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Jim Ash, a veteran print and broadcast journalist who has covered everything from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster to the Donald Trump presidential campaign, has joined Florida Politics as a Tallahassee correspondent.
Ash joins fellow state capital correspondents Danny McAuliffe and Michael Moline to boost the platform’s legislative and state government coverage. Former Tallahassee correspondent Jim Rosica now takes on the role of Senior Editor; he remains based in Tallahassee.
“With a new administration and so many new players in The Process, it’s an exciting time in Florida politics,” Schorsch said. “Our readers expect more and better coverage. Hiring a savvy veteran like Jim will help us meet these demands.”
Ash, a second-generation journalist, spent the past 18 months as a senior editor and legislative writer for the Florida Bar News. Before that, Ash worked as a reporter and producer at WFSU-88.9 FM. There, he covered the Legislature and state politics for all National Public Radio affiliates in Florida, with his stories also appearing on NPR.
Here’s some good news about a great person — Nicole Hagerty, a well-known Republican fundraiser, has joined HCA as Government Affairs Director in Georgia and South Carolina. Her hiring is one of the first big moves of Bryan Anderson following his recent promotion to Corporate VP of Government Relations at HCA.
Hagerty will represent HCA and lead more than a dozen lobbyists on behalf of its 14 hospitals in South Carolina and Georgia, while Ryan Anderson (no relation to Bryan) continues to oversee efforts in Florida.
Bryan Anderson, until recently a mainstay in Tallahassee, spoke highly of Nicole’s expertise: “We are thrilled to have somebody of Nicole’s caliber join HCA’s Government Relations team. Her work ethic and reputation are well-known in Florida, and her skill set and personality are perfectly suited to lead our advocacy efforts in Georgia and South Carolina.”
Hagerty leaves her position as finance director at the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee under Senate President Bill Galvano, an effort that saw Republicans easily maintain their majority. She served at FRSCC under several Senate presidents, beginning with Don Gaetz.
At times, it’s important to understand what truly matters in life.
Such as the case of Joanna Rodriguez of South Florida and her younger brother Daniel Quesada. Daniel suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Unfortunately, things have recently turned for the worse — and Daniel’s condition is deteriorating fast.
It’s time to get new #Lungs4Danny.
Daniel and his mother will move to North Carolina to be on the double-long transplant list at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. But the surgery comes with a considerable cost — upward of $1.4 million, with a minimum of $250,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. In just a couple of weeks, family and friends raised over $65,000 through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), which provides direct financial and in-kind assistance to families (like Daniel’s) facing transplant-related expenses. But there’s more work to be done.
It’s why the family and I are asking for three things:
— Help raise awareness: Joanna developed custom graphics and draft posts (located here) to show support in the fight to get #Lungs4Danny or #DQsLungs. Take full advantage of your network of friends and associates, please. Include generous use of the hashtags and tag @Running_w_Danny.
And, most importantly, don’t forget to use this link to the Team Danny Q COTA donation page:
— Pray: Much of this race is out of human hands.
The most encouraging part of this campaign is the goal is entirely achievable, but not without the help a loving, caring community. That means you. Please consider doing whatever you can to help get #Lungs4Danny.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!
—@LarrySabato: Some seem fascinated by the fact that WaPo poll shows 58% of African-Americans don’t want [Ralph] Northam to resign. But Northam got 87% of the black vote in Nov. 2017. You could argue this is a drop in support of 29%.
Just to be clear, I wasn’t holding a turtle captive! https://t.co/wCjrY17fJz
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 10, 2019
—@AnthonySabatini: UPDATE: Each time the Florida Democrat Party calls for my resignation, I’ll be raising $5,000 for pro-life and pro-free market groups around the state
—@AdamSchefter: So this is what Sundays are like?
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 1; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 1; Valentine’s Day — 3; Federal government runs out of funding (again) — 4; Fat Tuesday — 22; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 22; Tampa mayoral election — 22; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 25; Players Championship begins — 31; St. Patrick’s Day — 34; Jacksonville municipal first election — 36; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins — 46; Major League Baseball season begins — 46; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 48; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 62; Easter — 69; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 81; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 116; 2019 General Election — 270; Iowa Caucuses — 354; 2020 General Election — 631.
