If there’s anyone in #FlaPol who deserves a top of ‘burn birthday shout-out, it’s Democrat political consultant Eric Johnson, a brilliant, passionate advocate for his many, many clients, such as Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who wanted to share this birthday wish: “Happiest of birthdays to Eric Johnson, #TeamNikki’s own Yoda: Wise beyond his years, always teaching us lessons, and reminding us that in politics, it’s do or do not — there is no try.”
It’s Election Day in Jacksonville. I predict Lenny Curry will win re-election outright tonight by capturing more than 50 percent in the First Election. But what do I know? You know who knows #JaxPol? Our A.G. Gancarski. Here’s his curtain-raiser.
The 64th ‘sometimes annual’ Capitol Press Corps’ “Press Skits” is tonight.
Doors open 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m., and it’s at the usual venue: The Moon, 1105 E. Lafayette St., Tallahassee.
As always, the lineup of the skits is a closely guarded secret until showtime. To counterbalance the press, the House and Senate will present their own recorded routines, no doubt skewering the newsies (and hopefully themselves).
The added twist this year is that it’s the first Skits in eight years in which there is a new Governor, Agriculture Commissioner and Attorney General. (CFO Jimmy Patronis was first appointed by Rick Scott in June 2017 when Jeff Atwater stepped down.)
So, will Ron DeSantis show up for his first Skits? Still unknown, and if we were the betting kind, we’d say no.
Just remember this January tweet from Florida Politics’ Jim Rosica: “Still giggling over … watching @ChristineSexton trying to convince (press secretary) Dave Vasquez that @GovRonDeSantis should come to Press Skits.”
If you haven’t yet bought tickets, good luck. General admission was going for $30 per person; call the Moon box office at (850) 878-6900.
Remember, even if you Uber out of there in disgust after the first hour (as an, ahem, certain website publisher did last year), it’s all for a good cause.
Proceeds benefit the Barbara L. Frye Scholarship, awarded yearly by the Press Corps to high school seniors and college students pursuing journalism study
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) March 19, 2019
It’s gonna be crowded on Adams Street — More than 700 Realtors are gathering in Tallahassee today through Thursday for the annual Great American Realtor Days (GARD) event. During GARD, Realtors travel to Tallahassee to meet with their legislators on important issues that impact homeowners, Realtors and the real estate industry. A section of Adams Street in downtown Tallahassee will be blocked off for a street party today at 5:30 p.m. Members and their guests enjoy fresh Florida food and drink favorites.
“Great American Realtor Days is a wonderful event that gives our members a chance to come to Tallahassee and advocate not only for their profession but for property owners throughout the state,” says Eric Sain, 2019 president of Florida Realtors. “This year, Realtors will be speaking to their legislators about several important issues including the environment, affordable housing, private property rights and open/expired building permits.”
This study is fresh off embargo, and the findings are sure to make its way into many local media outlets — “Ranking Florida’s health: Study finds connection between housing access, community wellness” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin today released rankings for the state health in every county in America. The data finds St. Johns County the healthiest in Florida and Union County the least healthy. The study looks at such factors as premature deaths, healthy behaviors, and environmental protections. The wealth and size of a community appear to affect its health. Florida’s five healthiest counties — St. Johns, Collier County, Martin, Seminole and Miami-Dade — all have significant populations and boast affluent communities. That’s in comparison to Florida’s five least healthy counties — Union, Putnam, Dixie, Bradford and Gadsden — that are all rural.
March Madness begins — The First Four tips off in Dayton, Ohio with No. 16 Prairie View A&M vs. No. 16 Farleigh Dickinson, 6:40 p.m. Eastern time; No. 11 Temple vs. No. 11 Belmont, 9:10 p.m. Eastern time. All First Four games are on truTV.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Joe Biden got tongue-tied over the weekend when he was unable to properly deliver a very simple line about his decision to run for President. Get used to it, another low I.Q. individual!
—@DaveWeigel: Probably the biggest gulf between Twitter and RL is the preponderance of “Obama was a failure” Dems on Twitter. Gotta hunt far and wide for that take in New Hampshire.
—@CarlosLCurbelo: Judging by the fundraising figures reported by all these Democratic presidential candidates, it’s clear the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has resulted in more disposable income for many Americans
—@DWStweets: My colleagues and I sent a letter to POTUS nearly a month ago calling for the immediate resignation of Secretary Acosta. Last week the White House said the President was “looking at it” — the same thing they said a month ago.
—@Fineout: Ok, when @was governor he would hold press conferences highlighting the budget recommendations he annually submitted to the Fla. Leg. Now he’s a US Senator and he’s essentially doing the same thing — where he talking about things he wants in the budget. Wonder if he will still hold press conferences around the state on bill signings … oh wait …
—@AGAshleyMoody: Our legislation to create a Statewide Task Force on Opioid Drug Abuse passed the Senate Health Policy Committee today! I want to thank Sen. @, Sen. @ , the @ and each member of the committee for approving this important legislation.
—@JimmyPatronis: Great news — Senator @’ Sales Tax Holiday for Disaster Preparedness Supplies and Senator @ ’s Hurricane Recovery bill both passed committee today! FL continues to see impacts of hurricanes year after year & legislation like this helps families.
