Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
As a matter of policy, America is now splitting families seeking asylum in the U.S. by illegally crossing the border.
For many (in both parties), it is difficult to reconcile this reality.
Every day, dozens of parents are separated from their children – as the federal government labels them “unaccompanied minors” to be remanded to government custody or foster care, while the parents are considered criminals and sent to jail.
For opponents of the Donald Trump administration, this policy of family separation is indefensible, particularly after new audio emerged showing children crying, and wondering where their parents are.
More than 2,700 children have been separated from their parents between Oct. 1, 2017, and May 31, 2018, with nearly 2,000 of them from April 18 to May 31 – the final six weeks of the period.
Currently, an average of 45 children every day is taken from their parents.
Vox is reporting that one Honduran refugee committed suicide in a detention cell after his child was taken away.
While this policy is not new, it has increased at a rapid pace under Trump, resulting in an increasing sense of outrage throughout the country – from both Republican and Democrats – which could play a role in the upcoming 2018 midterms.
—“Listen to children who’ve just been separated from their parents at the border” via Ginger Thompson of ProPublica
“’I do not favor separating families’ says Rick Scott in slight break with Trump” via Marc Caputo of Florida Politics — Scott, however, stopped short of calling for an immediate end to the policy — which has resulted in the parentless detention of thousands of children — and downplayed the administration’s role in enforcing it. “What the country is witnessing right now is the byproduct of the many years of bipartisan inaction and failure from our federal government. They have failed to secure our borders, which has resulted in this chaos,” Scott said in a written statement. “Let me be clear — I do not favor separating families. Washington is to blame for this by being all talk and no action, and the solution is to secure the border. Anyone seeking to enter our country illegally needs to be sent back, with the exception of those who are truly seeking asylum from an oppressive regime.” The policy is the latest in a string of administration controversies that have weighed on Scott as a U.S. Senate candidate in Florida, which has a significant foreign-born population sensitive to immigration issues.
“Q poll: Republicans support separating immigrant children; no other group does” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The poll states that Republican voters, by 55-35 percent, support the policy of Trump of prosecuting parents immediately even if it means separating them from their children in detention and perhaps beyond that. But Democrats, independent voters, and cross sections of whites, blacks, Hispanics, men, women, young voters, early-middle age voters, late-middle-age voters, and older voters; and, among white voters, those with or without college educations, all oppose the policy. Overall, 66 percent of those polled oppose the policy and 27 percent support it. The Republican support carried the support and was overwhelmed by 91 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independent voters oppose it. Opposition is particularly strong among black voters [88 percent;] Hispanic voters [80 percent]; voters under age 35 [80 percent;] and women [70 percent]. Among all white voters, 60 percent oppose the policy, and among all men, 61 percent oppose. Even the cross-section of white men shows 55 percent opposition.
“Marco Rubio campaign manager: The GOP no longer has an ‘ideological compass’” via Jon Ward of Yahoo! News — GOP operative Terry Sullivan, who ran Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign … leveled his critique at both Republicans and Democrats, but said as a Republican he was more authorized to speak about that party’s drift. He blamed the deeper problem on a shift away from ideas-based campaigns. “The campaigns are much more about personality than they are about issues,” Sullivan said. “Issues are only seen as a vehicle to determine somebody’s personality. … We see that with the current president.”
“Feds holding 1,000 migrant children at Miami-area compound, lawmaker says” via Jerry Iannelli and Tarpley Hitt of the Miami New Times — Roughly 1,000 migrant children are being held inside a secured compound in Homestead, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. It’s unclear whether the children crossed the border on their own or whether they were taken from their parents under Trump’s new policy. The beige prisonlike facility outside Miami, called the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, is the former Job Corps site at 960 Bougainville Boulevard. The facility opened under the Obama administration and was previously used to house unaccompanied migrant children. There’s little information about where exactly the children inside came from. In 2016, the Herald reported that the kids arrived unaccompanied across the border and had been flown in from around the country; they were either sent back home or placed with sponsors and spent an average of about a month in Homestead. At the time, the federal government said the facility was equipped to hold only 800 kids.
“Rallies in Tampa Bay protest separating families at the border” via Sean Streicher of WTSP — The group, Indivisible Safety Harbor, held “Rally to End Family Separation” on the corner of FL-580 and McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater. The Women’s March — Florida Chapter also held a rally at Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg. According to the USA Today, family separations on the U.S.-Mexico border have drawn global attention since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in April. Sessions has described the policy as a deterrent to families attempting to enter the U.S. illegally.
—“Microsoft ‘dismayed’ by separation of families at the border” via Ina Fried of Axios
—“How states are fighting Trump’s child separation policy” via Marisa Fernandez of Axios
—“What they’re saying: Top GOPers speak out against child separation” via Michael Sykes of Axios
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.
