Breaking overnight — “Hackers take over Bob Buckhorn’s Twitter account, make bomb threat at TIA” via News Channel 8 — Tampa police are investigating a bomb threat made against Tampa International Airport after hackers took over the Tampa Mayor’s Twitter account. The hackers tweeted a nonstop series of offensive racist and pornographic posts and claimed a bomb was in a package at TIA. The hackers appeared to take over the mayor’s Twitter account just before 4 a.m. with an initial post that said “Hacked by @MeeZoid @CxlvxnSwag @SheepKiller69 you can’t touch US ####.” Hackers changed Buckhorn’s cover and profile photos multiple times and at one point renamed the account “Bob Cuckhorn” with a bio that said “City of Tampa’s Mayor.White supremacist. Hater of n——.”
Update at 7:00 a.m. — Buckhorn’s office has released the following statement: “Earlier this morning we noticed someone hacked Mayor Buckhorn’s twitter account, this was clearly not Mayor Buckhorn. Upon noticing the hack we immediately began investigating these reprehensible tweets. We will work with the Tampa Police Department as well as all investigators to figure out how this breach was made. We urge residents to change their passwords and continue to alert officials when they see an unlikely change in account activity. We are working with law enforcement to investigate all threats made by this hack.”
Mayors from across the state are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to double down on early childhood education so the state’s generation-in-waiting can achieve higher high school graduation rates and have access to a full slate of employment and postsecondary education opportunities.
“We know that the basic structure of the human brain is mostly constructed in the first three years of a child’s life. If all children are cared for and sheltered from damaging stressors in this pivotal time they have a stronger start at leading a self-sufficient life of service to society,” read a letter signed by 101 Florida Mayors.
The request suggests more support for early learning initiatives, more comprehensive health care for kids under 5, and parental support programs as possible avenues to ensure Florida’s future is a bright one.
The message, sent under The Children’s Movement of Florida letterhead, ended by saying “if we do not invest in children today, we will pay tenfold in the future.”
Founder of the Children’s Movement of Florida is former Miami Herald Publisher David Lawrence; state Rep. Vance Aloupis runs it.
The group has spent years confronting leaders on both sides of the aisle with data showing that Florida is already dealing with the consequences of kicking the can down the road on more robust early learning initiatives.
One shocking factoid: 75 percent of Florida’s young adults can’t enter the military due to substance abuse problems, criminal behavior or a disqualifying condition.
But, this problem isn’t without a solution.
More funding for early childhood initiatives may strain the state budget for a little while, but for every dollar spent helping those young brains develop, the state can save $7 in future safety net spending, corrections spending or other costly government programs.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MattGaetz: Wealthy celebrities & politicians don’t live behind walls because they hate people on the outside. It’s because they love people on the inside – and they want to protect them.
—@NewsGuyGreg: The idea of @GovRonDeSantis’s prescription medication program is that prescription drugs in Canada are far less expensive than in the United States, and “cost savings” would transfer to Floridians purchasing these same medications.
—@GwenGraham: @GovRonDeSantis, The Florida Constitution states, “Adequate provision SHALL be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high-quality system of free public schools…’’(emphasis added). Shall means must. You don’t get to play pick the definition you want.
—@JKennedyReport:@GovRonDeSantis says when he arrived at @Yale for college, he was like a “fish out of water.” Reason? He was wearing jeans shorts
—@MDixon55: Room clears out after medical marijuana bill is done. E’reyone going to miss out on a fascinating @MyFDOT work program presentation.
—@Fineout: Fla House just popped out a bill that would put tight limits on lawsuits filed by people who are injured or families that lose a family member, including limits on health care expenses & a 1m limit on non-economic losses to compensate for pain, disfigurement, impairment etc
—@JimRosicaFL: On Indian gaming revenue, state still getting $19.5M each month from the Seminole Tribe, and the recent “true-up” payment also came in. There was another $35M in August. But last true-up is “light” compared to previous
—@ALAtterbury: Lawmakers sure do have a lot of questions! During the House higher-ed spending meeting: “Representative, what’s a midwife?”