— TOP STORY —
“Does ‘school hardening’ stop school shootings? Maybe not, research suggests” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — New data out of Ohio State University shows increased campus security measures may do more to compromise school climates. The team’s findings are documented in a new academic article for Education Next. “Instead of simply hardening schools against attack,” the researchers write, “educators should focus on building school environments characterized by mutual trust, active listening, respect for student voices and expression, cooperativeness, and caring relationships with and among students.” Moreover, students actually face greater peril off campus. Children and youth are 87 times more likely to die by murder or suicide outside of a school than inside it. And homicides of students at school were consistently higher in the late 1990s than now. Between the 1992-93 school year and the 2014-15 school year, the highest number of on-campus homicides was 34, achieved in ’92-’93 and again in ’97-’98.
— THE NEW ADMINISTRATION —
“Where did this Ron DeSantis come from? Governor surprises everyone but himself.” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — At the end of a bitter campaign in which he cast himself as an uncompromising conservative who reveled in his support from Trump, DeSantis said he was eager to move on and work with those who had tried to defeat him. Three months later, his short time in office has already shattered assumptions that he would govern exclusively from the right. He has drawn unexpected praise from Republicans and Democrats. When told his first month has surprised many, DeSantis said that he’s been consistent, especially when it comes to a major plank in his campaign — the environment. “I’m basically doing what I said I was going to do,” DeSantis told the Times/Herald. Before anyone thinks he’s a centrist, he’s announced several decidedly Republican proposals and appointments. But he’s also moved to the center in some instances.
“Why hasn’t DeSantis named a new Sec’y at Department of Health?” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Word is he can’t find a physician who is willing to support his position that people should be able to smoke medical marijuana. For DeSantis, support for smokable medical marijuana appears to be a litmus-test issue. But finding a Florida physician to be the public face who supports smoking medical marijuana hasn’t been easy. DeSantis interviewed former Department of Health Secretary Bob Brooks for the position in December. Sources say DeSantis more recently interviewed Ormond Beach doctor Frank Farmer, also a former health department secretary. Appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott, Farmer headed the agency for about one year but resigned to care for his wife Peggy, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Farmer was interested in returning to the position, but he doesn’t support smoking medical marijuana, sources say.
“DeSantis criticized, rejected funding for high-speed rail. Will he support Virgin trains?” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — Virgin Trains USA wants to stretch its higher-speed rail line from Miami to Orlando to Tampa, but it remains to be seen whether Florida’s new Governor will let the private project breeze through or put up roadblocks, such as state regulatory authority. DeSantis didn’t talk much about transportation on the campaign trail or in his first month in office — and then, only vaguely — though his new transportation secretary said DeSantis “has a clear, bold vision and strong commitment to transportation.” DeSantis has been skeptical of higher-speed rail, opposing state and federal funding for it. He has political allies who have criticized Virgin Trains, including a state Senator who’s seeking state regulatory authority.
— ROAD TO SESSION —
“Longshot: Bill Galvano considering another gambling bill for 2019” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Sports betting is not enough — The Senate President wants to tee up a farther-reaching gambling bill for the 2019 Legislative Session. Galvano spoke with Florida Politics reporters in a pre-Session interview that legislative leaders have traditionally done with members of the Capitol Press Corps … For instance, he said it’s not just about regulating sports betting: A bill this year “would include more of a comprehensive impact on the pari-mutuels, from tax rates to hours of operation, things of that nature that we can still address.”
“Galvano says he’s happy with progress on AOB abuse” via Michael Moline — Legislation targeting Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute seems poised to cut the heart out of assignment of benefits abuse, the Galvano said. As the bill winds through the committee process, Galvano expects amendments to balance the interests of insurance carriers, restoration contractors, trial attorneys, and homeowners. “I think he’s addressed the problem head-on,” Galvano said of Sen. Doug Broxson, who’s behind the attorney-fee bill (SB 122).
“County supports Galvano’s revival of Heartland Parkway” via John Chambliss of News Chief — County commissioners have sent a letter to Galvano supporting his plans to build the Heartland Parkway, a toll road that would cut through rural communities from Polk County to Collier County. The support of his plans comes as commissioners push for the construction of the Central Polk Parkway, an 8-mile leg of the road that would start at the Polk Parkway near the landfill and extend to State Road 60. In the letter, County Commissioner and Chair George Lindsey wrote, “The Central Polk Parkway can greatly enhance hurricane evacuations by providing an express, direct link between SR 60 and Interstate 4. It can also provide a key link in the creation of a new multiuse corridor between Polk County and Collier County.”
“Joe Gruters: Ending ‘sanctuary’ cities ‘my top priority’” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida —The long-shot efforts by Florida Republicans to ban so-called sanctuary cities in the state may have a better chance this year, as key GOP lawmakers align to push legislation that Gov. Ron DeSantis has promised to sign into state law. At the center of the current effort is Gruters, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, who has made prohibiting local governments from acting as “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants a priority this legislative session.