—@SalNuzzo: Some days are tougher than others. Tonight I quietly raise a glass of Woodford to @JeffreyBrandes and @vrthomps — two warriors for #Florida who I have the honor of watching strive mightily for the “least of those” in our great state.
—@JimRosicaFL: Legislative committees need “shot clocks” on all lecterns. Sometimes you need to make your point in three minutes (max) and sit down. … If a lawmaker keeps you there with questions, that’s another thing.
—@LennyCurry: I entered the arena unprepared 1 time. Only once. I was a kid maybe 10 years old & it was a bad experience. I’ll never forget. But I learned from it. I’ve been preparing ever since. We came prepared & did the work. Vote tomorrow. Let’s finish what we started 4 years ago
— DAYS UNTIL —
Andrew Gillum makes a ‘major announcement’ in Miami — 1; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 9; Major League Baseball opening day — 10; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 12; Masters Tournament begins — 23; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 26; Easter — 33; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 35; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 45; Mother’s Day — 54; Memorial Day — 69; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 80; 2019 General Election — 234; Iowa Caucuses — 321; Florida’s presidential primary — 364; 2020 General Election — 595.
— TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis signs smokable medical marijuana bill into law” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — SB 182 is the first of DeSantis’ tenure and an early legislative victory. DeSantis insisted that lawmakers repeal the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana by last Friday, or he would drop the state’s appeal of an ongoing lawsuit over the ban. “I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I have honored my commitment and filed a joint motion to dismiss the state’s appeal.’’ The new law takes effect immediately, but it could take time for the Department of Health to approve new rules to guide doctors, meaning patients might have to wait a little longer for smokable forms.
In a not-so-subtle swipe at @SenRickScott & the Republican lawmakers who approved Florida's MMJ smoking ban, Ag Commish @nikkifried says "Our state must not disregard the voice of its people – when the people’s will is nullified by those with authority, liberty cannot survive."
— Troy Kinsey (@TroyKinsey) March 18, 2019
“Florida’s shift on medical marijuana encouraged by millions in political donations” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Since the summer of 2016, when a campaign to bring a full-fledged medical marijuana market to Florida by constitutional amendment hit high gear, Florida’s licensed cannabis corporations and their executives have given at least $2.5 million in political contributions to state lawmakers and political parties. About two-thirds of that money came in the 22 months after former Gov. Scott signed a bill into law regulating the state’s newly authorized market in a way that allowed patients to use prescribed oils, creams, and vaping products, but limited storefronts and outlawed smoking. The biggest recipients of cannabis contributions include Florida’s Democratic and Republican parties, which together received $517,000 from Florida’s licensed cannabis corporations and their executives.
Great read — “Smoking medical marijuana is now legal in Florida. Here’s how it happened” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — While conversations surrounding marijuana continued to build, so did the money. Since 2016, when a campaign to bring medical marijuana to Florida ramped up, Florida’s licensed cannabis corporations and their executives have given at least $2.5 million in political contributions to state lawmakers and political parties. The new Governor wasn’t blind to the donations he received or the interest from influencers like attorney John Morgan, and he had the likes of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and state Sen. Jeff Brandes in his ear. At a Jan. 17 news conference, he declared that if lawmakers didn’t pass bills by March 15 allowing patients to smoke marijuana, he’d drop the state’s appeals of at least eight lawsuits — including one filed by Morgan.
— THE ADMINISTRATION —
“DeSantis visits Largo to give veterans medals for their service” via WFLA — DeSantis visited Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Largo to present veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medals. The program aims to honor and thank Florida veterans for their service. DeSantis is a Navy veteran who grew up in Pinellas County. He said that the Tampa Bay area is one of the best places for veterans in the entire country. First Lady Casey DeSantis accompanied the governor and thanked veterans for their service to our country.
Assignment editors — DeSantis will speak at Coding Day, an initiative to promote computer science education, 9 a.m. Eastern time, Room 216, The Capitol.
“‘He got the message’: Rick Scott blocked DeSantis team from conducting staff interviews” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO —Days after the November election, as Gov. Scott was preparing to depart for the U.S. Senate, his successor, DeSantis, wanted to reach out to members of the governor’s staff about jobs with the incoming administration. Instead of giving his blessing to a fellow Republican, Scott ordered his staff not to talk to or interview with the incoming governor’s team. … Text messages obtained by POLITICO last week as part of a public records request show that, as tension grew over job interviews, the DeSantis transition staff decided to send a “message” to Scott’s top staffer. Transition leaders eventually were able to interview Scott aides, some of whom joined the DeSantis administration. … “I had a talk w Brad [Piepenbrink],” texted Susie Wiles, a DeSantis transition co-chair, three days after the Nov. 6 election. “It went as you would expect.” “He got the message,” Wiles texted to Gaetz.
“After sexual assault at Florida teen prison, state awards firm $16M deal” via Daniel Ducassi of Florida Phoenix — The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice signed a $16 million contract last month with a private youth prison company facing a string of troubles in the last year, including official findings of “substantial evidence” of child abuse by its staff. With the new six-year contract, Nevada-based private youth prison firm Rite of Passage holds more than $60 million worth of contracts with the state of Florida to manage several of DJJ’s residential detention facilities. The state didn’t sign the contract until February 18, more than a month after DeSantis took over the administration. The new contract marks a continuation of business as usual at Florida’s agency charged with helping redirect the lives of troubled youth.