—@SaraSClements: I learned something new in Higher Ed Approps today. According to UFF lobbyist, charter schools receive more PECO $ than universities, colleges, and K-12 districts combined. They must be living it up in those charter school mansions!
—@Jason_Garcia: I wonder if the Florida Legislature would have run off the president of the University of Florida or Florida State under the same circumstances?
— DAYS UNTIL —
Fat Tuesday — 12; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 12; Tampa mayoral election — 12; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 15; Players Championship begins — 21; St. Patrick’s Day — 24; Jacksonville municipal first election — 26; Major League Baseball season begins — 35; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins — 36; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 38; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 52; Easter — 59; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 71; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 106; 2019 General Election — 260; Iowa Caucuses — 347; 2020 General Election — 621.
— TOP STORY —
“Florida had another record-setting year for tourism” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — An unprecedented 126 million visitors traveled to Florida last year. It’s the eighth consecutive year the Sunshine State shattered visitation records, according to VISIT FLORIDA, which highlighted the estimates. Dana Young, a former lawmaker who was tapped by DeSantis to lead the public-private tourism marketing agency earlier this year, credited the success to her agency’s focus on “value and data-driven campaigns.” Out-of-state visitation experienced a more than 7 percent increase in 2018 compared to 2017, with nearly 112 million non-Floridian Americans heading to the Sunshine State. Meanwhile, about 10.8 million came from overseas, and 3.5 million called Canada home.
But … “José Oliva opposes reauthorizing VISIT FLORIDA” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Legislation filed by state Sen. Joe Gruters would allow the program to continue without the need for future reauthorization. That bill (FL SB178 (19R)) quickly cleared the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on a 7-0 vote. The bill has just one remaining Senate committee stop two weeks before the 2019 legislative session officially begins, a clear sign it’s fast-tracked in that chamber. On the House side, though, FL HB6031 (19R) sponsored by state Rep. Mel Ponder has not yet been put on a committee agenda. House Speaker Oliva‘s opposition is a major hurdle to the bill passing the House or even getting a committee hearing.
— THE NEW ADMINISTRATION —
“DeSantis wants Floridians to access cheaper prescription meds from Canada” via the Times/Herald — Flanked by House Speaker José Oliva and Secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration Mary Mayhew, DeSantis said he would ask state lawmakers to pass a bill allowing such drug imports from Canada. The federal government would still need to approve it, something it hasn’t done since it passed a law to create the process in 2003. But DeSantis assured the crowd he has a powerful ally. “I want you to know I spoke personally to President (Donald) Trump both Sunday and Monday about this,” he said. “He’s not only supportive, he’s enthusiastic.”
“Not all students go to college: DeSantis wants kids to get into career tech programs and get good jobs” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis recommended about $507-million for “workforce education” in his proposed 2019-10 budget, up from $483-million in the current year. The increase includes $4-4-million in federal dollars, for a total of $71.6 million for high school and post-high-school career and tech programs. The money would be used to build a quality career and technical education system focused on “high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations,” among other measures. DeSantis also has proposed a $10-million competitive grant program called “The Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant.” The money would be used for students starting in 9th grade and beyond who enter a “career pathway.”
“DeSantis to Amazon: ‘We welcome you to come to Florida’” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis welcomed Amazon to put its second headquarters in Florida after the online retailer pulled out of a deal to build the campus in New York City. “What I can say on behalf of Florida to companies like Amazon: We welcome you to come to Florida,” he said. DeSantis said that New York’s political climate caused the company to leave. “I think if you look at what just happened with Amazon in New York City, there is a hostility to some of these companies — political hostility — that I think mattered more than a lot of the other things that they were talking about. I know that there’s a debate about tax incentives … but I think it was beyond that.”
Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a significant announcement, 1 p.m., Visitor Center, North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. Later, the Governor will make another major announcement, 3 p.m. Eastern time, Visitor Center, The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, 890 NE Ocean Blvd., Stuart.