“Proposal to move inmates closer to families may not be a go” via the News Service of Florida — Sen. Jeff Brandes is trying to pass legislation (SB 642) that would enhance re-entry services for inmates and allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing related to drug-trafficking crimes. Brandes also wants to move inmates to within 150 miles from their primary residence to alleviate strain on prisoners’ families. “FDC understands the importance of visitation and close family ties to the reduction of recidivism,” Department of Corrections spokesman Patrick Maderfield
“$39 million wish list: Tallahassee lawmakers push projects for 2019 Session” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Reps. Ramon Alexander and Loranne Ausley submitted 30 bills to secure more than $39 million for local projects. They, along with Sen. Bill Montford, will compete with 117 other lawmakers for a share of the additional $1 billion in revenue the state is expected to have for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Much of the local legislative wish list is for water projects, more than $25 million. Some of those projects are to harden sewer and stormwater facilities to withstand hurricane-driven rain and wind. And there is another $2 million in storm-related requests that don’t involve water-related infrastructure. After Michael and three consecutive years of major hurricanes hitting the state, the county expects applications for storm readiness and recovery money to be well received by the Legislature.
First in Sunburn — “Margaret Good nominated for EMILY’s List Rising Star honor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “Good is a strong leader in the Florida House who is standing up for her constituents every day,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. The national PAC seeks to elect pro-choice Democratic women to elected offices around the country. But Good’s performance on a range of progressive issues inspired her nomination. “Whether she is fighting for affordable health care, working to improve Florida’s public schools, or advocating for common-sense gun reform, Margaret is a champion for progress in Florida,” Schriock said. “EMILY’s List is honored to support Margaret and nominate her for the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award.”
“Lynda Bell entry sets up three-way GOP primary for HD 7” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — She is likely to face off in a primary against two other Republican candidates: Jason Shoaf and Mike Watkins. Bell is the former Mayor of Homestead but currently serves as the town manager of Sneads, a Jackson County locale that’s outside of HD 7. Bell, however, lives within the district’s territory in Leon County. Bell is the current president of Florida Right to Life, a nonprofit pro-life advocacy group. She suggested recent pro-choice developments in other states prompted her to run for HD 7. “We have seen the tragic erosion of the right-to-life in states like New York and Virginia in recent weeks, and I can’t sit on the sidelines,” Bell said.
Happening today — The Financial Impact Estimating Conference will hold a workshop about a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul the state’s electric utility industry, 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
— JETLAGGED —
“What’d I miss?” Geraldine Thompson might ask, quoting the Thomas Jefferson character in the musical “Hamilton” when he returns from an extended overseas trip to find the government has started without him.
The Democratic state representative from Orlando had been absent from the past two weeks of committee meetings, but now she’s home.
Thompson last week said she and her husband had long ago planned a whirlwind tour of Asia, and they took it even though it conflicted with two weeks of committee meetings.
Getting permission: Thompson said she cleared her absences in advance and in writing with her committee chairs. She also missed the Orange County Legislative Delegation’s Jan. 28 meeting.
Spurring a rematch: Her trip did not sit well with the Republican she ousted in November, Bobby Olszewski, who sounds like he’s thinking about challenging her in 2020. “It is sad and concerning that citizens and businesses in Florida House District 44 have had no voice in the Legislature during crucial committee meetings,” Olszewski told Florida Politics.
The itinerary: Thompson’s trip included stops in Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and Dubai. “I’m back and I’m jet-lagged,” she said Friday after getting off a 13-hour flight from Dubai.
— STATEWIDE —
“State government is small, by the numbers” via Bill Cottrell for the Pensacola News Journal — The Department of Management Services recently cranked out its Annual Workforce Report, an 82-page batch of facts and figures about state employment. It illustrates, with metric precision, what you could pretty much assume with a naked-eye observation. That is, Florida government does not have the big, bloated bureaucracy downstate politicians — mostly Republicans — tell their constituents we have. And business-minded Gov. Scott did not ruthlessly plunder the state payroll (except for slapping a 3 percent pension tax on it) during his eight years in charge. According to the DMS figures, there were 163,358 established positions in all pay plans, as of June 30. When Scott took office in 2011, there were 161,648 positions. That’s not exactly wild, runaway hiring binge, or a reckless gutting of state agencies.
