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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.26.19

Read all about it: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Gov. Ron DeSantis did what many consider ‘the right thing’: Pushing the Legislature to send him a bill allowing smokable medical marijuana.

But, many still muse after he approved it, did he miss a PR opportunity by not staging some high-profile bill signing event?

Missed opportunity? Ron DeSantis was very public in announcing his intentions on smokable medical marijuana but may have missed a PR moment when it was time to actually sign the bill. Image via Joey Roulette.

John Morgan, the man who bankrolled and fought for the state constitutional amendment on medical marijuana, doesn’t think so.

“I think people are tired of do-nothing showboats. Rick Scott was cutting ribbons at Amscot grand openings,” he told us. “People want less stagecraft and more real work and progress.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Morgan added. “The guy seems to be a doer.”

Added veteran lobbyist Mac Stipanovich: “DeSantis received ample press and fulsome credit for the outcome.

“A significant portion of his base, (those who are) older and lifetime opponents of marijuana legalization, remain suspicious that medical marijuana is just a stalking horse for legalization of recreational weed …

“So I suspect he had reached, but not crossed, the point of diminishing returns on this. A big ‘dog and pony’ show might have pushed it over the line.”

Power and humility: FSU awards honorary doctorate to Allan Bense” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Florida State University bestowed the Republican former House Speaker with an honorary doctorate in humane letters, recognizing the accomplished businessman’s philanthropic and public-service efforts. Only 130 honorary degrees have been conferred since the school’s inception in 1851. The event was a culmination of an unlikely life trajectory that’s always been tied to the university. Before serving in the House and later on the FSU Board of Trustees, Bense attended the school, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1972 and a Master of Business Administration in 1974, when he had worked as a janitor at the Old Capitol. “In 2004, I became Speaker of the House,” Bense said, contrasting the 30-year difference. “This is America, it’s America. You can do whatever you want to do, accomplish whatever you want to accomplish.”

 

Allan Bense delivers remarks at Florida State University ahead of his honorary doctorate conferral. Photo via Bill Lax of Florida State University.

Flags will fly half-staff in honor of former legislator, Mayor and Judge Dave Hood, who died last week at age 64.

Flags at half-staff to honor former lawmaker, judge Dave Hood” via Florida Politics —DeSantis has ordered flags at half-staff in honor of the late Rep. Hood, the Governor’s Office announced. The Ormond Beach Republican died Friday, March 15, after a long battle with brain cancer … “As a symbol of respect for the memory of Rep. Hood, and his service to Florida, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand, the City Hall of Ormond Beach, and at the State Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday,” DeSantis said.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JDawsey1: Rudy Giuliani says the president is not considering pardons for any of his former advisers and allies now that the [Robert] Mueller investigation is over. “I don’t think he should and he’s not,” Giuliani says.

@MarcoRubio: That it was so easy to unleash frenzy & hysteria over outlandish claim President was a double agent should terrify every American. Russia very good at misinformation & manipulation. They have learned from this ordeal. Who knows what false narrative they have planned next.

@DaneEagle: Anyone upset our President didn’t collude with foreign forces doesn’t have the best interest of our county in mind. This is great news for all Americans. Shameful the investigation was allowed to go on & divide us for so long. Let’s move fwd & focus on keeping America great.

@TravisJHutson: Quote of the day. “Sometimes I use too many words.” — Tom Lee

@AGGancarski: “If there’s two things we know about Canadians, they love curling, and they love saving money at the Pharmacy.”

@MiamiCurt: Quote from Sen. Aaron Bean on opposition to bill importing prescription drugs from Canada: “I want to warn you, the status quo will not go quietly into the night.”

@MahoneysTheName: Mark Inch, @RonDeSantisFL’s appointee for @FL_Corrections, unanimously recommended for confirmation by FL Criminal Justice committee. Inch said “having a harsh or austere environment does not actually contribute to deterrence,” said DOC needs to focus on rehabilitation.

@GrayRohrer: I like how the House Gaming Control Committee never has to meet until it’s time to kill whatever gambling bill the Senate comes up with. Every year.

