Breaking overnight — “500-acre Allanton Road wildfire is 40 percent contained” via Eryn Dion of the Panama City News-Herald — A fire that has spread over 500-acres between CR 2297 and Old Allanton Road is now 40 percent contained, according to the Florida Forestry Services. Taking advantage of the brisk wind, the fire spread quickly from Saturday night into Sunday morning, at one point growing at about 200-acres an hour. Now, through the use of aircraft and strategic firebreaks, the wildfire is 40 percent contained, though officials say the fire will likely smolder for days.
Ag. Commissioner Nikki Fried‘s office emails the latest update: “The wildfire is 10 miles east of Panama City, 500 acres and 50 percent contained as of tonight. We have two dozen Forest Service firefighters, bulldozers, fixed-wing aircraft, and a helicopter fighting it. What’s keeping our teams from suppressing it further is the literal tons of fallen trees from Hurricane Michael.”
Assignment editors — Fried, State Forester Jim Karels, and others will give a fire briefing on the active 500-acre wildfire in Bay County, 11 a.m., Eastern time, Sandy Creek Airpark, 12901 Park Way, Panama City.
Round One of TallyMadness is over, and there were quite a few surprises.
The March Madness of Florida lobbyists, sponsored by Table 23, saw 64 of the state’s most influential lobbyists duke it out for 32 spots.
The most surprising outcome of the bunch: No. 1 seed Dean Cannon of GrayRobinson fell to No. 16 seed Alli Liby-Schoonover of Metz Husband & Daughton. The rest of the 1-seeds — Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting, Bill Rubin of Rubin Turnbull & Associates and Matt Bryan of Smith Bryan & Myers — won spots in the round of 32.
While Bryan made the grade, SBM’s second-highest seeded contender, No. 2 Jeff Hartley, did not. No. 15 Ashley Kalifeh of CCC eliminated him.
The closest match of all was the battle between 14-seed Scott Dick of SKD Consulting Group leads and 3-seed Chris Dudley of Southern Strategy Group. Dick secured his spot by a single vote.
Other nail biters include the scrum between 12-seed Frank Walker and 5-seed Frank Mayernick of The Mayernick Group — Walker scraped by with a 20-vote advantage. The matchup between No.8 seed Chris Moya of Dean Mead and No. 9 seed Scott Ross of CCC was similarly close, with Moya winning by five percentage points.
Also, of note: the game between No. 2 David Ramba of Ramba Consulting Group No. 15 Stephanie Smith. The contest was a fan favorite, drawing a slew of votes. In the end, Smith proved victorious.
Just like the NCAA tournament, TallyMadness isn’t over. Head on over to TallyMadness.com to weigh in on who makes the Sweet 16.
Spotted — This is probably one of the most interesting “Spotted” in Sunburn: Former Jeb Bush and Florida fundraiser Ann Herberger in a music video for LION BABE’s “Western World.” Herberger appears as one of the smoking nuns at the 15-second mark.
To view the video, click on the image below:
A very public thank you to former state Rep. Bob Cortes.
Our boat trailer had not one but three flat tires. That’s no good when you are using it for the first time in Lord knows when to move the boat you own which is desperately in need of repairs. AAA could not help us, so I made a call to Bob, who promptly picked up on a Sunday afternoon and within minutes got in touch with a tow truck operator in St. Pete. Elvis Towing was on the spot within a half-hour and helped us switch out all three tires (no easy feat with the boat on the trailer). We were on our way within an hour of me calling Bob.
A very difficult situation was made otherwise manageable thanks to Rep. Cortes and his friends at the Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly!
—@JGM41: Closing the Office of George H.W. Bush today after 26 years and 9,583 days of service to the greatest man and woman any of us will never know. What an honor, truly — and to serve with such loyal, devoted colleagues made it all the more special. Of course, The Cause goes on!”
—@ErinGaetz: It’s funny how “believe all women” becomes “pics or it didn’t happen” when it’s someone like Biden being accused.
—@UncleLukeReal1: I keep telling y’all something about this new governor we have @RonDeSantisFL the man is colorblind he’s getting the best people for the jobs I love it
—@KGHope: If you notice amazing things are taking place around Florida you will also notice Senator @is usually connected with it!! Thanks for your efforts to help make days like this happen!!