“Questions dot implementation of ‘Marsy’s Law’” via Kathy Leigh Berkowitz of the News Chief — Florida voters accepted a slate of victims’ rights rules known as Marsy’s Law, but implementing the new criminal justice regulations is leaving many questions for local officials trying to decipher what it means and who is ultimately responsible. Under prior law, victims had many rights to have their voice heard in the judicial process, he said, including that the names of victims of sex crimes are redacted from reports, as well as most child victims’ names. However, under Marsy’s Law, any victim has the right to request that their name is withheld from records released to the public. Then there is the issue that the accused has a U.S. Constitutional right to confront their accuser, so the victim’s name could not be withheld from the accuser. Even the definition of “victim” may need to be refined.
“Andrew Pollack is a man driven to end an ‘evil system’” via Liz Balmaseda of the Palm Beach Post — He’s a nationally recognized advocate for school safety, a father who has corralled his grief into a mission to remove certain local officials from office, who gets an invite from the former governor to the president’s State of the Union address. Today, Pollack’s name is synonymous with Parkland. Home is this camper that sits on a lot across from his temple, Chabad of Coral Springs. The wheels on the 4-by-4 truck that anchors their Eagle Cap camper home are a symbol of Pollack’s every intention to escape Broward County, its “unethical Democrat” politicians and the “sick, demented” people who support them. The camper is ready to go. “But I can’t seem to get anywhere because I’m always back here, fighting these people,” says Pollack. “It’s a battle. I feel I have this weight on my shoulders.”
Assignment editors — The gun safety reform group Do Something Florida! with Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor David Hogg; Parkland dad Fred Guttenberg; and Gail Schwartz, and aunt of a Parkland victim, will make an announcement, 10 a.m., Broward County Supervisor of Elections, 1115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
“New Broward sheriff determined to restore faith after Parkland and lead beyond 2020” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Gregory Tony returns as sheriff of Broward County, the most powerful political position in the state’s second-largest county. It is an enormous job that many in the colorful and scandalous history of the Broward Sheriff’s Office have struggled to do well, a job that no one could have predicted for Tony at this juncture in his life — a 40-year-old former cop who held the rank of sergeant in a suburban department for three years. For years he’s kept a note taped to his computer that reads “Service=Reward” and although it is “torn, coffee-stained and faded, it reminds me of my purpose every day,” he said. “We need to tell the public there was a failure here, but no complacency in fixing things,” he said. “The confidence aspect was absolutely shattered and will take time to rebuild. As we look back on Feb. 14, 2018, this is a chance to get it right.”
“Insurance office, contractors row over meaning of ‘civil remedy notice’” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The Office of Insurance Regulation is pushing back on a claim by a contractors’ lobby that state records contain thousands of consumer complaints involving non-, late, or underpayment by Florida carriers. A Florida Politics story cited Restoration Association of Florida sources’ assertion that the Department of Financial Services, which fields consumer complaints, has perhaps “tens of thousands” of remedy orders against carriers. The point was to refute Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier’s arguments that DFS records don’t substantiate large numbers of consumer complaints. Altmaier supports legislation (SB 122) targeting allegedly abusive litigation arising from assignment of benefits, or AOB, agreements between policyholders and contractors. If, spokesman Jon Moore said, the lobby was referring to civil remedy notices, its representatives misunderstand what those are.
“Ex-water board member retaliates over threats” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — A month after resigning from the South Florida Water Management District governing board, former vice chairwoman Melanie Peterson received a “creepy” phone call from a Connecticut number and a man riled up about board policies. So, Peterson turned to YouTube, posting a video titled “I will be silent no longer.” In it, she blames U.S. Rep. Brian Mast for inciting personal attacks on her with rhetoric and bullying and for “perpetuating this type of behavior because this isn’t how civilized human beings settle differences.” “Sorry to interrupt your day, but I’ve about had it with this nonsense,” Peterson, bundled up in a winter hat and scarf … I can’t understand how people treat other people like this.” Mast spokesman said the congressman “absolutely” doesn’t condone threatening public officials, especially since his own family was menaced last summer by a Stuart man who said he was going to kill Mast’s children because of Trump’s immigration policies.
Heard on Harry Shearer’s ‘Le Show’ — Former Secretary of State Mike Ertel was highlighted as an “Apology of the Week” after his first public remarks following his sudden resignation. A 2005 photo of Ertel had emerged showing him in a Halloween costume of blackface and fake breasts as a Hurricane Katrina victim. The clip is here, starting at 52:12.