— 2019 SESSION —
“Plan to import drugs from Canada OK’d by second House panel” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — The bill that cleared the House Appropriations Committee aims at tackling soaring U.S. prescription drug prices many times higher than in other countries. The proposal, a priority for DeSantis, would need federal approval to take effect. The primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Tom Leek, said the plan would benefit Florida consumers by bringing down the cost of prescription drugs without sacrificing safety. Leek said imported drugs would have to meet strict U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards and noted that 80 percent of drug ingredients used in the U.S. are foreign-made now.
“Senate committee puts certificate of need repeal on hold” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — House Speaker José Oliva’s top-priority push to eliminate the state’s certificate of need program for hospitals, and other health care facilities hit a roadblock in the Senate. Sen. Gayle Harrell temporarily postponed a vote on SB 1712 at the end of the Senate Health Policy committee’s meeting, saying she believed she might not have the votes among her fellow Republicans to advance the bill past its first committee stop. She said she planned to have “some further conversations as to further safeguards we might put in” and that she would wait to reintroduce the bill while she worked to sway some of her colleagues.
“Senate panel greenlights one-way attorney fee bill” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The Senate’s one-way attorney fee bill cleared the Judiciary Committee Monday on a 5-1 vote after its sponsor offered an amendment intended to at least partially salve concerns by contractors and attorneys. The new language followed negotiations between supporters and opponents of the measure. Judiciary Chairman David Simmons, who supported the bill in the Banking and Insurance Committee despite qualms, also participated. “He was very helpful in navigating me to what I thought would be good public policy,” bill sponsor Doug Broxson said of his colleague following the vote.
“Senators back using BP money for inland counties affected by Hurricane Michael” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously backed the legislation (SB 1162) on Monday, with some members going as far to commend the proposal’s creativity. The bill would create the Northwest Florida Rural Inland Affected Counties Recovery Fund. It would use 5 percent of all BP oil spill settlement payments received after July 1 for infrastructure and workforce development in seven inland counties in Northwest Florida. “I feel that if I could get some of this allocation granted to [those counties], they could do some great things up there for some people who dearly need it,” state Sen. George Gainer, the bill’s sponsor, said.
“Disaster preparedness tax ‘holiday’ backed” via the News Service of Florida — The Commerce and Tourism Committee approved the measure (SB 1412), which would lead to a 14-day tax holiday at the start of June — the beginning of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season. During the holiday, shoppers could buy 11 items, ranging from batteries to portable generators, without paying state and local sales taxes. “As we’ve seen over the last three years, we’ve had (hurricanes) Matthew, Michael and Irma wreak havoc on our state,” said committee chair Joe Gruters, who is sponsoring the bill.
“Citrus greening has Florida growers down to the hard-core, Senate panel told” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A decade of ravages by citrus greening has left Florida with only the hard-core of committed growers, less than a third as many as 10 years ago, and more research is desperately needed to keep them in business, an industry leader told the Florida Senate Committee on Agriculture Monday. That was one of two sobering agricultural plague presentations given the committee Monday. The other described the struggles of commercial and other beekeepers against the varroa mite pestilence and other challenges, which now lead to annual die-offs of 40 percent of the state’s bee colonies. “The people that are left in the (citrus) industry, they are the survivors,” said state Sen. Ben Albritton.
Great news — “Kristin Jacobs returns to House after undergoing cancer treatments” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Jacobs returned to Tallahassee after undergoing a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments for colorectal cancer. Jacobs originally only expected to miss the first week of Session, but the recovery took her an extra week. The Coconut Creek Democrat says she’s been told the cancer has not metastasized. While the treatments lessened the size of the tumor, a separate surgery is scheduled after Session ends to remove the tumor. This was the return of cancer that doctors first found in 2016. At the time, Jacobs was able to undergo treatments in a manner that didn’t force her to miss any legislative responsibilities.
Yikes — “Emily Slosberg charged with trespassing, criminal mischief” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The charges appear to involve a dispute the Democratic state legislator representing Boca Raton had with the buyers of her home. She declined to comment about the charges, saying it’s an active investigation. In a previous interview, Slosberg denied wrongdoing. Officials offered few details, but a source with knowledge of the investigation said the case involves an allegation that Slosberg tried to change the locks at a home she had recently sold. The Boca Raton Police Department released a Jan. 4 report of a burglary on Caliente Lane in Boca Raton when asked about any law enforcement incidents involving Slosberg and allegations of criminal mischief and trespassing.
— MORE SESSION —
“Ashley Moody backs immigration proposal” via the News Service of Florida — Moody supports a Senate proposal that would give her the authority to file civil actions against local governments that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Moody, said in a prepared statement: “The attorney general believes immigration laws should be respected and enforced and she supports the bill in its current form.” The Senate is moving forward with a bill that would ban so-called sanctuary cities. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gruters would give Moody the authority to file civil actions, such as seeking injunctions, against state or local government entities or law-enforcement agencies that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Currently, there are no “sanctuary cities” in Florida.