—@MDixon55: Thread about one of the major reasons why professionally I want to remain a Florida Man FOIA process is a shit show compared to Florida’s public records laws. Don’t get me wrong, those are not perfect and I whine about them on this website. But they are much better than FOIA
—@Fineout: Today’s lesson – don’t tell a petition signature gatherer you can’t sign their form because you are a reporter
—@UrsulaPerano: Tallahassee culture is the idea that any restaurant can be made into a workspace if you try hard enough
—@JuanPenalosa: I love my job in FL and don’t mind working 80 hr weeks including weekends. My work allows me to do good at scale and that feels good. But sometimes I miss my gay life in NYC. I’d have been living for the @itsSHANGELA performance at the #glaadawards. And I mean LIVING.
—@StatTiger: Auburn becomes only 2nd team in NCAA tournament history to defeat Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky in the same season.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Masters Tournament begins — 10; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 13; Easter — 20; Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 21; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 22; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 31; Mother’s Day — 41; Memorial Day — 56; First Democratic debates in Miami — 86; Scott Maddox trial begins — 217; 2019 General Election — 218; Iowa Caucuses — 308; Florida’s presidential primary — 351; 2020 General Election — 582.
— TOP STORY —
“Donald Trump says Lake Okeechobee project ‘was dying until we got involved’” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Trump said during a tour of Lake Okeechobee that the broad, shallow lake had a “lot of problems” and that the dike-strengthening project around its shore “wasn’t properly funded for years.” “This project was dying until we got involved,” Trump told reporters along the Herbert Hoover Dike, which protects surrounding communities from flooding. “This was really dying.” White House officials said before the president’s arrival in central Florida that the visit would emphasize the federal partnership with the state. But the trip comes after state officials earlier this month criticized the $63 million Trump requested in the fiscal 2019-20 federal budget for Everglades restoration downstream from Lake Okeechobee for falling short of the funding needed.
— THE ADMINISTRATION —
Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis will make a “major announcement” on Monday with Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and Attorney General Ashley Moody. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Sanford Fire Department, 1303 William Clark Ave, Sanford. He will make another announcement with DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. That’s at 11 a.m., 4801 Dreher Trail North, West Palm Beach.
A pleasant surprise for Ron DeSantis’ environmental budget” via Jim Turner and Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — As the House and Senate move forward with their budget plans, maybe he should have gone bigger. “I’ve got to say I’m pretty pleased where they came in, particularly on this water quality,” DeSantis said after appearing at a gathering of the Florida Association of Counties Water Policy Committee in the Old Capitol. As part of a four-year, $2.5 billion environmental plan, the rookie governor asked lawmakers for $625 million to support Everglades and water quality projects. The House budget proposal includes $658.5 million in environmental spending, while the Senate has proposed $656 million.
“DeSantis appoints USF leader Brian Lamb to state university board” via Thomas Tobin of the Tampa Bay Times — Lamb, chairman of the USF board of trustees, is moving up. DeSantis appointed him to the state Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System. “He’s done a great job at USF, and I am confident Florida’s university system will continue to excel through his leadership,” the governor said. Lamb has served as chairman of the USF board since 2016. His current term expires next year, but state and USF officials said he would likely have to relinquish his seat to serve on the Board of Governors.
—”DeSantis appoints military company exec related to ethics complain to university board” via the Tampa Bay Times
What Noah Pransky is reading — “Contractor fined $4.6 million over SunPass problems” via The Associated Press — The Florida Department of Transportation announced the fine for Conduent State & Local Solutions in a news release. The agency also replaced its director of toll systems. FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault says he wants Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to assess maximum performance penalties allowed under its contract with Conduent. Conduent won the estimated $600 million contract to take over Florida’s SunPass program despite concerns over the New Jersey company’s troubled history. Millions of toll transactions got delayed as a result of a billing system upgrade last June. When the transactions finally began to show up, some customers incurred bank overdraft fees as a result.
— SESSION —
“Midway mark: Here are 8 divides lawmakers must bridge in back half of Legislative Session” via Jeff Schweers and James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The House and Senate have each charted their separate courses through the financial straits of the budget process, creating a vast gulf between them on various priorities from the environment to education. And they’ve also got several controversial policy measures they don’t exactly see eye to eye on, but at least they’re talking. The consensus — especially among Republicans — is things are going pretty well, especially compared to years past when an uncommunicative governor and a discordant Legislature couldn’t come to terms on many vital issues. What helps first-year DeSantis with the Legislature is the respect he has for the process, Senate President Bill Galvano said.
“Joe Gruters’ balancing act on taxes falling flat with fellow Republicans” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — A tax overhaul backed by some of Florida’s most prominent business groups looks like it should be a slam dunk in the GOP-controlled Legislature. But Gruters’ push to cut taxes for businesses renting office space while helping Florida retailers compete against online giants like Amazon and Wayfair is facing stiff resistance. The Florida GOP chief is fighting his fellow Republicans, who fear his proposed tax swap involving about $425 million could be viewed as a tax hike. In a Legislature which hasn’t raised a major tax in a decade, such concerns look likely to sink what Gruters, an accountant, said is a chance to modernize Florida’s tax system and empower state businesses.