— ROAD TO SESSION —
Senate marijuana smoking bill rolls along — A Senate proposal that would allow patients to smoke medical marijuana is ready to go to the full Senate after the Rules Committee unanimously signed off on the measure. DeSantis gave the Legislature until March 15 to do away with Florida’s ban on smokable medical marijuana. If legislators don’t address the issue by then, the governor threatened to drop the state’s appeal of a court ruling that said the ban violates a voter-approved constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana. The Senate proposal (SB 182), sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, would allow patients over the age of 18 to smoke cannabis if their doctors decide it’s the best form of treatment. A House proposal (HB 7015), which will be considered by the House Appropriations Committee, would limit dispensaries to selling pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes with filters, a provision intended to address health concerns about smoking.
“Bills would prohibit abortions after fetal heartbeat” via Katie Campione of The Associated Press — The “heartbeat bill,” as it is commonly known, seeks to ban abortions at the time when a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected with a vaginal ultrasound. That can be as early as 5 1/2 to 6 weeks after gestation, before many women even know they are pregnant. Violating the proposed ban would be a third-degree felony. As written, the proposed legislation makes no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. The hurdle the Florida bill faces: A court would have to overturn a precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and other cases that the state cannot impose an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion before fetal viability, which generally occurs between 24 and 26 weeks.
“’Everything on the table’ for sanctuary city bill” via the News Service of Florida — As the Senate moves forward with a proposal (SB 168) that does not include sanctions for local officials who limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, questions remain about whether the House would go along with such an approach. Rep. Cord Byrd, who is sponsoring the House version of the bill, said he would like to see “some teeth” in the measure but acknowledged that leaving out sanctions is being considered. “At this point, yes, everything is on the table,” Byrd said. Ideally, Byrd said, his version of the bill would include fines for local governments and allow citizens to sue local governments if undocumented immigrants injure people because sanctuary-city policies are in place.
“Budget time: Jimmy Patronis, FWC outline next fiscal year’s needs” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Patronis is asking lawmakers to consider funding a nearly $29 million upgrade to the state’s accounting and cash management system. The project was one of a few presented to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. At the lectern: Patronis for the Department of Financial Services and Jennifer Fitzwater for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “It is a state of Florida project,” Patronis first told Senators. “Every single state agency has to be able to interface and deal with this next generation of software that’s critical to the entire state.” He likened the upgrade to “going from DOS to Windows.”
“Florida Chamber: 150,000 jobs would spring from plan for worker training, lower taxes” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat —The players are in final preparations for the 2019 legislative session that begins in two weeks. A clutch of more than 30 leaders in business and the Legislature gathered in front of the Senate chambers Wednesday to tout the Florida Chamber’s 2019 Jobs Agenda. The Chamber is the largest federation of employers in the state and plans to push for better worker training, lower taxes, and transportation infrastructure improvements during the 60-day session which begins March 5.
Lawmakers issue bipartisan call to hear LGBT+ protections bill — Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson, GOP Rep. Jackie Toledo and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Webb are sponsoring SB 430/HB 485, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would update the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 to include LGBT+ protections in the workplace, public housing, and accommodations. The legislation “reflects best practices in hiring among Fortune 500 companies, 83 percent of which provide fully inclusive protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Toledo said. “This legislation makes it clear that all Floridians deserve equal rights in employment, public housing and accommodations.” The Act secured the third highest number of sponsors and co-sponsors during the 2018 Session but did not get a committee hearing in the House or Senate.
“School Board term limits bill advances amid home rule concerns“ via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Term limits for school board members got one step closer to the statewide ballot in Florida. But amid concerns about home rule, the lawmakers promised to explore ways to pose the question county-by-county. The House Oversight, Transparency and Public Management Subcommittee on Wednesday advanced legislation that could lead to eight-year limits. For now, the bill seeks uniform limits in every School Board statewide. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who sponsored the bill, came to the hearing armed with polling showing term limits’ popularity. The Howey-in-the-Hills Republican also received new polling that morning showing 78 percent of voters in rural counties favor eight-year limits on school board members.