@MDixon55: Identify yourselves when you testify, people

@NYPost_Mets: Hall of Fame baseball writer Roger Angell is getting around pretty well at age 98 here at the ballpark in Sarasota. He just mentioned that he saw Babe Ruth play in 1930.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 2; Major League Baseball opening day — 3; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 5; Masters Tournament begins — 16; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 19; Easter — 26; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 26; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 38; Mother’s Day — 47; Memorial Day — 62; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 73; 2019 General Election — 227; Iowa Caucuses — 314; Florida’s presidential primary — 357; 2020 General Election — 588.

— TOP STORY —

The new ‘Jim Crow’? Bill tying restoration of voting rights to payments clears committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill that would require felons to pay all their fees, fines and restitution before they can vote cleared a Senate committee as debate over whether it restricts rights beyond what voters approved when they adopted Amendment 4. The measure (SPB 7086) was approved 3-2 on party lines in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice — its only assigned committee. It’s now available for the Senate floor for debate and a final vote. Reaction to the vote from progressive groups was swift: The League of Women Voters of Florida called the bill “an attempt at voter suppression” and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said it “undermine(s) the will of Florida voters” who passed Amendment 4.

Partisan clash over ‘poll tax’ as voting rights restoration fight starts in Senate” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — A civil lien would be applied to the outstanding amount and wouldn’t have to be repaid to get voting rights restored, but any restitution ordered by the court would still have to be paid. An amendment by Sen. Randolph Bracy to allow restitution costs to be converted to a civil judgment was voted down by the committee. It also would prohibit those convicted of attempted murder, not just murder, from getting their right to vote back. Supporters of the bill say the Legislature has to set up rules for elections officials to interpret when someone has completed their sentence.

Tweet, tweet:

— THE ADMINISTRATION —

First Lady Casey DeSantis, joined by Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Chad Poppell, addressed the Children’s Week Award Dinner and Reception to help kick off 2019 Children’s Week and recognize Children’s Week partners and non-profit organizations that dedicate their lives to children.

Nikki Fried burns SunTrust over action against medical marijuana” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Fried slammed a decision by SunTrust Bank to shut down accounts for a medical marijuana group. “As we move forward on cannabis with an expansion of access to medical marijuana and a state hemp program, SunTrust’s policy shift is a move in the wrong direction,” Fried said in a statement to Florida Politics. SunTrust last week informed the Medical Marijuana Business Association it will close down its bank accounts as of April 16. Fried said that decision was not only unfair to the business group but economically dangerous.

Jimmy Patronis launches ‘Operation Return the Valor’ for Florida’s veterans — In honor of National Medal of Honor Day, Patronis announced ‘Operation Return the Valor,’ a statewide initiative to further honor those who serve in our armed forces. The initiative’s first mission will be to find owners or heirs of nearly 40 medals of veterans left in forgotten safety deposit boxes and sent to the state’s unclaimed property program. The medals include decorations such as Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars. “Patronis needs help from local communities to find these veterans and their families, so they can be reunited with the honors they received during service,” a news release said. Visit fltreasurehunt.gov for more info.

Charter schools extolled in state report” via Florida Politics — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran‘s department started Monday with the release of a report showing that charter students are outperforming public school students … Based on test scores, the report contends that in measure after measure, charter students outperform public school students, including higher rates of grade level performance and lowering of the achievement gaps across demographic groups.

— 2019 SESSION —

Legislators’ secret deal fast-tracks sanctuary cities bill, stalls e-Verify proposals” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — “Legislators have cut a secret deal, trading a set of bills that would require Florida businesses to check the immigration status of new hires via ‘e-Verify,’ for bills to ban so-called ‘sanctuary cities,’ which have been fast-tracked through committee stops.”

Rob Bradley’s Senate hemp bill moves forward” via Florida Politics — A Senate panel approved a revised version of a bill to create a “state hemp program” under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The bill (SB 1020), after a strike-all amendment was adopted, was unanimously OK’d by the Agriculture Committee … Bill sponsor Bradley — a Fleming Island Republican — explained that the measure, among other provisions, requires farmers to submit GPS coordinates to the state on where their hemp is grown and creates an “industrial hemp advisory board.”

Hemp advances: Rob Bradley’s bill to create a ‘state hemp program’ is advancing through a Senate committee.

Saved by the bell: Canadian pill bill clears first Senate panel” via Florida Politics — A contentious bill allowing imports of less expensive Canadian pharmaceuticals cleared its first Senate committee, with a vote just before adjournment. The measure (SB 1528), sponsored by Jacksonville Republican Aaron Bean, would allow the Agency for Health Care Administration to run a program devoted to importing pills from north of the border. However, medicine brought in outside of this program would be considered the black market. The Senate Health Policy Committee still OK’d the bill on an 8-2 vote.