“Depositions ordered in David Lawrence Center dispute with foundation over land for expansion” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — A lawsuit filed last year by the David Lawrence Center against its affiliated foundation could gain traction after a judge ordered foundation directors to submit to depositions. In turn, the David Lawrence Foundation for Mental Health, the defendant, has a “For Sale” sign posted on 5 acres that are central in the dispute. The land is where the nonprofit mental health center wants to expand services with a complex spanning 55,000 square feet. It would be built using a share of proceeds from the 1 percent sales tax increase approved by Collier County voters in November. The foundation put the “For Sale” sign up even though a court filing states the land is in litigation, said Scott Burgess, president and CEO of the center.
— LOCAL —
“Jimmy Patronis thinks Miami deserved second look from Amazon” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Patronis signaled a continued interest in the company after reports surfaced the corporation may reconsider a New York location. Patronis tweeted to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Florida remains open for business. “Dear @JeffBezos,” Patronis tweeted. “New York has removed the ‘Welcome Mat’ AND has higher taxes than Florida. Consider coming back to your hometown of #Miami where New Yorkers relocate to every day.” Patronis tagged Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in the tweet as well. It’s unclear whether there will be any official overtures to Amazon, but Gimenez in a statement to the Miami Herald said the community remains happy to rekindle a conversation.
—“South Florida leaders hope for another look from Amazon after report” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald
“Want to file for Miami-Dade County Commission? There may be a line.” via Doug Hanks of Miami Herald — Raquel Regalado, a former elected school board member who lost the 2016 mayoral race to incumbent Gimenez, filed her papers to seek the District 7 commission seat Gimenez once held, and Xavier Suarez now occupies that. One seat away was Marlon Hill, a corporate lawyer who also made his commission candidacy official Friday by submitting filing papers. He’s running for the District 9 seat occupied by Dennis Moss, one of the two longest-serving members on the 13-seat board. Of the seven commission seats up for election in August 2020, only incumbents Eileen Higgins and Joe Martinez may run again. And voters may have an eighth seat to fill, assuming Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava (whose second four-year term in District 8 doesn’t end until 2022) goes through with plans to run for mayor in 2020.
“Armed kidnapping scheme targets undocumented immigrants, police say” via Wayne Roustan at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Three people were arrested, and there could be more after a kidnapping, armed robbery and beating that may be part of a criminal scheme targeting undocumented immigrants, Davie police said. The abduction happened after the victim was beaten, robbed, and threatened with death or deportation if he went to the police, said Sgt. Mark Leone. “It is believed that this group is targeting undocumented immigrants and robbing them for their cash,” he said. “We believe that they target these undocumented immigrants because they are less likely to report being a victim of a crime to the police.” Natalie Rebecca Williams, 34, Joshua Aaron Greiff, 30, and Andres Rafael, 31, have been charged, so far. They were among seven people involved in the crime, police said.
“All Children’s says 13 heart surgery patients were hurt by care” via Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times — An internal review by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has found more than a dozen incidents in which children in the hospital’s heart unit were harmed by the care they received. The cases should have been immediately reported to state officials. None were reported until recently. The hospital’s former leaders also didn’t properly notify the board of trustees about safety concerns in the heart surgery department. That led to the federal government’s recent declaration that All Children’s had left patients in danger, the interim president said. “Leadership knew there were quality and safety issues and did not elevate it in appropriate ways to the board,” said Kevin Sowers, who is president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and has also been the interim president at All Children’s since December. Later, Sowers said that Johns Hopkins had “let this organization down.”
What Rusty Branch is reading — “Despair and debris: Jackson County on yearslong road to recovery after Hurricane Michael” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Progress has been slow. Downtown Marianna still looks like a bombed-out village with the second stories of brick buildings blown off. The smaller, cash-strapped towns outside of Marianna fared no better. The surrounding countryside looks like the Western Front. Thousands of acres have been scraped bare of once magnificent, lush trees. Eighty percent of the tree cover at Florida Caverns State Park is gone. The Jackson County Property Appraiser only recently moved back into her offices at the county courthouse after being displaced for two months. The back part of the county administration building is sealed off, leaving three of the county commissioners without an office. The building has no functioning bathrooms. Sheriff Lou Roberts said he has five usable rooms in the sheriff’s office.
“This thriving city — and many others — could soon be disrupted by robots” via Christopher Mims of The Wall Street Journal — In and around the city of Lakeland, you’ll find operations from Amazon, DHL (for Ikea), Walmart, Rooms to Go, Medline and Publix, along with a vast Geico call center, the world’s largest wine-and-spirits distribution warehouse and local factories that produce natural and artificial flavors and, of all things, glitter. Yet a recent report by the Brookings Institution, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and McKinsey & Co., argues that the economic good times for Lakeland could rapidly come to an end. Brookings placed it third on its list of metros that are most at risk of losing jobs because of the very same automation and artificial intelligence that make its factories, warehouses and offices so productive. Lakeland, in other words, might be a microcosm of what’s happening all over the U.S. and across the globe.