“House against considers human trafficking curriculum in schools” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bill to teach Florida’s students about the dangers of human trafficking is set for its second committee stop Monday. It will be heard by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. The bipartisan bill (HB 259) is sponsored by GOP Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, of Orlando, and Rep. Patricia Williams, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who also serves as the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee. The legislation would add education on human trafficking to the health education curriculum in public schools, though students would be allowed to opt out with parental permission.
“Senate advances bill boosting booster seat requirements” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida parents might want to hang on to their car seats for an extra year. A bill sponsored by Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry would require children to buckle up in booster seats until their sixth birthday. “Studies have shown that when child safety seats are used correctly, they can reduce fatal injuries by over 70 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers,” Perry said. “Extending the protection of booster seats through the age of six is a simple, common sense safety measure that will save countless lives.” While the booster seat requirement is based on the age of a child, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends waiting until a child is 57 inches tall — the average height of an 8-year-old — before making the switch.
What Kathy Mears is reading — “Mel Ponder files bill honoring champion FSU softball team” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The bill (HB 8025) slides into consideration a good bit into Session. Ponder’s bill notes the Seminoles’ history-making victory over the Washington Huskies in June. It celebrates the roster as FSU’s first national championship in softball, its standout players by name, and notes a few other broken records. While the resolution hasn’t been scored financially, the Seminoles slid their way to victory before. Just check Dani Morgan’s stats. The sophomore stole seven bases during the NCAA tournament this year, a Women’s College World Series record.
— MORE SESSION —
“Higher ed funding a legislative battleground” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — Dueling state spending blueprints set for votes in the House and Senate take vastly different approaches to finance Florida’s universities and colleges. The Senate spends $285.3 million more in a higher education budget topping $6 billion. “We clearly have a lot of work to do to get the two sides together,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, chair of the Senate Education budget panel. The biggest clash between the two Republican-controlled chambers is over Florida’s 12 public universities, where the House proposes $100 million in across-the-board cuts — a 2.5 percent reduction — along with an additional $20 million drop in pre-eminence funding which goes to the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida. Pre-eminence funding, an award aimed at encouraging research and student performance, currently amounts to $152 million for the schools. The 13 percent reduction would bring it down to its level in 2017-18, according to House leaders.
“Tom Lee navigates implementation for savings clause change” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As lawmakers look to implement a change to “The Savings Clause,” approved by voters in November, this proves a challenging question. State Sen. Tom Lee filed legislation (SB 1656) tackling implementation. “We don’t want to unknowingly unravel or automatically unravel cases pending in the system,” Lee said. The bill goes before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Florida lawmakers may soon adjust its grand theft thresholds to account for inflation. Anybody already sentenced and serving time for these crimes won’t be affected by any change in law.
“Keith Perry’s bill helping injured workers or his business?” via Steve Andrews of WFLA — “A Gainesville lawmaker plans to re-introduce a bill that could force injured workers to wait up to nine weeks to receive medical care and benefits. It could also end up lowering workers’ compensation premiums that Republican Senator Keith Perry’s company currently pays.”
“Assortment of criminal justice reforms await action from Legislature” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Proposed changes to the state’s criminal justice system are taking up a sizable portion of the policy arena this Session. The fate of the bills? Too early to tell — even as the Legislature approaches the halfway point of the annual 60-day lawmaking process. Greg Newburn, who advocates for some of the criminal justice measures floating around the Legislature, said it’s difficult to peg the momentum of bills. But he’s optimistic because he sees among policymakers a general willingness to remedy what colleagues have described as an overcrowded prison population. There’s so much noise, even DeSantis noticed. He acknowledged in March the reforms moving through Session, signaling potential support for sentencing changes.
“Crime survivors rise from deadly challenges to demand reform” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice’s Survivors Speak 2019 continues an annual effort to bring those most affected by crime to come to Florida’s Capitol. The Crime Survivors network draws from 25,000 survivors from across the nation. The focus of the organization will be on more than strict justice, organizers said. The goal of policymakers must be ending the cycle of crime and securing the resources for victim recovery. Crime Survivors arrive with three chief objectives. The first will be removing barriers to access the Victims Compensation Fund. Second, victims want more early intervention. And they also want fewer obstacles for getting life back on track after a sentence concludes.