Pitbull video sparked trade secret bills — When the Legislature found out VISIT FLORIDA paid Pitbull to film a music video highlighting Florida beaches, the tourism marketing arm held back details claiming they were “trade secrets.” That saga brought about a pair of bills from Sen. Joe Gruters, SB 1414 and SB 1416, that would overhaul the state’s laws on trade secrets. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, the bills would repeal dozens of existing public records laws in favor of a “uniform process.” Opponents of the move called it a one-size-fits-all approach to a complex system that would expose corporate information to competitors. The most maligned provision is a requirement that businesses prove a trade secret has public value before they can secure a public records exemption. Both bills cleared the Gruters-chaired Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Senate looks to clear way for guns in churches” via the News Service of Florida — A controversial gun-rights proposal started moving in the Senate. Voting 4-2 along party lines, the Senate Judiciary Committee backed a measure (SB 1238) that would allow individuals with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns at churches and other religious institutions that share property with schools. Florida law allows religious facilities to be open to people who have concealed-weapons licenses and are armed. However, state law does not automatically allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to possess firearms on private or public-school campuses. Opponents of the measure, including members of the gun-control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, argue that the proposal seeks to make any religious institution exempt from state firearms laws.

Ken Lawson cruises through Senate committee” via the News Service of Florida — Without questions or comments, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee backed the confirmation of Lawson as executive director of the state Department of Economic Opportunity. Lawson was appointed to the position in December by DeSantis. In the past, he has headed the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Visit Florida. The confirmation approval came after the Senate and House indicated last week they would not continue the $85 million-a-year Job Growth Grant Fund incentive program within the department.

ken lawson

Cruising: Ken Lawson is moving swiftly through the Senate confirmation process as the state’s next DEO secretary.

Distracted driving bill advances, but not hands-free” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A bill aimed at stopping distracted driving advanced in the Senate. But advocates who want drivers limited to hands-free devices expressed frustration the bill has been watered down. State Sen. Wilton Simpson, the sponsor for the bill (SB 76), stressed the legislation has gone through substantial changes with two major amendments. More shifts will come. But Demetrius Branca, president of the Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation, said the legislation as written leaves Florida desperately behind. His son died in a Tallahassee crash in 2014. “Maybe you do not understand the urgency,” Branco told Senators. “Maybe you have not lived in my nightmares.”

Senators support higher smoking age” via the News Service of Florida — A Senate committee approved a bill that would increase the minimum smoking age in the state from 18 to 21. The proposal (SB 1618) filed by Sen. David Simmons would increase the minimum age to legally possess tobacco products and would include electronic smoking devices in the definition of tobacco. The inclusion of electronic smoking devices caused some members of the public to trek to Tallahassee to publicly oppose the bill. While smoking rates have declined in the United States, e-cigarette use has dramatically increased since 2014.

Bill would cut costs to Citizens Insurance customers in Dade, Monroe” via Florida Politics — Miami-Dade and Monroe county property owners would get a break on Citizens Property Insurance Co. premiums under legislation that cleared a Senate panel Monday — and customers in other counties might pay more as a result. The bill (SB 1476) by Sen. Anitere Flores, a Republican whose district includes the affected areas, would limit rate increases on Citizens policies to 5 percent per year. It was OK’d by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

— MORE SESSION —

State plane money remains in holding pattern” via Jim Turner and Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said that Senate Appropriations Chairman Bradley, “has been working with the Governor’s Office to discuss needs and parameters. Those conversations continue, and the chair may offer an amendment this week.” An $88.9 billion budget proposal released by the House includes $7.2 million for aircraft, with the money listed as a “special category” line item within funding for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Senate spending plan totals $90.3 billion for the upcoming fiscal year but does not have money for a plane.

House, Senate to consider scooter bills” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The House and Senate bills allowing scooters to share the road will both get committee hearings Tuesday. SB 542 and HB 453 would redefine motorized scooters in state law to treat them in a similar manner as bicycles, meaning they could cruise in bike lanes rather than be relegated to sidewalks. The House version bunny hopped the with a unanimous vote two weeks ago, though some members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee expressed concerns over what home-rule advocates have called “aggressive” pre-emption language. The Senate bill aims to address those concerns straight away. A planned amendment to the bill would allow local governments to set limits on rental scooters or even keep them out altogether.