“Pensacola named second most affordable beach town in America, per study” via Jacob Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — In analyzing its 2019 data, SmartAsset found Pensacola to be the first of four Florida beach towns to make it into the website’s top 10 list. Low-home values, affordable housing costs, and relatively low property taxes were the contributing factors in Pensacola’s No. 2 status. The median home here is worth just under $156,000, according to SmartAsset, good for the 11th lowest figure in their study. The annual property taxes for the average home in Pensacola costs slightly less than $1,200 per year, a top-20 SmartAsset score.
Not all heroes wear capes — “Broadcaster Warner Wolf arrested for damaging ‘racist’ sign” via The Associated Press — Sportscaster Wolf is facing a felony charge after police say he damaged a sign outside his Florida community because it included the word “Plantation,” which he considers racist. Collier County records show the 81-year-old Wolf surrendered on a felony criminal mischief charge and was released. The sheriff’s office says Wolf long complained about his community’s name, Classics Plantation Estates. Deputies say surveillance video shows Wolf removing the letters Nov. 30. They say he gave the letters to a security guard, telling him to pass them to the property manager. Damage is estimated at $1,100.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Michael Bloomberg scorches Donald Trump’s ‘un-American’ immigration policies” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — “The American story and the American dream are under attack by our own American president,” the former New York City Mayor said at an Americans for Immigrant Justice fundraiser. “Hard as it is to believe, the most xenophobic president of our lifetime is from the immigrant capital of the United States — New York City.” Playing up his family’s immigrant roots and those of the audience, Bloomberg portrayed
Assignment editors — Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, who helped run Trump’s 2016 campaign, are scheduled to appear at a Palm Beach County Trump Club event, 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave., West Palm Beach.
“Canal cleanup is going well in the Keys, Marco Rubio says. But 145 still need to be cleared” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — So far, $15.6 million of the $45.8 million budgeted by the Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service has been used for debris removal. About $3 million of the total $49 million is reserved for environmental monitoring. Friday marked Sen. Rubio’s third trip to the same Marathon Canal since Irma struck. Monroe County has enough federal dollars to clear more canals, having received a $49 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service. The money was designated to clear 172 waterways of debris, but the county was denied approval to use the grant to clear 145 more.
Assignment editors — Rubio will take part in a Heritage Foundation discussion titled, “Venezuela at a Tipping Point,” 2:30 p.m., The Heritage Foundation, Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C.
“’Dangerous territory’ for Democrats as Republicans seize Venezuela moment in Miami” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — Venezuela, not Cuba, now dominates Miami’s political conversation. Venezuelans in the city have gathered for demonstrations to coincide with protests back home. Even the Miami-Dade County Commission, a local body with no control over foreign policy, voted unanimously to recognize the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president. “This could be Bay of Pigs 2.0,” said Liz Alarcón, a Venezuelan-American Democrat, referring to the C.I.A.-backed invasion of Cuba. “It is very dangerous territory for Democrats,” state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami, a Colombian-American and a Democrat, said of her party’s handling of the Venezuela issue. “Republicans are very smart about working on the margins. They know that a state like Florida is usually decided by 1 percent or less, so all they need are enough of the Venezuelans, enough of the Colombians, enough of the Puerto Ricans.”
Assignment editors — U.S. Sen. Scott will hold a roundtable discussion with Venezuelan community leaders “to share the United States’ commitment to fighting for freedom and democracy in Venezuela.” That’s at 8:40 a.m., La Teresita, 3248 W. Columbus Drive, Tampa.
“Ross Spano, facing investigation into 2018 campaign, files for re-election in 2020” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Spano’s paperwork also designated two committees to spend on his behalf: Take Back the House 2020 and Miller Spano Webber Victory. Spano is under fire for $180,000 in potentially illegal campaign contributions he received from two friends during the 2018 campaign. Already a complaint has been filed with election regulators and it is possible that law enforcement or Congressional ethics investigators could probe the donations as well. After lying low at first, Spano emerged on Fox News this week (where he wasn’t asked about his campaign finances) and has already become a reliable Republican attack dog on illegal immigration and climate change legislation.