“Medicaid patients who need to get to the doctor: There should be an app for that, lawmaker says” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — Brandes is advancing a bill (SB 302) that would allow companies like Uber and Lyft to participate in the Medicaid nonemergency medical transportation program. Drivers involved would have to undergo background checks. But the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees the Medicaid program, says it is not aware of any other state that transports patients by Uber or similar services. Under his proposal, transportation brokers who arrange rides for Medicaid patients would be able to contract with Uber, Lyft or other “transportation network companies.”
Moffitt Cancer Center asks lawmakers to keep investing in cancer research — Moffitt Cancer Center President and CEO Alan F. List, M.D., joined CFO Patronis and wife Katie at the Capitol to encourage continued cancer research funding. Katie Patronis underwent breast cancer surgery at Moffitt last year. “[To] keep up with our increasing patient volumes and our commitment to provide and develop the best cancer therapies for our patients, our clinical and research facilities need to expand,” List said. “We are asking the state Legislature to continue its investment in Moffitt and the fight against cancer. Our patients and their families are depending on it.” The news conference was part of the 14th annual “Moffitt Day,” which brought volunteers, patients, caregivers, physicians, researchers and cancer center staff to the Capitol. They met with lawmakers, “sharing Moffitt’s mission to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer and asking for continued support for Florida’s premier cancer center.”
“Businesses, insurers target ‘phantom’ health costs” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — The House Civil Justice Subcommittee heard testimony from insurance-industry and business representatives about “phantom” medical damages and how so-called letters of protection are being used. Cary Silverman, an attorney representing the American Tort Reform Association, told lawmakers that Florida should not allow juries to consider what health care providers bill for services when considering damages in lawsuits. Instead, he wants juries to see the amounts that hospitals and doctors agree to accept from insurance companies to settle bills. “The difference between those amounts are what some people refer to as phantom damages,” he said, noting that larger amounts appear on initial invoices but are not paid. “It was just an amount that existed nowhere but on paper.”
“Hoping to avoid repeat of Irma, lawmakers advance fuel-reserve plan” via the News Service of Florida — The Infrastructure and Security Committee backed a measure (Senate Bill 404) to set up a task force that would consider developing an emergency fuel reserve for the state. Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat sponsoring the bill, said the intent is to ensure fuel is available for places like hospitals and nursing homes. Farmer recalled the deaths of residents at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a Broward County nursing home where the air-conditioning system was knocked out by Irma. “We’re not trying to put the state of Florida into the fuel business,” said Farmer. But Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica questioned the need for the task force.
“Insurance association lauds surplus lines modernization bill” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Surplus Lines Association (FSLA) cheered the House Banking and Insurance Committee for giving its stamp of approval to a bill that would change the rules surrounding policies covering surplus lines insurance. “House Bill 387 will modernize the marketplace in a way that helps the surplus lines industry better support and insure Florida’s risk-takers, meaning large and small business owners across Florida,” said Erin O’Leary, president of FSLA. Surplus lines insurance policies cover specialty, niche and high-capacity risks that would otherwise be uninsurable by companies authorized by the Office of Insurance Regulation. HB 387, sponsored by Lakeland Republican Rep. Colleen Burton, nixes arcane paperwork requirements and preserves options available to flood insurance customers via surplus lines.
“Anthony Sabatini registered as Democrat for nine years” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Did a Florida Republican who once wore blackface in high school also vote for Barack Obama? State Rep. Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, initially registered as a Democrat, according to Lake County Supervisor of Elections records. Sabatini pre-registered to vote in Lake County in 2006, right before his 18th birthday, signing up as a Democrat. He voted for the first time in the mid-terms that November. A Eustis High School graduate, Sabatini maintained his registration in Lake County for years. In 2008, he voted on a Democratic ballot in the Presidential Preference Primary. That’s the year Hillary Clinton and Obama fought it out for the presidential nomination.