Defining scooters: Both the House and Senate are considering bills that would redefine motorized scooters, like those offered by scooter rental company Lime, in the same category as bicycles, allowing them to cruise in bike lanes instead of sidewalks.

School book removal bill overhauled before first committee stop” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A House bill that the sponsor said aimed to “remove pornography” from public schools has had most of its teeth removed in a substitute measure proposed by its committee of first reference. The PreK-12 Quality committee has taken HB 855 and trimmed it back to six pages before its scheduled hearing. The stripped down version takes out some of the most contentious language that had anti-censorship advocates most alarmed. Among the parts not appearing in the committee substitute are provisions that would criminalize the purchase of materials not found “acceptable,” the deletion of language setting literature apart from pornography, and an overhaul of the textbook challenge process including removal of a school board’s final authority over such decisions.

Will lawmakers again fail to deliver tax exemption for first responders?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Amendment 3 in 2016 passed with the support of 83.8 percent of Florida voters. That’s a higher margin than any amendment to Florida’s Constitution passed in the last 26 years. But when lawmakers approved implementing legislation in 2017, the bill restricted the exemption to those injured on the job in Florida on behalf of the state. A bill filed this year (HB 6035) aims to correct that, but it has yet to be heard by the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. The legislation doesn’t appear on the agenda for the subcommittee’s meeting. Since this week marks the last when House subcommittees are supposed to meet, the problem may not be remedied in 2019.

TaxWatch: Floridians could save $128 million from just this one tax cut” via Florida Politics — A nonprofit research institute focused on Florida taxpayers is once again backing a decrease to the state’s communications services tax (CST) rate. Florida TaxWatch highlighted a policy brief that suggests the CST rate is a “burdensome and highly regressive tax on consumers.” “Florida’s CST is very high, relative to both other states and the sales tax on the purchase of other goods,” reads the brief.

Voters want doctors, not nurses, in charge of anesthesia” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — CRNAs say they can handle most anesthesia work without physician supervision, but medical doctors don’t agree. According to a new poll, neither do Florida voters. The Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey, commissioned by the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists (FSA), showed 80 percent of Florida voters thought physician anesthesiologists should be the chief decision-makers in the operating room. The number of dissenters was cut in half when asked who they would want in the room if they had to be put under. “Physician-led patient-centered care is the safest and most cost-effective model for providing anesthesia care,” FSA president Knox Kerr said. “Florida has a good law that not only ensures patient safety but also saves precious health care dollars.”

A new poll finds that Floridians prefer medical doctors, instead of nurses, should be the main decision-maker when it comes to anesthesia. Image via Getty.

Nurse Anesthetists meet in Tallahassee for annual CRNA Day at the Capitol — Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) from across the state will gather for the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists’ (FANA) annual CRNA Day. CRNAs will spend the day meeting with legislators to encourage support of SB 972 and HB 821, which would “allow APRNs (advanced practice registered nurses) to provide safe, cost-effective, quality health care to patients — particularly in rural areas that have limited access to health providers — without physician supervision and protocols.”

Florida Ports Council holds spring board meeting, Legislative Reception — Members of the Florida Ports Council’s Board of Directors travel to Tallahassee to attend its spring meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as a Legislative Reception Tuesday evening. The Council is the professional association of Florida’s 14 public seaports “providing advocacy, leadership and research on seaport-related issues before state and federal government,” the group said. Guest speakers for the meeting include Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, Enterprise Florida President and CEO Jamal Sowell, and the Executive Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, Lawson.

Today’s legislative committee hearings

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 851) that would take steps to try to curb human trafficking, 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 171) that could lead to needle-exchange programs in various areas of the state, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 847) that would prevent local governments from regulating employment issues such as job responsibilities and hours of work, 8 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will take up bills (HB 7029, SB 7064) aimed at prohibiting the controversial oil- and gas-drilling technique known as “fracking.” House subcommittee, 8:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building; Senate committee, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 905) that would make changes to the Florida Department of Transportation, including establishing new qualifications for the secretary of transportation, 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Danny Burgess, a former House member who was appointed the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 9:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 333) that would create a hemp program at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and provide a regulatory framework for the hemp industry, noon, 12 House Office Building.