“Will election reform bill limit or expand vote-by-mail?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats attacked a provision cutting off when supervisors of elections send out vote-by-mail ballots. Juan Peñalosa, Florida Democratic Party executive director, labeled the elections package (HB 7101) a “voter suppression bill” in a party memo. “If the bill becomes law, it could block tens of thousands of Floridians from voting by mail in the critical days before Election Day,” he wrote. But Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the bill’s sponsor, scoffed at the assertion. The controversial provision moves the deadline for voters to request vote-by-mail ballots from six days ahead of an election to 10 days; the deadline for supervisors to mail out the ballots would move from four days out to eight.
“Will James Grant bill bring checkout time for vacation rental debate?” via Jacob ogles of Florida Politics — The Oldsmar Republican this year carries the most recent iteration of legislation (HB 987) preempting local regulations on rentals. The bill goes before the Government Operations and Technology Appropriations subcommittee today. Grant said the legislation may be primed for passage this year. How’s he know? There’s plenty in there that nobody likes, including himself. “Everybody has got fatigue over this issue,” he said. But like rideshare laws before, this fight evolved and changes as markets shift and more people take advantage of new services, he said.
“Wear sunscreen, experts say. It saves lives without killing coral” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Wear sunscreen. Miami dermatologist Andrew Weinstein suspects it may be advice many won’t take. “We know there’s a culture that favors exposure to the sun, and that there is an epidemic of skin cancer,” he said. “If suntan lotion is less available, we will see an increase in the number of deaths from tumors.” That’s why he felt horrified watching the Key West City Commission ban sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate. Those chemicals happen to give high-SPF sunscreen its protective power. After watching debate in Key West, he’s fearful of a populist mob taking over city commission hearings in more coastal communities. “And unwittingly you can have a municipality have a ban on safe and important sunscreen,” he said.
—“Bill would ban sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, like Hawaii and Key West” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm
“When a Medicaid ride to the doctor’s office fails to show, others foot the bill” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times — Officials haven’t counted the number of Floridians who missed appointments or been left waiting for hours, but the problem is so pervasive it caught the attention of hospitals and transit agencies stuck paying the bill. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority estimates the agency spent $1 million in 2018 providing paratransit rides to people who chose the county bus agency instead of relying on a Medicaid-provided trip. Sen. Jeff Brandes is sponsoring a bill after hearing from health care professionals with stories about patients stranded for hours waiting for a ride. “We can put a man in the moon in Florida, but we can’t pick someone up from a doctor’s appointment on time?” Brandes quipped.
Today’s legislative committee hearings:
The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 987) to give the state regulatory authority over vacation rental properties, a concept known as “pre-empting” local regulations, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 593) that would waive out-of-state fees for students attending state colleges that sustained massive enrollment losses because of Hurricane Michael, noon, 404 House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 259) to require school health classes to include information about child abuse and human trafficking, noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will consider a proposal (SB 1656) that would address a constitutional amendment approved in November that dealt with what is known as the “Savings Clause” of the Florida Constitution, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Health Policy Committee will take up a bill (SB 1520), filed by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, that would expand a law encouraging the use of “direct primary care” agreements between patients and doctors, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will consider a proposal (SB 1052) that would repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance system, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom and Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up a bill (SPB 7096) that would make it harder for citizens and groups to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet to set a special-order calendar, 15 minutes after committees, 401 Senate Office Building.
— STATEWIDE —
What Marion Hammer should be reading — “Processing time for gun permits one-third faster under Nikki Fried” via Sarah Rumpf of The Capitolist — Applications for concealed carry permits are not only continuing to be processed properly, they are being approved and returned about one-third quicker than under the previous administration of Republican Adam Putnam. Fried said that the previous processing time had been right around the maximum allowed 90 days. “We’re down to an average of 58 days and are handling everything in a more efficient manner,” said Fried.
“Ashley Moody declares win in Ritz Theatre legal fight” via Florida Politics — A little more than a year after then-Attorney General Pam Bondi started to fight for Winter Haven’s historic Ritz Theatre, her successor on Friday said the legal battle had “come to an end.” Attorney General Moody said Circuit Judge Catherine Combee “approved an agreement eliminating the final remaining legal barriers, and the Ritz has resolved the problems that led to the Attorney General’s involvement in the case.” Last March, Bondi filed a complaint against the nonprofit group charged with renovating and operating The Ritz Theatre, alleging misconduct and mismanagement.