“Emily Slosberg mum on ‘criminal investigation’ in Palm Beach County” via Florida Politics — State Rep. Slosberg says she can’t discuss allegations of “petit theft, trespass … and criminal mischief” that may — or may not — be filed against her. “It’s an active criminal investigation, and I can’t comment on it,” said Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, in The Capitol … DeSantis has issued an executive order transferring the “investigation (and) prosecution” from Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg to Broward State Attorney Michael Satz … But when asked about reported details suggesting the case stems from a real estate transaction, Slosberg said, “It’s possible.”
“Dan Daley on delayed seating: District ‘should not go without representation’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Rep.-elect Daley said he plans to ask House Speaker Oliva to reconsider his announcement that Daley would not be seated in House District 97 until mid-June. “I recognize the independence of the Florida House of Representatives. I also fully understand and appreciate that it is the prerogative of the Speaker and the members of this august body to make the decision of seating its members,” Daley said. “Although the Speaker has stated that he will not seat me until after the original June election date, I plan to reach out and respectfully request he reconsider his decision, so that I may continue doing the people’s work in this district. District 97 should not go without representation.” Oliva cited past precedent in his decision to wait until the date of the previously scheduled special election, June 18, to seat Daley.
Assignment editors — Senate President pro tempore David Simmons; Sens. Manny Diaz Jr., chair of the Senate Committee on Education, and Kelli Stargel, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, will “announce key components of education legislation” for the 2019 Legislative Session, 12:30 p.m., in front of the Senate Chamber doors, 4th Floor.
Assignment editors — Brandes joins state Reps. Rene Plasencia and Tyler Sirois will announce legislation authorizing pharmacists in Florida to test and treat influenza and Streptococcus, 1 p.m. Eastern time, Florida House Chamber Doors, 4th-floor Rotunda.
Today’s legislative committee hearings
The Revenue Estimating Conference will analyze issues related to tobacco taxes, 10 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
The House Appropriations Committee will take up a bill to eliminate a ban on smoking medical cannabis, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee will take up a bill to revise criteria used by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in ranking beach-management projects for funding, 10:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would place restrictions on how local governments regulate businesses, 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
Jim Zingale, executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue, will speak to the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee at 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update about state veterans’ nursing homes from Danny Burgess, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 10:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will take up a bill to change the way vessel-registration fees could be used by cities and counties, 10:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Financial Impact Estimating Conference will workshop a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul the state’s electric utility industry, 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building.
The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee will workshop issues related to rule-making authority, 1:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee will receive an overview of audits of quarterly compensation reports filed by lobbying firms, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will hear from the Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch and Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, 4 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET MENU —
Navy bean soup; mixed green salad; Caesar salad; tomato, red onion, and parsley salad; Deli board with charcuterie, cheese, bread and accompaniments; snapper Creole; grilled is Italian sausage with peppers and onions; chicken and biscuits; steamed jasmine rice; broccolini; yellow squash; bread pudding for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
What Jeff Brandes is reading — “Florida prisons are in terrible shape. Wardens themselves just said so.” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — State prison wardens pleaded with Florida Senators to adequately fund the Department of Corrections and help reduce a variety of dire conditions in their facilities, from maintenance deficits to gang violence epidemics. Low salaries, frequent overtime shifts, and poor working conditions have created a statewide epidemic of correctional officer and prison staff turnover, wardens said. That’s led to high vacancy rates, including for security positions, leaving critical posts in the facilities unmanned. That dynamic contributes to rising levels of inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff violence, the wardens said. “The security staff are outnumbered by the inmates, and the inmates know it,” said Ann Casey, assistant warden at Polk Correctional Institution.
“Mo’ money: Seminoles keep ponying up millions from blackjack” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The state’s revenue estimators on Wednesday confirmed that the Seminole Tribe of Florida is continuing to pay the state its share of Indian casino gambling revenue each month. Aside from the expected $19.5 million deposited each month, another lump sum of around $35 million came in August, records show. The annual income for the state is still well into the high-$300 million range for this and future fiscal years, according to projections. “We don’t know if they’re taking a discount,” chief legislative economist Amy Baker said. ” … But we still have strong growth.”