The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 603) that would prevent cities and counties from regulating how restaurants and other establishments distribute plastic straws to customers, noon, 212 Knott Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 27) that would remove or revamp regulations on numerous types of professions, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 821) that would give advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants the ability to work independently of doctors, noon, 404 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 107) that would make texting while driving a “primary” offense, noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Education Committee will consider a proposal (SB 520) to help provide additional money to Northwest Florida school districts that lost enrollment because students were displaced by Hurricane Michael, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will take up a bill (SB 196) that would place limits on the terms of the state public counsel, who represents consumers in utility issues, 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 897) that would revamp staffing requirements for nursing homes, 3:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a proposal (HB 839) to make a series of changes in the higher-education system, 3:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 879) that would seek to block life-insurance companies from using genetic-test results in deciding whether to cancel, limit or deny coverage to customers, 3:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee is slated to take up a bill (HB 589) to revamp laws related to retail theft. Supporters, in part, want to raise legal thresholds for charges, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 73) that would require high-school students to earn a half credit in financial literacy. The bill is named after the late Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who championed the financial-literacy idea, 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider a proposal (SB 1000) to 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, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will take up a bill (SB 1502) to shift environmental law-enforcement responsibilities from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the Department of Environmental Protection, 4 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter and Secretary of State Laurel Lee, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee will take up a school-safety bill that includes allowing trained classroom teachers to carry guns as school “guardians,” 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee will consider a proposal to spur investments in businesses in rural communities, 4 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

Assignment editors — Sen. Keith Perry, joined by advocates and supporters, will hold a news conference to highlight SB 476, which seeks to enhance booster seat safety measures, 12:30 p.m., in front of the 4th-floor Senate Chamber.

— GOVS CLUB MENU —

Hot and sour soup; mixed garden salad dressings; Asian chicken salad; amazing ramen salad; deli tray, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and breads; cashew chicken; sesame beef and broccoli; Korean BBQ pork; house fried rice; stir-fried vegetables; braised napa cabbage; sesame balls for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

South Florida lawyers are raking in millions working in bankruptcy court” via Raychel Lean of the Daily Business Review — An independent study found millions of dollars from debtors’ estates went to lawyers and other professionals. Multiple cases with thousands of court filings — each prepared by attorneys charging by the hour — generated years of litigation and billing. One case included nearly 3,600 filings since 2009 and cost tens of millions of dollars. South Florida attorneys, consultants and other bankruptcy professionals collectively charged more than $191 million in fees and requested about $8.5 million in reimbursements in the past three years. Of 48,000 bankruptcies in the Southern District of Florida from 2016 to 2018, only 619 were Chapter 11 cases aimed at reorganizing corporations in debt. But the top earners all specialized in complex commercial bankruptcy.

— LOCAL —

Joe Henderson: Jane Castor cruising (so far) to be Tampa’s next Mayor” via Florida Politics — If that’s the sound of crickets you hear around the runoff election to be Tampa’s next Mayor, Castor may be a big reason why that is so. Her campaign has been textbook so far on how to be the runaway leader without being overbearing. Castor has frustrated rich guy opponent David Straz by not reacting too much to his taunts, jabs, and innuendo. Her victory in the April 23 runoff seems to be a foregone conclusion. Therein lies maybe the only way she can lose, though. If supporters forget to vote — and the turnout in runoffs isn’t usually good — Tampa could be in for an April surprise. But Castor seems to have that base covered, too.

It’s her’s to lose: Jane Castor appears so far to be cruising to victory in the Tampa mayoral race.

Lawyers for Dale Massad want judge disqualified, saying the former mayor’s rights have been violated” via Justin Trombly of the Tampa Bay Times — “Lawyers for Dale Massad want to disqualify a circuit court judge from two cases against the former Port Richey mayor, jailed on charges of attempted murder, unlicensed practice of medicine and attempted conspiracy.”

Seminole courts worker who posted that Aramis Ayala should be ‘hung from a tree’ loses court fight” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — B. Stanley McCullars in September 2017 sued Clerk of Courts and Comptroller Grant Maloy seeking $86,060 for mental anguish, attorney’s fees and back pay. He claimed his First Amendment rights were violated when he was placed on administrative leave and then forced to resign as assistant finance director on March 21, 2017. That was two days after his Facebook post, which he wrote on his personal computer at home. McCullars, 54, also posted in the Facebook comments under an Orlando Sentinel story about Ayala that “maybe SHE should get the death penalty.” The posts were deleted about nine hours later the following morning.