Assignment editors — CFO and state Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will join the Florida Joint Council of Fire and Emergency Services for the unveiling and dedication of the new Firefighter Memorial Monument on the Capitol grounds, near the House Office Building, 3:43 p.m. The Honor Guard and Pipes & Drums procession will begin at 3:20 p.m. Guests are asked to arrive no later than 3:10 p.m. Later, Patronis will attend the Florida Fire Service Awards ceremony. That’s at 5:30 p.m., 22nd floor of The Capitol.
Happening today — Various committees of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors will meet in advance of a full board meeting tomorrow. They are the Finance & Compensation Committee, the Business Development & Marketing Committee, the International Committee and the Stakeholders Council; meetings start at 10 a.m. Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center, Florida A&M University, 1800 Wahnish Way, Tallahassee.
Investigations underway into sexual misconduct allegations at Florida National Guard” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times — Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun retires April 6 as commander of the Florida National Guard, and DeSantis will name a replacement. But the search comes while the guard — some 12,000 soldiers and airmen who deploy to combat zones and help at home in natural disasters — is facing ongoing investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct and cover-ups that date back a decade. Among the charges: An officer joked he would hang a sign-up sheet outside the office of a female contractor so people could sign up for sexual favors from her in 15-minute increments.
“Puerto Rican families fled Hurricane Maria’s destruction to Panama City. Months later, Michael struck” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Orlando Sentinel — Luis Angel Santos Baez, 49, and his family had moved to Andrew’s Place, a complex outside Panama City Beach, after fleeing the devastation in Puerto Rico left by Hurricane María a few months before. “When we got here, we had nothing,” recalled Santos Baez’s wife, Helga Iris Llinas Agosto. But the few possessions they managed to accumulate in their new home were quickly gone again. Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle, displacing thousands of families — including about 15 that had fled there from Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and María. It was the third major storm they had endured in roughly 18 months.
“State receives first debris removal reimbursement from FEMA” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Transportation is getting $9.8 million from the federal government to reimburse the cost of debris cleanup in Jackson County following Hurricane Michael. The payment is the first state transportation project to be reimbursed by FEMA under an expected process requested by DeSantis. “Under my watch, and thanks to the President, those impacted by Hurricane Michael will not be forgotten. I’m proud of the work our state continues to do for the people of Northwest Florida,” the governor said. In January, the White House agreed to extend from five to 45 the number of days the federal government would fully reimburse debris cleanup from the October storm.
“Florida could have fined All Children’s millions for late reports. It went with $4,500.” via Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times — Last year, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital made a striking admission to state regulators: It had failed to report at least nine cases where its care had hurt patients. State law gave the regulators the power to send All Children’s a punishing message with a fine that could have reached into the millions. Instead, regulators fined All Children’s a total of $4,500. “That’s lunch for an executive meeting,” said Robert Field, a Drexel University professor and expert in health care regulation. George F. Indest III, an attorney in the Orlando area who represents assisted living facilities and home health providers, called the figure “shocking.”
“Thad Seymour: From ‘game-changing’ project to leading UCF” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — When Seymour, a key player in building Lake Nona’s Medical City, was tapped in 2016 to lead UCF’s long-awaited downtown campus, he had no experience in higher education administration. But he was tasked with “developing this 21st-century urban learning hub,” then-provost Dale Whittaker said at the time. Three years later, with the new campus set to open this summer, Seymour, 63, is taking on a vastly different challenge than the one he anticipated. Rather than putting the final touches on what Whittaker described as a “game-changing project,” he has replaced Whittaker as president of the University of Central Florida. “It’s been a hard few months for everybody here, and it’s taken a human toll,” Seymour told the Orlando Sentinel.
“Diseased dolphins prove need to stop algae now — and there’s only one way to do it” via Gil Smart of TCPalm — There’s a growing suspicion that a neurotoxin called beta-Methylamino-L-alanine — BMAA for short — could trigger ALS. Research on Guam and elsewhere have suggested ALS, along with Parkinson’s disease and dementia — think Alzheimer’s — is related to BMAA. Remember those blue-green algal blooms that choked the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in recent years? Researchers believe BMAA might have been present in the blooms. Indeed, earlier this month scientists from the University of Miami announced they’d studied 14 dead dolphins that washed ashore in Massachusetts and Florida. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, would seem to reach similar conclusions to those presented in the documentary film “Toxic Puzzle” (one of the same researchers, Larry Brand, was involved in both).