“Amendment 4 proponents opposing House enabling bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Desmond Meade and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which pushed Amendment 4 through a winning campaign into the Florida Constitution last year, are opposing a proposed enabling bill that is set to be heard in a Florida House committee Tuesday. The Proposed Committee Bill 19-03 would restrict the voting rights they have fought to restore, the organization is telling its members. The Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee is planning to take up the measure during its Tuesday morning meeting. It would lay the framework to allow Florida felons who have completed their sentences to have their voting rights restored, as required in Amendment 4, which was approved by 64 percent of voters in the statewide election in November.
“Erin Grall seeks parental consent requirement for teen abortions” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Should pregnant teens get their parents’ permission before getting an abortion? A House panel considers that question Tuesday. Now, teens must notify parents before they get an abortion, but they don’t need their approval. A bill (HB 1335) by Vero Beach Republican Erin Grall, an attorney and mother herself, would add the consent requirement to state law. It has its first hearing before the House Health Quality Subcommittee.
“Lottery bill could slash education payouts by up to $235 million” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A bill aimed at prohibiting online lottery ticket sales could have an unintended side effect. The Revenue Estimating Conference says a provision in Bradenton Rep. Will Robinson’s HB 629 that would slap warning labels on every lottery ticket from pick sixes to scratch-offs could cause Florida Lottery sales to drop by up to 13 percent. The warnings would fill up 10 percent of a ticket’s face and warn purchasers about gambling addiction and the low odds of hitting the jackpot. Based on the effectiveness of text warnings tobacco and sugar-rich products, REC estimated sales could dip by 3 percent to 13 percent. The sales reduction would lower Educational Enhancement Trust Fund deposits by $63 million to $235 million a year.
“House poised to consider higher ed spending changes” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — The proposal, backed by House Speaker Oliva, would broaden how universities and colleges can spend unused state dollars, known as “carry forward funds,” to pay for repairs and remodeling of existing state-funded construction projects. With additional spending flexibility, the proposal would require the institutions to determine their spending priorities publicly. The bill (PCB HEA 19-01), which will be heard by the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, would also prohibit colleges and universities from transferring state money to other funds within the institutions without prior approval from the Legislature. The proposed changes come after the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee wrapped up an investigation into the University of Central Florida.
“Change in insurance law would take away consumers’ day in court” via Steve Andrews of News Channel 8 — Currently in Florida, customers have the right to sue insurance companies that drag their feet in settling claims. If an insurance company drags out the claims process, consumers can also sue for bad faith, where they can recover other expenses they’ve been forced to incur, such as attorney’s fees and living expenses that exceed the policy’s cap. State Rep. Alex Andrade of Pensacola wants to change that. A bill Andrade submitted to the legislature would remove a consumer’s right to discovery, meaning no depositions, no experts. An administrative law judge would decide a bad faith claim, not a jury.
Pharmacy strep throat, flu test bill hits second committee — A bill that would allow pharmacists to test and treat strep throat and the flu will be heard by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee at noon Tuesday. Reps. Rene Plasencia and Tyler Sirois, who are sponsoring HB 111, say the proposal will allow for faster and easier treatment for the highly contagious maladies and contend that pharmacists are more than capable of doing the job — with the proper certification, Florida pharmacists are already permitted to provide a handful of treatments, such as administering vaccines. Rep. Cary Pigman, a medical doctor, concurs. Before the bill cleared its first committee hearing with a unanimous vote, Pigman completed the swab tests in a matter of seconds during a news conference at the Capitol. If HB 111 is reported favorably by Health Care Approps, it’ll head to the Health and Human Services Committee, which is its final stop before the chamber floor. The Senate Companion bill, Sen. Brandes’ SB 300, has not yet been heard in committee.
Coalition seeks fairness in car rental and car-sharing industries — The group “Driving Florida Forward” prioritizes transparency, safety, regulatory and tax fairness within the car rental and peer-to-peer car-sharing industries during Session. ‘Driving Florida Forward’ advocates uniformity for all car rental and peer-to-peer car-sharing operators on car rentals, airport regulations and taxes remitted, as well as put customer transparency and safety first. The group also supports bills filed in the Senate (SB 1148 by Sen. Keith Perry) and House (HB 1111 from Chris Latvala) relating to the Vehicles for Rent or Lease. “A rental is a rental is a rental — it is as simple as that,” said Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs of Associated Industries of Florida, which is a member of Driving Florida Forward.