USF President pick poised for approval” via the News Service of Florida — The state university system’s Board of Governors is expected Thursday to consider confirmation of Steve Currall as the new president of the University of South Florida. Currall, the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Southern Methodist University, was selected by the USF Board of Trustees to succeed President Judy Genshaft, who is stepping down after 19 years at the university. Currall is slated to start as President July 1.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Donald Trump campaign urges networks to challenge top Trump detractors” via Rebecca Morin of POLITICO — Trump’s campaign urged major news networks to not allow on their shows several people, including Democratic lawmakers, who have been critical of the president, adding that the networks should report the conclusions of special counsel Mueller’s report as a “complete vindication” of Trump. “The issuance of these definitive findings comes after two years of Democrat leaders and others lying to the American people by vigorously and repeatedly claiming there was evidence of collusion,” Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Trump’s campaign, wrote in the letter to the networks. “They made many of these false claims, without evidence, on your airwaves,” the letter continued.

Blacklisted: Donald Trump is asking television networks to challenge his detractors, now that he’s been ‘exonerated’ in the Russian probe.

Judge overseeing key Jeffrey Epstein-related suit dies” via Josh Gerstein of POLITICO Florida — Manhattan-based U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet passed away at age 96, the court announced. Sweet was assigned to a lawsuit that emerged from the aftermath of Epstein‘s controversial plea deal a decade ago, in which he escaped federal charges by pleading guilty to two prostitution-related offenses in state court. Epstein ended up spending 13 months in jail, with daily furloughs that allowed him to work in his office. Critics have denounced the plea deal and the government official who negotiated it: Alexander Acosta, then the top federal prosecutor in south Florida and now U.S. secretary of Labor. The sentence, critics say, was excessively lenient for a man who faced allegations of procuring dozens of teenage girls for sex acts.

— 2020 —

Mueller findings flip Trump debate in 2020 campaign” via Steve Peoples of The Associated Press — None in the crowded Democratic field had embraced Russian collusion or impeachment as a central campaign issue. For some 2020 contenders, a flicker of hope remained that the full Mueller report — and perhaps related evidence — would reveal wrongdoing by the president. But among others, there was a greater sense that the investigation blitz could overshadow their policy promises. Mueller’s initial findings also mark a setback for those few Republicans considering mounting a primary challenge against Trump. Political strategists in both parties note that things could change quickly if the full report is released. And voters in the Trump era have notoriously short attention spans.

Flipping the script: Robert Mueller’s report is changing the calculus in the 2020 presidential race for both Democrats and Republicans.

— OPINIONS & ANALYSIS —

Marco Rubio: Green New Deal litmus test makes it harder to deal with climate change” via USA TODAY — It appears the effort to “save the planet from melting” is really just a cynical publicity stunt by people who think America is a planet. Reality check: America is not a planet; countries like China would happily watch us jump over the cliff by destroying our economy. Here is the truth: There is no credible scenario that will lead to the destruction — or salvation — of the planet within 10 to 12 years. Also true: Communities and local businesses in Florida are already dealing with the very real impacts of rising sea levels; the Green New Deal will do nothing to address that reality. Thankfully, there are realistic proposals that will make longer-term climate challenges much easier to deal with.

Margie Viera: Why I support Florida’s family empowerment scholarship proposal” via Florida Politics — I’m a single mom to two boys who are struggling in their current school. I am also a small-business owner and never made enough to afford to send them to a private school. Now you can imagine my excitement when I learned that the House proposed a program that would allow me to choose a private school for my sons. I applied for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, but we weren’t eligible because my income is just enough to disqualify our family. The House’s plan would include families like mine and other single moms who are doing their best to help their sons with little or no assistance. For our family, access to a scholarship would be a lifesaver.

Andrew Behrman: Protect Floridians’ access to affordable prescription drugs” via Florida Politics — Community Health Centers (CHC) are the only source of primary medical, dental, or behavioral care in many rural and medically underserved areas. Nine of every 10 patients seen at a CHC live below 200 percent of the poverty line and the majority are either covered by Medicaid or have no insurance at all. The daily struggle of uninsured Floridians is compounded by the high cost of medicine facing health care providers. The higher the cost of prescriptions for CHCs, the fewer funds they have available to provide patient care. With so many Floridians struggling with the high cost of prescription drugs, it’s the right time for our state to assure fair and affordable health care for its neediest residents.