“Think Florida is a ‘sinful’ place to live? You’re right, according to this new study” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Florida ranked high on the most sinful list. The actual Sin City, Las Vegas, ranked first in WalletHub’s latest study. “To determine where the U.S. has the most moral growing to do,” WalletHub says it compared the 50 states based on seven so-called bad behaviors. They were anger and hatred, jealousy, excesses and vices, greed, lust, vanity, and laziness. So what makes us No. 2 exactly? “Florida has one of the largest shares of hostile internet comments (8.6 percent), and the highest number of mass shootings,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez told the Miami Herald. “Your state also recorded the second most identity thefts per capita, and the most fraud complaints in the country.”
Manuel Gonzalez named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year — Attorney General Ashley Moody on Wednesday announced that Detective Gonzalez, of the Miami-Dade Police Department, was her office’s 2018 Law Enforcement Officer. A gunman shot Gonzalez several times while working security at a Miami Walmart. The detective, severely wounded, returned fire and “neutralized” the suspect, Moody said in a statement. “All of these nominees are heroes for the incredible work they do every day to protect Floridians,” she said. Gonzalez’s “remarkable bravery and courage in the midst of grave danger is a shining example of the risks law enforcement officers take to protect, serve and keep our communities safe.” The Florida Police Chiefs Association nominated Gonzalez.
Money from lawyers who broke bad pays for pro bono — The Florida Bar Foundation said it received $3.6 million from a panel of federal judges as a result of a case in which sanctions against two law firms were imposed. The Foundation now will disburse the money to qualified legal aid organizations in the Middle District of Florida, stretching from Tampa to Jacksonville, to assist residents in getting legal representation. “Sometimes lemons can be turned into lemonade,” U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. said. “The court recently had the unpleasant task of imposing sanctions on lawyers in connection with the massive volume of tobacco litigation. It is true that out of challenge springs opportunity.” Dalton and others presided over the sanctions case, stemming from tobacco litigation. The judges found that certain lawyers had engaged in unethical and unprofessional conduct, thus resulting in sizable fines. They then decided that the bulk of the sanctions money should be given to legal aid organizations to increase access to the courts.
“Orlando Apollos will start practicing in Georgia because of Florida’s workers’ compensation laws” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — Although the situation admittedly isn’t ideal, league co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol said, “We really need to make sure we take the necessary steps to take care of our players. Our responsibility is always to do what we must do to make sure our players have the best available coverage.” Starting sometime next week, the Apollos he will be housed in a hotel in Jacksonville for a little more than a month while busing 30 minutes over the border to practice at a high school in Kingsland, Ga. They will still play their home games in Orlando at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium.
Meanwhile … “Rick Scott gets hung up” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — With no fanfare (we’re aware of), the official portrait of Florida’s 45th governor appeared on the wall beside other recent chiefs of state in the hallway. The portrait of Scott, who’s now a U.S. Senator, shows the former Governor seated on the desk in what used to be his office. The background features a Florida flag and a picture of his wife, Ann. All the Governor’s portraits are represented at the Historic Capitol.
— LOCAL —
“Buddy Dyer intends to continue as mayor, not interested in UCF post” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — With UCF President Dale Whittaker engulfed in a far-reaching spending scandal and offering to his resign his post, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who expressed interest in the university job years ago, said Wednesday he plans to continue serving as mayor. In his 2015 re-election campaign, Dyer said the UCF job is “the one position” that he would make him consider leaving the mayor’s office. However, he later removed his name from consideration and said he’d run for re-election. His stance hasn’t changed in light of Whittaker’s impending departure. Asked by the Orlando Sentinel if he intended to pursue the UCF presidency, Dyer said through a spokeswoman that he didn’t. “As the Mayor of Orlando, I remain unwavering in my support for our hometown university and one of our region’s greatest assets,” he said in a statement. “I often tell people I have the best job in the country and I look forward to continuing to serve our city as Mayor.”