—“Joe Henderson: Re-election bid shows Ross Spano not cursed with self-awareness” via Florida Politics
“Kathy Castor spotlights NASA data proving 2018 burned way too hot” via Jacob ogles of Florida Politics — “Latest @NASAClimate data cannot be ignored,” Castor tweeted. “We have a major endeavor ahead to reduce greenhouse gases and build the #cleanenergy economy with quality jobs and innovative technologies.” The Tampa Democrat linked to data from NASA showing 2018 as the hottest year on record in nearly 140 years. The space agency worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on a climate study. Scientists found global temperatures last year to be 1.5 degrees warmer than the mean temperatures from 1950 to 1981. The past five years, scientists said, have been the warmest on record.
“Vern Buchanan gets earful on immigration, guns during town hall” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — About 50 people attended a town hall hosted by Buchanan inside the Sarasota County Commission chambers, with some of them aiming for his record in Congress. Immigration has been at the forefront of the national debate after a 35-day partial government shutdown that was brought on by a disagreement between Trump and Democrats in Congress over funding for a border wall. The issue came up repeatedly, with multiple calls from audience members to crack down on illegal immigration. “I am sick and tired of those who come to this country and do not want to assimilate,” said Marijke Knipscheer, a green card holder from the Netherlands. Knipscheer received applause after she finished speaking. So did Sarasota resident Maryellin Kirkwood,
— ANALYSIS & OPINIONS —
“Rick Scott stranded DeSantis on air travel” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — What looked like shrewd politics eight years ago now looks incredibly shortsighted, and it’s going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars to buy or lease a plane and hire enough pilots and mechanics to keep it in the air. In his first month in office, DeSantis has kept up a torrid pace of public events all over the state, from Fort Lauderdale to Panama City and seemingly everywhere in between. It would have been impossible without a Beechcraft King Air seized by state law enforcement agents in a drug raid. Scott probably saved Florida taxpayers millions of dollars during his eight years in office by flying in his own plane, like the CEO of a private company. But that led to more problems: It was at the expense of the public transparency that Floridians deserve and that previous governors provided without complaint.
What Richard Corcoran is reading — “Florida’s voucher vindication” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — One issue that helped DeSantis beat progressive Andrew Gillum was his support for the state’s private school voucher program. To understand why that mattered, consider a report this week on the link between K-12 school choice and college success. Evidence from the Urban Institute, which this time examined a larger data set of some 89,000 students. The researchers compared those who used school vouchers to public-school students with comparable math and reading scores, ethnicity, gender and disability status. High school voucher students attend either two-year or four-year institutions at a rate of 64 percent, according to the report, compared to 54 percent for non-voucher students. For four-year colleges only, some 27 percent of voucher students attend compared to 19 percent for public-school peers. Voucher students also appear to have broader post-high school options. About 12 percent of voucher students attended private universities, double the rate of non-voucher students.
“How to stop the cycle of neglect at Florida’s nursing homes” via the USA TODAY Network editorial boards — Based on the findings of the USA TODAY Network investigative report, here is what needs to change: Treat abuse and neglect seriously. Close down repeat offenders. Increase fines levied by state agencies, especially for nursing homes that rack up multiple violations. Prosecute the worst offenders. Increase vigilance. Inspect low performers more often, not just once a year or when there is a complaint. Overhaul regulations. Increase transparency. Invest in better care. Expand the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Give incentives to those who will work in nursing homes. Invest in home health.
“Making progress on medical marijuana” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Medical marijuana is finally gaining real traction in Florida. DeSantis has made clear he wants lawmakers to pass a bill allowing smoking, the state has its first “pot czar,” and a judge has again struck down a limit on storefronts that can sell medical marijuana. While some in Tallahassee keep trying to pump the brakes, Floridians are ready for a well-regulated, robust and accessible medical marijuana market. The governor has staked his position on the side of patients, and the industry has an empowered new advocate in Tallahassee. All of that is a breath of fresh air for Florida, and further reason for state lawmakers to eliminate barriers to access and honor the voters’ will.
“Time for Anthony Sabatini to grow up” via the Daily Commercial editorial board — Two years ago, as much of the nation grappled — sometimes violently — with the question of whether Confederate monuments should remain in public places of honor, Sabatini rushed with childish gusto into the fight with a silly Facebook post inviting communities everywhere to send Eustis their unwanted monuments. Two years ago, as much of the nation grappled — sometimes violently — with the question of whether Confederate monuments should remain in public places of honor, Sabatini rushed with childish gusto into the fight with a silly Facebook post inviting communities everywhere to send Eustis their unwanted monuments. Unrepentant, he carried his antics to Tallahassee. While Sabatini and some of his friends claim Democrat calls for his resignation are just political posturing, a growing body of evidence supports a narrative that Sabatini is, at the least, grotesquely racially insensitive, and perhaps worse.
