive and Universal Boulevard. The first phase, the 750-room Surfside Inn & Suites, is scheduled to open in August. Dockside will add another 2,050 standard rooms and two-bedroom family suites in May 2020. The 313-square-foot standard rooms can sleep up to four adults in two queen beds, with rates starting at $89 per night based on a four-night stay. The two-bedroom suites are going for $136 per night based on a four-night stay. Surfside Inn will feature a single surfboard-shaped pool, while the larger Dockside will have two pool areas. Both hotels will feature a food court, fitness center, game room, coffee bar, pool bar and a Universal Studios Store.
“More than 4.5 million visitors used Airbnb to stay in Florida last year, app says” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — The state’s roughly 45,000 hosts pulled in a combined $810 million, according to Airbnb. Tampa Bay area hosts made nearly $113 million total, taking Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties together. About 954,000 people visiting Miami-Dade County used Airbnb, making it the app’s hottest spot in Florida. Pinellas County came in fourth, with hosts there making a total of $44.3 million offering short-term rentals to 232,000 visitors. Hillsborough hosts made about half that at $20.5 million total. Pasco and Hernando hosts made $2.8 million and $1.2 million, respectively.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Tom and Bette’s wonderful daughter, Caitlin Murray, as well as Brian Goldmeier, AARP’s Jeff Johnson, and Emily Rimes.