“Palm Beach County elections supervisor warns about potential voter intimidation effort” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Wendy Link warned that mysterious, official-sounding calls going to some voters in advance of the March 12 municipal elections might be an attempt at voter intimidation. Link referred the matter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. A man’s voice on the automated robocalls went to an unknown number of people Friday through Tuesday who had requested vote by mail ballots for the municipal elections. Calls warning voters about criminal investigations and penalties is a tactic that’s been associated in the past with voter suppression. The idea is to scare people so that they won’t participate in an election.
“Miami wants to make the case to the world that climate-proofing is worth the cost” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The city is planning to replace the short sea wall with a more elaborate shoreline, maybe with native plants to soak up the water, to protect the hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate at risk in Brickell. It’s a plan that Miami isn’t the first to try, but one it hopes to export to the rest of the world. “I think this is going to be a world-famous project,” Mayor Francis Suarez said as he led global resilience experts on a tour of Miami’s sea-level rise adaptation projects. “It’ll be iconic.”
“Fired Orlando police officer admitted drinking after extra shifts before fiery toll booth crash: records” via Tess Sheets of the Orlando Sentinel — New details of the Nov. 18, 2017, incident that led to Officer Frederick Rolle’s firing were revealed in an Internal Affairs investigation released this week. Rolle currently faces two misdemeanor charges: driving under the influence with property damage and leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage. He has pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence. Rolle left GILT nightclub about 3:45 a.m. the day of the crash after working security for the club, then drove to his aunt’s house to change clothes before meeting his cousins at a hotel on International Drive. He said he drank two cognac mixed drinks in the hotel parking lot. He took a half-consumed third drink with him as he drove home but said he didn’t take another sip.
“27 employees intend to sue Flagler Sheriff’s Office over Ops Center” via Matt Bruce of the News-Journal — The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has been put on notice that 27 of the agency’s employees plans to file civil negligence lawsuits, claiming workers assigned to the Sheriff’s Office Operations Center were ‘exposed to toxins.’ Geoff Bichler, a lead attorney for Maitland law firm Bichler, Oliver, Longo, & Fox, sent the Sheriff’s Office notice letters for each of the potential claimants on Feb. 12, the sheriff’s office announced in a press release on Tuesday.
— JAX BLOWOUT —
The Jaguars had a better outcome against the Cowboys last year than what the latest survey of the Jacksonville Mayor’s race is suggesting.
A new University of North Florida poll pegs Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry ahead of challenger Anna Brosche by 37 points, with Curry a favorite among 52 percent of the sample.
“The election is upon us,” said Dr. Michael Binder, UNF PORL faculty director. “It is very late in the game to dramatically change the narrative of these races.”
GOP and then some: 78 percent of Republican voters favored Curry. Meanwhile, Brosche and Curry pulled the same support from Democrats. “This is notable as the Democrat machine has supported Brosche since her qualification for the Mayor’s race,” correspondent A.G. Gancarski notes.
Teflon Curry: Despite Brosche’s messaging suggesting Curry’s administration led to an uptick in violent crime, the incumbent trounced Brosche among those sampled who said they were concerned with crime.
More dubious context: “Curry was ahead of Brosche by 38 points in a public poll of the race conducted last week,” Gancarski reports. “Between hard money and his political committee, the campaign has nearly $2.5 million on hand.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Justice Department preparing for Robert Mueller report as early as next week” via Evan Perez, Laura Jarrett and Katelyn Polantz of CNN — The preparations are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation. The scope and contours of what Attorney General William Barr will send to Congress remain unclear. Also unclear is how long it will take Justice officials to prepare what will be submitted to lawmakers. But with Donald Trump soon to travel overseas for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Justice officials are mindful of not interfering with the White House’s diplomatic efforts, which could impact the timing.