Today’s legislative committee hearings
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will take up a bill to carry out a constitutional amendment that requires automatic restoration of voting rights for most felons who have fulfilled their sentences, 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would require parental consent before minors could have abortions, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will take up a bill stemming from a legal battle over a decision by the public Halifax Hospital Medical Center to build a hospital in Deltona, 8 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would take steps that could help bolster the use of autonomous vehicles in Florida, 8 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The State Board of Education will meet and take up issues such as a rule dealing with teacher-certification exams, 9 a.m., lower level, Cabinet meeting room.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill that would transfer law-enforcement responsibilities from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the Department of Environmental Protection, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would reduce the state’s communications-services tax and restrict the ability of local governments to collect fees from communications providers that use public roads or rights of way, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will review budget issues related to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Citrus, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Financial Services, the Department of Lottery, the Department of Management Services, the Public Service Commission and the Department of Revenue, 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill that would make more people eligible to be sentenced as youthful offenders, 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would expand the use of school vouchers, including creating a new voucher program known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship program, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will consider a bill that would remove or revamp regulations on numerous types of professions, 11:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would require cities and counties to address the issue of non-hazardous contamination of recyclable materials, noon, 12 House Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill that would make permanent the elimination of a 90-day retroactive eligibility period for people applying for Medicaid, 404 House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee will take up a proposal to change school-choice programs. That would include changes to the Schools of Hope program, which is designed to lead to charter schools serving students who have been in low-performing traditional public schools, 306 House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will consider a bill creating new specialty license plates for Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would lead to eliminating the Agency for State Technology and transferring its responsibilities to the Department of Management Services, 1 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill that calls for three major toll-road projects, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would give the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs the authority to contract for “alternative” treatment options — such as acupuncture, music therapy and yoga therapy — for veterans with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder, 3:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill to make a series of changes in funding for building projects in the higher-education system, 3:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will take up a bill that would overhaul the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits,” 3:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would lower from 19 to 18 the minimum age for correctional officers to address prison staffing shortages, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will take up a bill that would require school health classes to include information about child abuse and human trafficking, 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to take up numerous bills, including a proposal that would change requirements related to “high-performing” charter schools, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Laurel Lee and Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will consider a proposal to place limits on the terms of the state public counsel, who represents consumers in utility issues, limiting that person to a maximum of 12 consecutive years, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee will take up a bill to prevent local governments from regulating employment issues such as job responsibilities and hours of work, “pre-empting” such regulatory authority and giving it to the state, 4 p.m., 12 House Office Building.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET MENU —
Beer cheese soup with rye croutons; mixed garden salad and dressings; sweet-and-sour coleslaw; pasta salad; deli meats, cheeses, lettuce tomato and bread; Nashville hot fried chicken; BBQ baby back ribs; pan seared tilapia with Chile lime butter; buttermilk mashed potatoes; braised cabbage; crispy fried okra; monkey bread with caramel sauce for dessert.
— THE TRAIL —
First on #FlaPol — “New Carlos Curbelo group looks to learn from Miami-Dade voters” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former U.S. Rep. Curbelo is launching a new group “dedicated to listening and learning” from Miami-Dade voters ahead of the 2020 county elections. The committee is called “Vision 2020.” Curbelo, who’s been rumored to be a candidate for Miami-Dade Mayor himself, announced the group in an email blast. “The 2020 local elections could open the door to a new regeneration of leaders. Voters will have to decide whether to welcome fresh ideas and collaborative approaches or whether to double down on county insiders who have fallen short over the years,” Curbelo said. The group sounds a lot like an exploratory committee for a possible run.
“Will 2020 bring another long ballot of constitutional amendments?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A lengthy ballot filled with statewide constitutional amendments made for a tedious voting experience in 2018. The question now is, what of 2020? No surprise: There may once again be a veritable menu of issues for voters to consider. Amendments to the Florida Constitution must be approved by voters but can be placed on the ballot by petition (the ‘citizen initiative’) or by lawmakers … With forces pushing dozens of issues in one channel or the other, there’s potential for the most extensive lineup of amendments ever to land in front of voters come 2020.
“Proposal seeks two-thirds threshold to pass constitutional amendments” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A political committee known as Keep Our Constitution Clean wants to up the bar for constitutional amendments to pass from 60 percent to two-thirds. The group filed the proposal with the Florida Division of Elections on Thursday. The committee will need to collect 766,200 signatures to make the 2020 ballot and, if successful, it’ll need to win 60 percent approval from voters to pass. The ballot amendment is one of several proposed changes to Florida’s constitutional amendment process, including a bill (SJR 232) by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley that closely resembles the Keep Our Constitution Clean proposal. Voters approved 11 constitutional amendments in November. If a two-thirds requirement had been in effect, just four amendments would have passed muster.
“Anna Brosche calls for AG investigation into fake poll” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Brosche is calling for Attorney General Moody to investigate the origins of a phony Gravis Marketing poll of the Jacksonville mayoral race. The survey purported to show Brosche’s opponent, incumbent Mayor Lenny Curry, at exactly 50 percent support. That would mean the race could be headed to a runoff should Curry fail to win a majority. The problem? In comments first reported by Florida Politics, Gravis Marketing President Doug Kaplan said Gravis hadn’t conducted any polls in the race this year. Now, Brosche says she wants Moody’s office to look into who was behind the survey. In a statement to Florida Politics, Moody’s office said, “We are reviewing the letter.”
“Fred Hawkins Jr. roars from gate with $104K month in HD 42 run” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Hawkins seeks to succeed Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa, who is leaving in 2020 due to term limits. Hawkins received in 87 maximum-donation $1,000 checks in February, according to reports posted with the Florida Division of Elections. He only reported spending $288, so he entered March with $104,267 in the bank. That’s more campaign cash after just one month than all of La Rosa’s challengers were able to raise combined for their entire campaigns in the last three elections.