“How Alex Jones and Infowars help to Florida man torment Sandy Hook families” via Elizabeth Williamson of The New York Times — In the world of conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones and Wolfgang Halbig fueled each other’s darkest tendencies. Soon after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Jones began spreading outlandish theories that the killing of 20 first-graders and six educators were staged. Many of the most noxious claims originated in the mind of Halbig, a retired Florida public school official fixated on what he called “this supposed tragedy” at Sandy Hook. Court records and deposition by Jones in one of a set of defamation lawsuits brought against him by the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims show how he and Halbig used each other to pursue their obsession and promote it across the internet.
— LOCAL —
“Jane Castor and David Straz top $5 million mark in Tampa Mayor’s race” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — The most expensive race in Tampa history is only getting pricier: the two candidates have raised more than $5 million. Straz has almost totally self-funded his campaign, putting in another $800,000 since the March 5 election narrowed a seven-person field to him and Castor. He has more than $3.9 million in the race so far, spending more than $3.3 million, mainly on a bevy of advertising and campaign events. Castor has also stepped up her cash-gathering game, topping $1.4 million between individual contributions and her affiliated political committee, Tampa Strong. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has been a generous donor, contributing more than $100,000 through individual donations and through his firms.
“HD 7 hopefuls talk Hurricane Michael at Tiger Bay” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Four candidates for House District 7 engaged in a tame discussion at the Capital City Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. The district stretches across the Big Bend area, spanning from Port St. Joe to Mayo. The territory almost brushes up against Mexico Beach, where the near-Category 5 Hurricane Michael made landfall on Oct. 10. “We don’t have representation,” said Ryan Terrell, the Democrat who will compete against whoever emerges from the four-way GOP race. “We don’t have a vote in the Legislature right now.” Three competing Republicans — Mike Watkins, Lynda Bell, and Virginia Fuller — agreed: The storm-battered area needs help. (Jason Shoaf, another Republican, did not attend because of a funeral.)
“Edgewater’s ‘Family Affair’ government leads to possible City Council violations” via Casmira Harrison of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — While the State Attorney’s Office sniffs around possible Sunshine Law violations, elected officials likely violated their own city charter when they voted to reinstate a city employee and possibly broke public records laws when they deleted fiery Facebook posts about city issues, experts say. But what prevents city officials from breaking those rules again? Not much. Since a raucous October special meeting where charter rules were ignored and which ended in the firing of the city manager, council members have reined-in the rhetoric and citizen attendance at public meetings — once explosive — has settled back into the low double digits. But while public interest may have waned, the State Attorney’s interest appears to have piqued.
What Beth Sweeny is reading — “District looks to fill spots as 93 teachers have resigned since the start of the school year” via Travis Gibson of the St. Augustine Record — The district will look to make early hires to fill 55 positions for next year. Some could get hired on the spot. Said Jewel Johnson, director for Instructional Personnel at the district: “Every district is always looking.” It’s part of an ongoing effort by the district to recruit and retain full-time teachers — a task that has proved increasingly difficult in recent years with a robust job market. There have been 93 teacher resignations since Aug. 2, about 3 percent of the current teacher pool. All but seven of those positions have been filled with full-time employees, the district said, but the number of resignations is still a concern to the president of the local teacher’s union.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump tourism: How Charlottesville enabled Cindy Yang to market Mar-a-Lago in China” via Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas and Caitlin Ostroff of the Miami Herald — Mar-a-Lago lost half the season’s planned events after Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” of a deadly white nationalist march in Charlottesville. Yang’s invitations to Mar-a-Lago started coming after high society’s post-Charlottesville exodus. She helped promote the cobbled-together replacement galas, selling them online as opportunities for Chinese businesspeople to gain face time with the Trump family. Yang’s acumen for ticket sales to these events ensured that she and her guests would continue to have access to a club struggling to fill seats — access Yang turned into a Florida-based business, GY US Investments, marketed to clients overseas. Mar-a-Lago became a top destination for Trump tourism.
“Rick Scott becomes Trump point man on GOP health care policy” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump named Scott and fellow GOP U.S. Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana as his point people on Capitol Hill at a question-and-answer session at the White House. “They are going to come up with something really spectacular,” Trump told reporters. Scott’s new role is a long way from his political origins in 2009 and 2010, when as one of the earliest critics of Obamacare, he launched ads arguing that pre-existing condition protections would cause premiums to skyrocket. Two of Scott’s proposals this week seem to lay the groundwork. But it was still unclear if either the Republican-controlled Senate or Democratic-controlled House would go along with either.
But then … “Rick Scott throws ‘Face the Nation’ host with health-care comment” via Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel — Scott may be one of the Senators in charge of delivering a Republican alternative to Obamacare. But he suggested on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he expects the White House to deliver a proposal. “I look forward to seeing what the president’s going to put out,” Scott told Margaret Brennan. That remark surprised host Brennan, who asked: “Did you just say that you expect the White House to come forward with the proposal first?” Scott didn’t exactly answer the question. “I know in the end the White House is going to have to have their plan, and I know it’s going to be difficult with Nancy Pelosi,” Scott said.