“Like a rotting zombie, failed energy deregulation scheme lurches back to life thanks to millions in special interest money” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Less than a year after Florida’s Constitution Review Commission roundly rejected a flawed proposal to deregulate the state’s energy utilities, a special interest group is spending millions of dollars to resurrect the measure for the 2020 ballot. The group behind the effort, Citizens for Energy Choices, submitted more than 79,000 signatures to qualify the ballot language for review by the Florida Supreme Court. And while this amendment proposal touts the benefits of “consumer choice” both in its title and its mission, it forcibly removes the most logical choice for keeping the lights on in our state: Florida’s existing investor-owned utilities. That omission alone, based solely on the fact that it misleads voters about the true consequences of the scheme, should cause the state’s supreme court justices to reject it. In state after state where deregulation has been tried, energy prices have spiked and the savings have been nonexistent.
— SPOTTED —
At Saturday night’s Ballard Partners Gasparilla Night Parade Balcony Party — City of Tampa Comms Director Ashley Bauman, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Former Tampa Police Chief and mayoral candidate Jane Castor, Ballard Partners’ Ana Cruz, TECO Regional Manager for Community Affairs Alan Denham, Hillsborough County EPC Executive Director Janet Dougherty, Tampa Airport Director of Government Affairs Gina Evans, South Tampa Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kelly Flannery, Florida Aquarium VP of External Relations Kari Goetz, Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, Ballard Partners’ Todd Josko, Westshore Alliance Executive Director Ann Kulig, St. Pete Chamber Advocacy Manager Matt Lettelleir, Manatee County Director of Redevelopment & Economic Opportunity Geri Lopez, Tampa Councilman Guido Maniscalco, Hillsborough County MPO and HART Board member Dave Mechanik, Tampa Bay Builder’s Association Executive Vice President Jennifer Motsinger, Hillsborough Commissioner Kim Overman, Ballard Partners’ Carlos Ramos, Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, Tampa Councilman Luis Viera, Lion’s Eye Institute for Transplant & Research President & CEO Jason Woody.
— ALOE —
“Florida woman cradles baby alligator in maternity photo shoot” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — A gator. A beer. A pack of cigarettes. A shotgun. To Lindsey Tuttle, that’s a Florida Woman. And in a maternity shoot that went semi-viral on Facebook in the past week, the 26-year-old Tampa native put an exact visual to the stereotype she loves. The dramatic photograph shows Tuttle on a dirt road out in Myakka City, clad in black boots and half-unzipped denim shorts, cradling a live alligator (fed from a baby bottle by husband Jonathan) and staring off into the distance, as a shotgun gently rests on a bright blue case of Bud Light. The state flag waves behind her, claiming the territory for all Florida-kind. “Alligators don’t like to bottle-feed, apparently,” the caption reads. The alligator’s name is Fred. “It turned out perfect,” she said. “This is like the exact vision I had of a Florida Woman shoot.”
“Game-changing ‘Hamilton’ opens Tampa run” via Jay Handelman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — One of two touring productions begins a monthlong run at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Center in Tampa. Chances are good that many of the thousands who will see the show are already familiar with the score from the CD that was the highest-selling Broadway cast album of 2015 and became the first cast album to hit No. 1 on the rap albums chart. All of the acclaim and attention came because Lin-Manuel Miranda, who had won Tonys for his first musical, “In the Heights,” picked up Ron Chernow’s dense biography of Hamilton during a vacation. Where others saw history, Miranda found inspiration for a different kind of musical, one that would incorporate a variety of musical styles, with odes to Broadway’s past and contemporary sounds through rap, hip-hop and pop.
“New SeaWorld CEO Gus Antorcha faces challenges but comes with fresh perspective, some say” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Coming from a background at Carnival Cruise Lines, it’s unlikely Antorcha has a lifelong love of orcas that a company man might have. That is a good thing if he needs to make tough decisions, said John Gerner, a theme park consultant from Richmond, Virginia, a day after SeaWorld revealed that Antorcha was put in charge. “You have someone who can really stay focused on the future without having a strong attachment to the past,” Gerner said. Antorcha’s task also will be to keep the company momentum moving, said Rick Munarriz, a senior analyst for Motley Fool, an online investment adviser. For the first time in five years, SeaWorld, which operates 12 parks across the country, showed growth in 2018. Antorcha must come in and impress investors who were already looking at the company more favorably, Munarriz said.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Belated birthday wishes to former Rep. Patrick Rooney. Celebrating today are former first lady Ann Scott, former Sen. Eleanor Sobel, Hannah Plante of Step Up for Students and lobbyist Larry Williams.
Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.