“Sanders Bernie Sanders campaign map makes Florida look stranger than we already are” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel — Outside Florida, people love to look at Florida as something funny — and on Monday presidential candidate Sanders actually made Florida look funny. The map he distributed along with the announcement of his 2020 presidential candidacy shows Florida with a strange bulge emanating from the Tampa Bay area, protruding into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Miami makes last-ditch convention pitch” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Miami fears the fix is in. Local Democrats increasingly believe that the Democratic National Convention in 2020 will be sited in Milwaukee, Wis., a conclusion that’s led Florida politicians, donors and insiders to mount a final lobbying blitz to turn the tide. The last-ditch effort began in earnest in recent days as speculation mounted that Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez would pick Milwaukee, where he has both family ties and the pressure of the Democratic governors of Wisconsin and Illinois weighing on him to go with a Midwestern location. Perez has denied making up his mind or favoring any of the three finalist cities, a shortlist that includes Houston. Still, the state’s Democratic congressional delegation has been pressed into service to persuade him. Hotel worker unions are also making a pitch to choose Miami — labor has a greater presence in the hospitality industry here than in Milwaukee.
— OPINIONS —
“Philip McDaniel: Let Florida’s craft distillers compete with other states’ ” via Florida Politics — Thinking about opening a trendy craft distillery? You may want to think again. Fierce competition. Big brands with huge budgets. Price pressure from distributors and retailers. Waning brand loyalty. New start-ups every other week. Add to that a highly regulated industry that has more barriers to growth and profitability than can be explained here. So how can Florida’s nascent craft distillery industry compete? One way is to allow us to sell and ship spirits directly to consumers after they visit our distilleries.
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
Brian Ballard, Brady Benford, Wansley Walters, Ballard Partners: Friends of the Underline. Northwest Florida Partnership for Better Communities
Danny Burgess, Roy Clark: Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Sean Burnfin: State Courts System
Steve Crisafulli, Crisafulli Consulting: FCCI Insurance Group, Health First Health Plans, Health First, Istation
Mary DeLoach, Southern Strategy Group: Charley Toppino and Sons, The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation
Leslie Dughi, Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: Florida Police Chiefs Association, Hemp Industries Association of Florida, Florida Insurance Council
Marti Coley Eubanks, PinPoint Results: Aspire Health Partners, Moffitt Cancer Center
Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: Village of El Portal
Robert Holroyd, TSE Consulting: Children’s Services Council of Broward County
Kelly Horton, Heffley & Associates: ARDA Resort Owners Coalition
Lauren Jackson, Ericks Consultants: City of Coral Springs
Michael Minardi, Michael Minardi PA: O’Donnell Landscapes
Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Collier County Board of County Commissioners
Kimberlee Strong, McKinnonStrong: The YMCA of Central Florida
Lauren Whritenour, Cynergy Consulting: Atria Senior Living Group c/o MultiState Associates, Consumer Technology Association c/o MultiState Associates, Florida Association of Security Companies, Selfless Love Foundation
— ALOE —
“How to watch SpaceX’s high-profile Falcon 9 rocket launch from Florida and booster landing” via Emre Kelly of Florida Today —After a two-month hiatus, the Space Coast is set to see smoke and fire again Thursday night when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rumbles off the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 8:45 p.m., the rocket topped with Indonesia’s Nusantara Satu communications spacecraft will blast off from Launch Complex 40, also taking with it Falcon 9’s first mission to another celestial body. Teams have until 9:17 p.m. to launch.”
“Samsung’s first foldable smartphone will cost nearly $2000” via Ina Fried of Axios — Samsung kicked off a San Francisco event with details on Galaxy Fold, a smartphone that unfolds into a tablet. The Fold will come in LTE and 5G models but will start at a whopping $1,980 — the price of a high-end phone and tablet combined. The device has a 4.6-inch display when closed and opens to reveal a 7.3-inch screen. It packs six cameras and will ship in April.
What Mark Puente is reading — “Self-driving trucks already rolling on Florida highways” via Fox 13 News — You may be sharing the highway with a self-driving tractor-trailer and never even know it. That’s becoming more and more of a reality in Florida. Recently, FOX 13 was invited to tag along with Starsky Robotics as they tested one of the autonomous trucks on the highway. A human was behind the wheel, but only as a safety backup.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Rep. Jay Trumbull and former Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole.
Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.