“Khurrum Wahid brings in $30K in first month of Coral Springs Commission race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Wahid is off to a strong fundraising start in his chase for Dan Daley‘s old Coral Springs City Commission seat. Fundraising reports show Wahid raised $29,980 in his first month as a candidate. That puts Wahid in second in overall money raised. Diane Gonzalez Simpson, a CPA who has lived in Coral Springs for three decades, sits atop the list of candidates with nearly $34,000 raised. But she declared back in December, giving her a two-month head start on Wahid. In February, she raised just over $3,000 to Wahid’s nearly $30,000.
— STATEWIDE —
“Groups lobby Army Corps and SFWMD to stop lowering Lake O levels” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A letter written by several local agencies, agriculture associations, and former government officials urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District against lowering the water levels of Lake Okeechobee any further. “We write to express our grave concerns with the decisions currently being made by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, with the South Florida Water Management District’s support, that could drive the lake to extreme low levels,” the signatories said. Among those signing the letter are the cities of Okeechobee and West Palm Beach, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, and former SFWMD Executive Director Henry Dean.
“Gulf Power asks to delay storm restoration surcharge” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Gulf Power initially asked the PSC to approve a plan to allow it to start collecting storm damage costs from ratepayers in April. The new filing requests that collections begin in July. The proposal would see the company recoup $342 million from customers over five years. When Michael made landfall, it knocked about a quarter of Gulf Power’s 457,000-plus customers off the grid, causing more than $340 million in damages to the company’s power infrastructure. The restoration effort required Gulf Power to rebuild much of its infrastructure, especially in Bay County, which was the hardest hit by the storm.
“New poll shows Floridians strongly support local control of short-term rentals” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The St. Pete Polls survey first asked whether voters wanted one set of rules for all neighborhoods across Florida or if local communities should be able to set their own. Faced with that question, seven in 10 voters said local rules should trump all. Another 21 percent said they preferred a statewide system while 9 percent were undecided. The second asked voters point-blank whether the state government or their local city or county commission should determine set the rules. Nearly three-quarters said they wanted their local electeds in charge while just 12 percent of those polled said they wanted vacation rental directives to come from the state capital. Another 14 percent were undecided.
— LOCAL —
“Estimated $1.95 billion needed to replace aging Duval schools” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union — Repairing or replacing Duval County’s aging and outdated public schools will cost about $1.95 billion if a proposed draft master facilities plan is approved without changes by the School Board, which is seeking public input from the community about the recommended improvements. The program includes $1.03 billion in new construction expenses and $922 million of expenditures in improvements, renovations and additions to schools. As proposed, the plan would eliminate at least $1 billion in current backlogged repairs, district leaders say.
“Getaway driver sentenced in shooting after Richard Spencer event” via Daniel Smithson of the Gainesville Sun — Colton Fears, the getaway driver for the man who shot at a protester after a Gainesville speech by white nationalist Spencer, was poised to get out of jail with credit for time served. The prosecutor and defense attorney both wanted it. Fears, 30, had only a minor part in the crime and no longer expressed white nationalist views, they said, and his willingness to testify against the shooter, Texas white nationalist Tyler Tenbrink, also merited consideration. But Circuit Judge James Colaw just couldn’t get past Fears’ participation in a crime “intended to scare, threaten or harm.” Colaw sentenced him to five years in prison.
“Lynn Haven City manager Michael White arrested, suspended for allegedly pointing gun at wife” via Eryn Dion and Katie Landeck of the Panama City News-Herald — In an emergency meeting, the Lynn Haven City Commission unanimously voted to suspend White pending the outcome of an investigation after he was accused of threatening his wife with a gun in what the Bay County Sheriff’s Office’s arrest reports say was an ongoing pattern of domestic violence. Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson called it a “very dark moment for Lynn Haven.” “The city takes the allegation being made against Mr. White very seriously and is in the process of gathering information and conducting an investigation into this matter so that appropriate action may be taken,” Anderson said.
“In less than two months, Tampa City Council won’t have any women on its board” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The board’s only woman, Yvonne Yolie Capin, is leaving office due to term limits. She’ll be replaced by either John Dingfelder or Stephen Lytle in her District 3 seat. Four men, including three incumbents, were elected March 5 to districts 2, 4, 6 and 7. Districts 1 and 5 each have two men facing each other in the April 23 runoff. This new, woman-free, makeup of the Tampa City Council will set it apart from other boards. “It looks like the timing of the election might have had something to do with it,” said Political Scientist and USF Professor Emeritus Susan McManus. “People are over saturated in politics.”
“Will the Tampa Bay area be under water in 100 years? Rising seas tell a frightening story” via Elizabeth Djinis of the Tampa Bay Times — All it takes is one drive around Tampa Bay to see that our glittering waters are one of our biggest assets. That fact is perhaps best exemplified in the three-mile expanse that is the Howard Frankland Bridge, a low-lying structure close enough to the water that it makes a drive to and from the airport feel almost like you’re floating on the sea. But the beauty of the Howard Frankland is tainted by the very thing that makes it special: its proximity to the water. As sea level rise threatens to change our landscape, structures like the Howard Frankland may one day be buried by the ocean.