What Marco Rubio is reading — “E.U. votes to end mandatory switch to Daylight Saving Time” via Anna Schaverien of The New York Times — The European Union has moved one step closer to scrapping seasonal time change after a substantial majority of lawmakers voted to end the requirement to move clocks ahead by one hour in spring and then back in the fall. The European Parliament voted 410 to 192 to back a draft law to abolish the twice-a-year switch. Under the draft law, each of the 28 countries in the bloc (although Britain may have left by then) will have to choose before 2021 whether it will follow daylight saving time throughout the year or maintain standard time.
“Matt Gaetz is a congressman liberals love to loathe. It’s all part of the plan” via Glenn Thrush of the New York Times — Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida came to Washington in 2017 with a reputation for bipartisan deal-cutting in the State Legislature — then spent a year idling behind the slow-moving minivans in the House Republican Conference like a Mustang stuck in traffic. So he decided to go the full Trump.
“A multimillionaire construction magnate is Florida’s most pro-environment Republican” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Francis Rooney made millions on sprawling building projects like the Dallas Cowboys’ football stadium. But the 65-year-old Rooney is now Florida’s most pro-environment Republican in Congress. Rooney is the only Republican in Congress currently supporting a tax on carbon emissions, and is one of two vocal critics of the state’s sugar industry in Washington. His considerable wealth — Rooney ranked as the 26th richest member of Congress in 2018 and drew a $5.5 million salary the year before entering elected office — means he doesn’t need checks from lobbyists to fund his reelection campaigns. “I’m kind of a lone wolf on this from a conservative district,” Rooney said in an interview at his Capitol Hill office. “I’m certainly not doing it for politics. In fact, I may be doing it against politics.”
“Protestors ‘shed light’ on Homestead detention center for migrant children — literally” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — On Friday night, immigration groups from across the country rallied outside the shelter. Their form of a protest this time: a light show. Protesters project phrases such as “Shut It Down” and “Homes Instead” from across the street at the shelter for unaccompanied minors in Homestead. Artist/activist Alessandra Mondolfi created the installation to bring attention to the situation. “The moment they step out into the yard they scan the horizon for our signs,” Mondolfi said. “Someone took them down, but I will make bigger and bolder ones, like the ones tonight that shed light.”
Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz will join South Floridians who benefit from the Affordable Care Act and call for protections for those with pre-existing conditions, 10 a.m., United Way of Broward County, 1300 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
— 2020 —
“Joe Biden blindsided by dose of 2020 reality” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — In a two-week period where his attempts to smooth a path into the 2020 race only seemed to underscore the obstacles confronting his prospective candidacy, the former vice president got a concentrated dose of what’s in store for him if he chooses to embark on a third run for the White House. The hardest hit came when Lucy Flores, Nevada’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2014, stepped forward to say she was made uncomfortable by Biden’s attention that year. “He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head,” Flores wrote. “My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”
“Beto O’Rourke rallies in Texas kick off in El Paso, blocks from migrant families under bridge” via Vic Kolenc of the El Paso Times — “Let’s remember that every single one of us — including those who are just three or four blocks from here, detained under the international bridge that connects us with Mexico, behind chain-link fence and barbed wire — that they are our fellow human beings and deserve to be treated like our fellow human beings.” The scenes of migrant families captured national attention this week when U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan visited El Paso and declared that the border had hit its “breaking point.” The location was fitting for a candidate who says he is focused on providing a more nuanced view of the border than the picture painted by Trump.
“Wayne Messam starts push for presidency with ‘American dream’ rally” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The 44-year-old son of Jamaican immigrants said his top priorities are greatly reducing gun violence and preventing mass shootings, eliminating college loan debt, reversing harmful climate change, and rebuilding ties with America’s allies across the planet. “We will meet this challenge,” Messam told the crowd at the Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. He used the “Black Panther” movie song “Pray for Me” as his theme music. More than two dozen supporters held campaign signs and stood on the stage behind Messam, as he spoke under a large banner with his slogan “WAYNE for America” and the hashtag “ChangeCantWait.”