— MOVEMENTS —

Julia Gill Woodward to lead Florida State Parks Foundation” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Longtime Gwen Graham aide Gill Woodward has been appointed chief executive officer of the Florida State Parks Foundation, the organization announced. Woodward served as Democrat Graham’s chief of staff in Congress and also as her campaign manager for her congressional election and her gubernatorial run last year. The Foundation, working with the Florida Park Service, supports the work of Florida’s award-winning 175 state parks and staff, local Friends’ groups and the 14,500 volunteers who donate 1.2 million hours of their time every year working in them.

Congratulations to Julia Gill Woodward, who will now head the Florida State Parks Foundation. 

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Christopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: US Cannabis Pharmaceutical Research and Development

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Citizens for Responsible Pet Ownership

Steve Crisafulli, Crisafulli Consulting: Beer Industry of Florida, University of Central Florida Foundation

Wil McKinley, Angela Dempsey, PooleMcKinley: CrowderGulf

Elizabeth Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Florida Concerned Care

Chris Hart: Florida Association of Court Clerks & Comptrollers

Theodore Mannelli: 11th Judicial Circuit State Attorney

Douglas Mannheimer, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough: PC Funding

Christopher Smith, Tripp Scott: American Property Casualty Insurance Association

James Wylie, Professional Consultants: Florida Funeral and Cemetery Consumer Advocacy

Personnel note: Howard Altman leaving Tampa Bay Times for Military Times — The longtime military correspondent, a Tampa Tribune alumnus, departs the Times for Washington D.C. to become the Military Times’ managing editor. The Military Times’ executive editor, Andrew Tilghman, announced the move Monday on Twitter. Altman starts next month. “Leaving an amazing bunch of journalists at a great org (@TB_Times) to work w another amazing group of journalists at a great org (@MilitaryTimes),” he tweeted. “I will miss the Times, Glorious Tampastan and its wonderful denizens greatly, but can’t wait to dive into the new gig.” He previously was an editor and reporter for the weekly (and now defunct) City Paper in Philadelphia.

— ALOE —

Apple’s ‘showtime’ event puts the spotlight on subscription services” via Reed Albergotti of The Washington Post — At an event at its campus in Cupertino, Apple said it was launching a raft of new services, from news to video games and a credit card. Its biggest initiative is entertainment streaming service Apple TV+, which featured some of the best-dressed people ever to grace an Apple stage: A-list celebrities. Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Big Bird and Oprah Winfrey all made cameos. Winfrey put the day’s announcements in the context of the political climate of intense divisiveness and talked about “joining forces with Apple” in order to help “heal” our divisions. Winfrey highlighted two of her Apple projects, a documentary on sexual harassment titled “Toxic Labor” and a still-untitled one about mental health.

Apple’s Hulu-like news app gives access to WSJ, 300 magazines” via Keith Kelly of the New York Post — Apple unveiled a news subscription service that will give access to digital editions of 300 magazines as well as a curated list of stories from The Wall Street Journal and several other big newspapers including the LA Times and the Toronto Star. Apple News + will charge $9.99 a month to give consumers a Hulu-like experience to access all the online publications through their Macs, iPads, iPhones and other iOS devices. WSJ will be the only national newspaper available, as The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA TODAY have not joined. Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and Wired, is participating, as is Hearst, publisher of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Among the wave of announcements at the Apple ‘showtime’ event in Cupertino was a new Hulu-style subscription service Apple +, to be priced at $9.99 a month.

Apple made its most important announcement in years, but critical details were strangely absent” via Alex Sherman of CNBC — If Apple v. 3 is going to change the way investors value Apple, they’ll need more answers than CEO Tim Cook gave. Apple was so sparse on key details around its video and news services that it felt like Apple had rushed the event or was waiting on a critical deal that never came through. Apple introduced Apple TV+, its subscription video service for original programs, but it didn’t say how much Apple TV+ would cost. Apple had previously planned on giving away at least some of its original content for free, so new pricing information was hotly anticipated. It made no sense to announce a subscription video service with no library.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to Secretary of State Laurel LeeRalph ArzaBrittany Dover, Scott Dudley, and the legendary Charlie Gray.

Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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