— D.C. MATTERS —
FAA alert points to Donald Trump visit; Lindsey Graham to speak at Mar-a-Lago” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a “VIP Movement Notification” for the Palm Beach area for Friday through Sunday, usually the first indication of a presidential visit. The county GOP, which had invited the media to cover its Lincoln Day fundraiser, reversed course and announced that the dinner will now be a “closed press” event. The county GOP has held its Lincoln Day fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago’s Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom every year since 2013. Trump himself appeared at the 2014 and 2016 dinners. The keynote speaker for this year’s dinner is Trump critic-turned-ally U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.
First on #FlaPol — “Mike Pence headlining March 28 fundraiser in Jax” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Pence will be the top-billed guest at Jacksonville fundraiser benefiting his and Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. The March 28 event will feature many high-profile Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Scott, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and RNC Co-Chair Tommy Hicks Jr. Trump Victory finance chairman Todd Ricketts is also listed on the invite. The trip is the latest in a long line of Jacksonville stops for Pence, who most recently came to the Bold City to campaign for then-candidate DeSantis’ successful gubernatorial bid.
Rick Scott visits JAXPORT to highlight Florida ports — Scott visited JAXPORT to highlight his Fighting for Florida budget agenda, which seeks more than $140 million in investments for Florida ports. To underline this priority, the state’s junior Senator will also visit Port Tampa Bay, Port Canaveral, Port Panama City and PortMiami throughout the week.
“NRCC targeting four Florida Democrats with impeachment stance ads” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republicans are launching digital social media ads in Florida challenging Democratic U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Charlie Crist, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala on their stances on the prospect of impeachment of Trump. The 12-second ads seek to tie the four moderate Democrats in swing districts to the harsher rhetoric of their party’s left-wing and to demand that viewers ask the Congress members where they stand on the possibility of impeachment proceedings. The National Republican Congressional Committee is launching 55 such ads throughout the country, aiming for Facebook users in the districts the campaign has targeted in the 2020 election. Murphy, for one, has said repeatedly she does not support impeachment proceedings at this time.
“Greg Steube introduces resolution admonishing Ilhan Omar” via Jacob ogles of Florida Politics — “Democrat leadership had an opportunity to admonish her remarks specifically, but they didn’t,” the Sarasota Republican said. “Jewish people in America and across the globe deserve better from this legislative body. That is why I’m introducing this resolution — so we as a body can come together in agreement to say anti-Semitism belongs nowhere in the halls of Congress or its Members.” Omar, a freshman Democrat and one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, became the center of controversy after comments viewed by many as anti-Jewish tropes.
“Florida strawberry farmers say U.S.-Mexico deal may be a rotten one” via Noah Pransky for Florida Politics — One Republican Congressman tries to convince the Trump administration to reopen negotiations before the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), or “NAFTA 2.0,” is put forward for a vote. Ross Spano of CD 15 says the currently negotiated deal doesn’t do enough to stop Mexico from flooding U.S. markets with seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are sold at much cheaper rates than American produce. Florida farmers, direct seasonal competitors with Mexican farmers, say those “dumping” practices have crippled their business in recent years. “The Mexican government, in my opinion, is violating the existing NAFTA agreement,” Spano said. “It’s impossible for them to produce those berries at the price they’re selling them.”
“Democrats call for counterintelligence investigation of massage parlor boss Cindy Yang” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — In a letter sent on Friday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, Democrats leading the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees called for criminal and counterintelligence investigations into “credible allegations of potential human trafficking, as well as unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance, and other activities by Ms. Yang.” Yang, who founded a string of South Florida Asian day spas linked to sexual services, arranged for a group of Chinese expats to attend a 2017 Republican fundraiser for Trump at a New York restaurant as part of her work with the National Committee of Asian-American Republicans.
—“First court appearance in spa sex case; arrest warrants still outstanding for others” via Will Greenlee, Melissa Holsman and Mary Helen Moore of TCPalm
“Ben Carson’s schedule shows Friday trips to Florida, lunch with My Pillow founder” via Laura Strickler of NBC News — A list of appointments for 31 weeks shows that for about half of the Fridays Carson worked a traditional eight or nine-hour day. For five of the Fridays, he was off or had no appointments. For five more Fridays, Carson left before 2 p.m. to get to the airport to fly to South Florida, where he owns a house valued at $4.3 million. For the remaining six, he had no scheduled appointments past 3 p.m. In all, he made a dozen weekend trips to South Florida during the 31 weeks. NBC News has previously reported that a dozen current and former HUD officials — both political appointees and career staff — describe a lack of urgency at the agency under Carson.
— 2020 —
“Beto O’Rourke reports massive $6.1M fundraising haul in first 24 hours of campaign” via Caitlin Oprysko of POLITICO — O’Rourke, who officially jumped into the Democratic primary after months of speculation and immediately nabbed endorsements and wall-to-wall media coverage, initially refused to release his first-day fundraising numbers — a standard marker of early support in presidential races — like many of his competitors. “I can’t right now,” he told reporters who asked about his initial fundraising totals, before clarifying himself. “Let me answer better: I choose not to.” On Monday, O’Rourke’s campaign touted its “grassroots” fundraising base, noting that the former congressman pulled in donations from all 50 states and every U.S. territory within the first 24 hours.
“Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, readying presidential campaign, sets date for ‘historic announcement,’” via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel — Wayne Messam has set a date to announce his decision about running for president. He’s told supporters he’ll make a ‘historic announcement’ on March 30. An adviser said Monday that Messam ‘plans to make news that will impact the race for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.'”
— OPINIONS & ANALYSIS —
“Trump is right. Daylight saving time should be permanent.” via Marco Rubio and Vern Buchanan for The Washington Post — It simply does not make sense. It’s time for Congress to finally do away with the hour shifting by making daylight saving time permanent. The potential benefits of a permanent daylight saving time are substantial. Studies in the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Safety Research show that the move would reduce car crashes by increasing visibility for commuting drivers. The Transportation Department has stated that a uniform policy would save lives and prevent traffic injuries. Researchers with the Brookings Institution also estimate that additional daylight in the evenings would reduce the number of robberies and found that extending daylight hours could save $59 million per year in avoided social costs.
“UCF shouldn’t add extra gold to Dale Whittaker’s exit parachute” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — “I want to close the book on this unfortunate chapter in UCF history,” said Leek, chairman of the House Committee on Public Integrity and Ethics. Former President Whittaker’s settlement package is on the agenda at the next Board of Trustees meeting. Among those keenly interested are the other UCF employees who’ve lost their jobs, and anyone interested in replacing Whittaker. After Whittaker resigned last month, he and the board agreed to a deal that would pay him $600,000. The board put that on hold until the House finished its investigation. You can debate how much blame Whittaker ultimately bears, but it isn’t zero. That’s why a $600,000 payday is curiously generous.
“How this one weird trick can help Florida Democrats win more elections” via Steve Schale — There isn’t a day that goes by that someone, either in person or on-line, doesn’t ask me why aren’t Democrats winning in Florida more often. The truth is – it isn’t an easy question with a simple answer – and in reality, much of the answer in terms of candidate recruitment, and the quality of actual campaigns lies outside the realm of the average activist.
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Kaitlyn Gardner, Natalie King, Ron Pierce, RSA Consulting Group: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies
Brian Ballard, Mathew Forrest, Ballard Partners: Florida Police Benevolent Association
Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: Seavin
David Caserta, David T. Caserta Government Relations: Congress of Motion Picture Associations
James Daughton, Metz Husband & Daughton: American Transaction Processors Coalition
Niki Donner, Colodny Fass: Broward Teachers Union, Feeding South Florida, G4S Secure Solutions
Allen Douglas, Samantha Hobbs: American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida
Sherri Giorgio: Astellas Pharma US
Kari Hebrank, Scott Jenkins, Wilson & Associates: Southern Title
Allyce Heflin, Southern Strategy Group: NGA Human Resources
George Karavetsos: The Partnership for Safe Medicines
Nicola Powell, One Eighty Consulting: ATOS IT Solutions and Services, Column Technologies
Christopher Smith, Tripp Scott: PhRMA
Joseph Steele, Smith & Associates: CHSPS
Derek Whitis, Whitis Consulting: Florida Citrus Company
— ALOE —
“Floridians prefer curbside pickup to grocery delivery, survey shows” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — According to a survey compiled by Offers.com, Florida has one of the highest rates of use for pre-order and curbside pickup in the country. “We see the southeast is a hotbed for curbside pickup,” said Kristin McGrath, a writer for Offers.com who worked on the survey. “The northeast has more likely tried grocery delivery. So it seems to boil down to urban density.” About 24 percent of Floridians have used curbside pickup, according to the survey, and about 22 percent have used grocery delivery. States with big cities that rely more heavily on public transportation had higher levels of grocery delivery. But Florida still ranked higher than most states for delivery use.
“Let’s revisit Florida’s bizarre lost theme parks from before the Disney era” via Gabrielle Calise of the Tampa Bay Times — Cypress Gardens, Florida’s first theme park, started as a showcase for the beautiful plants of tropical Florida. According to Expedition Extinct, the park attracted celebrities including Elvis, Muhammed Ali and John F. Kennedy. In 1963, Cypress Gardens tied with the Grand Canyon as the top tourist destination in the country. Six Gun Territory transported tourists to the Wild West, complete with saloon girls, stunts on horseback and gunfights. Splendid China was supposed to be the ultimate bait to draw American tourists to China. The Central Florida park featured acrobats, Mongolian wrestlers and a half-mile replica of the Great Wall of China. Pirates World was a buccaneer-themed amusement park. Though Pirates World offered the standard theme park rides, it was best known for hosting concerts.
“Disney World: Crepe place to open in Epcot’s France pavilion” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Chef Jerome Bocuse — the man behind the theme park’s Chefs de France and Monsieur Paul eateries — is planning the cuisine for a crepe-driven spot. The exact location was not revealed, although a post on the official Disney Parks Blog said it’s an “all-new location” near the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ride now under construction. The creperie’s menu will have table service and quick-service options with a menu inspired by the Brittany region of France.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Johanna Cervone, Jay Galbraith, VP of Public Affairs and Marketing at Valencia College, Allison North Jones, and Justin York.
Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.