— OPINIONS & ANALYSIS —
“R. Scott Shalley: Let us compete” via Florida Politics — Our state now has the opportunity to eliminate a legal loophole that will ensure fair competition. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a decision permitting out-of-state retailers to evade the collection of sales taxes when shipping goods into states where the retailer had no presence. Most states immediately amended their sales tax rules which subsequently forced out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes. Florida is the largest state that has failed to make this modification. As a result, our members are burdened with a 6-8 percent tax that out-of-state retailers do not collect and have thus far been hindered by a loss in sales. The importance of closing this loophole cannot be underemphasized. The retail environment has evolved and so must the laws that govern it.
“Mark Zuckerberg: The internet needs new rules. Let’s start in these four areas.” via The Washington Post — I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators. By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what’s best about it — the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things — while also protecting society from broader harms. From what I’ve learned, I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability. Facebook already publishes transparency reports on how effectively we’re removing harmful content. I believe every major internet service should do this quarterly, because it’s just as important as financial reporting. Once we understand the prevalence of harmful content, we can see which companies are improving and where we should set the baselines.
“Lawmakers must soundly denounce white nationalism, shut down ‘sanctuary cities’ bill” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — We should be shocked that an extremist anti-immigrant group with racist origins has helped craft the Florida Senate bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities. But we’re getting used to extremes. Even so, we are repulsed that a Florida representative of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) said his group suggested the idea of giving the Florida attorney general authority to take action against local governments. The evident influence of FAIR makes even more specious the current craze to wipe out sanctuary cities. Or as they might more accurately be called: “mythical cities.” Willful blindness to white nationalism is not a good look for Florida. It should be condemned at every turn by every elected official.
“Joe Gibbons: Electricity deregulation would hurt Florida’s families and economy” via Florida Politics — Choice and competition don’t work in the electric power industry the way they do with automobile dealerships, brand-name stores, and fast-food restaurants. A regulated utility market provides the oversight necessary to keep electric prices low, while also increasing investments in infrastructure and clean, renewable energies. In states that have “deregulated” their market, prices went up, fraud increased, and investments in infrastructure and renewable energy went down. The hue and cry to bring “choice” and “competition” to Florida’s electric utilities will grow louder, and the appeals will sound tempting. Don’t be fooled. Reject the false promises of electricity deregulation.
“David Straz’s campaign should have lawmakers thinking twice about red-light camera ban” via Florida Politics — Straz’ mayoral campaign seemed convinced that Tampanians wanted red light cameras out of their city. Leading up to the first round of the Tampa mayoral election, the businessman and philanthropist took to the airwaves with an ad promising that he’d run them out of town. At the very least, voters don’t see it as one of their top priorities. If it were in the top-5, one would think it would have earned him at least a few more votes. When the 2019 Legislative Session wraps and lawmakers send postcards and emails to their constituents touting their accomplishments, they might want to skip out on mentioning red light cameras.
“No agency should monopolize accreditation for chiropractors” via Jennings DePriest for the Tallahassee Democrat — Why have we not moved away from the 1970s-era private accreditation monopoly that is the Council on Chiropractic Education? By allowing any accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation to accredit chiropractic schools, the Florida Legislature is not only ensuring that competition exists in the accreditation market, they are also bringing chiropractic medicine closer in alignment to traditional medicine. House Bill 873 does not lower standards. It simply opens Florida’s statutes to allow competition in chiropractic education accreditation.
“Lawmakers should bust Council on Chiropractic Education monopoly” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida statutes currently say that to practice as a chiropractor in Florida, you must be a graduate of a school accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). The statute literally names a single organization as the only one allowed to approve chiropractic schools in Florida. Compare that to medical education or dental education, where Florida Statutes say you must be a graduate of a medical or dental school accredited by an accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Office of Education. Perhaps if a state like Florida welcomed competition rather than outlawed it, another agency could arise. Besides, just the threat of competition keeps organizations on their toes.
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
Carol Bracy, Ballard Partners: Florida Polytechnic University Foundation
Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: Colson Hicks Eidson
Sheree Keeler, Wakulla County Board of County Commissioners
Eliakim Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: Puff’n Stuff Events & Catering
Evan Rosenthal, Nabors Giblin & Nickerson: Wakulla County
— ALOE —
“Falling meteor lights up sky over Florida” via Brett Clarkson of the Orlando Sentinel — The sight was so astonishing that one driver’s dashboard camera captured him shouting “What the f— was that!” after the blazing space rock plummeted to Earth. Videos posted by witnesses who happened to be out driving — and who had their dash cams turned on— showed the meteor streaking down over the Florida sky at about 11:55 Saturday night.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
We trust it was a sweet birthday on Sunday for U.S. Sugar’s Eric Edwards. Belated best wishes also to Dave Mica, Jr. and Trent Phillips.
Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.