—@MarcoRubio: Currently govt must either release parents & continue incentive for illegal entry with children or separate families by detaining parents. Neither is good. Let’s change the law to allow families to be held together at family facilities & shorten detention with expedited hearings
—@JebBush: Children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool. @realDonaldTrump should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
—@ScottforFlorida: My position in regards to health care reform has not changed. Obamacare is a disaster and costs way too much. We must find a way to reform it. But I do not agree with efforts to remove protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
—@SenBillNelson: The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don’t want. Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake.
—@AndrewGillum: Tonight I called on @FLGovScott to issue an executive order banning the use of any state resources that would assist in the separation of children from their parents. And I also called on @SecNielsen to resign — her Department has lost its moral standing. This is a disgrace.
—@MarioDB: It is totally unacceptable, for any reason, to purposely separate minor children from their parents. Any and every other option should be implemented in order to not separate minors from their parents, which I believe is unconscionable.
—@RepHastingsFL: Separating children from their families and holding them in cages is government-sanctioned child abuse. I don’t care where you come from; no family deserves to be treated this way. Shame on Donald Trump for permitting such an immoral, indefensible policy.
—@David4Florida: Today, images of children in cages cover our television screens. Why? President Trump is using these children as hostages to be exchanged for wall funding and immigration cutbacks. Now more than ever, we need a Congress that will stand up to Trump and protect our values.
—@fineout: Amid dust-ups over debris contracts, pre-existing conditions & Trump border policy, @FLGovScott headed off to Puerto Rico on Tuesday to offer “guidance” & “assistance” on hurricane recovery
—@GbennettPost: As #Florida governor candidate filings trickle in, Dem @MayorLevine reports net worth of $133 million; Dem @GwenGraham reports $14.4 million.
—@DanmericaCNN: Hillary Clinton, speaking in NYC, endorses Donna Shalala, former Clinton admin official and candidate for Congress in Florida’s 27th district: “I know she will be an excellent Congresswoman from Florida.” Shalala, who also ran the Clinton Foundation, introduced Clinton today.
—@JohnMorganESQ: I’ve been saying this loudly for the last 5yrs. It’s a no-brainer. Small minded people & politicians on the take from drug companies are all that separates us from compassionate care. @FLGovScott drop your appeal & let compassion win. Only you can do that
— DAYS UNTIL —
Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 3; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 9; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 19; MLB All-Star Game — 28; Deadline for filing claim bills — 43; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 43; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 44; Start of the U.S. Open — 69; Primary Election Day — 70; College Football opening weekend — 72; NFL season starts — 80; Future of Florida Forum — 99; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 126; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 127; General Election Day — 140; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 240; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 259.
“Jake Raburn won’t seek re-election in 2018” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Raburn announced he is not running for a fourth term in the Florida House this fall, citing the need to spend more time with family. “The past six years have been the most surreal, humbling, overwhelming, exciting, challenging and gratifying on my journey thus far,” said Raburn, a Lithia Republican, in an email from his campaign. “What started as a glimmer of a dream in my heart many years ago came to fruition in 2012 when you elected me to serve you by representing our community in the Florida House of Representatives,” the 33-year-old added. … “After much thought and many hours of prayer with my wife, Melissa, and our family, I’ve decided to not seek re-election this fall. While serving in the Florida House has been a tremendous honor and pleasure, my No. 1 responsibility is to my family, and I’m confident my place right now is at home with them and in our family business.” … Raburn’s exit leaves Democrats Layla Hartz and Debbie Katt alone in the contest. If the GOP is to retain control of the southwestern Hillsborough seat, another Republican will need to file and qualify before the candidate qualifying period ends Friday at noon.
Speaking of which: Veteran, conservative businessman files to succeed Raburn — Sean McCoy, a West Point graduate, Iraqi veteran and community leader, filed paperwork to succeed Raburn in House District 57. “Our community enjoyed six years of strong representation in Tallahassee under the leadership of Representative Raburn. We need a leader to succeed Representative Raburn who will continue the same strong commitment to our conservative values and local priorities,” McCoy said in a statement. “Our state needs servant leaders who will not back down but instead will work night and day to keep Florida on the right track. The Army taught me how to meet challenges head-on and work together as a team to win. I’ve done that in the battlefields of Iraq and the boardrooms of America, and I’ll do it in Tallahassee for those I seek to represent in District 57.” McCoy, a resident of Fishhawk, founded Fishhawk Military & Veterans to promote patriotism in the Hillsborough County community and support members and their families.
— NELSON VS. SCOTT —
“As Bill Nelson fights for political life against Scott, concerns grow among Democrats” via Alex Leary and Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Democrats in Washington and Florida are increasingly nervous as Scott and Republican allies have unleashed a flood of money into TV and online ads — roughly $20 million so far, more than Nelson‘s 2012 opponent spent on the entire campaign — and maintain a superior organization that spares no opportunity. Scott is employing the same scorched earth strategy he used to win office twice before: Blanket TV, define the opponent in starkly negative terms, campaign nonstop and never go off script. If things get tight, spend millions more … the narrow path for Democrats to reclaim the Senate runs is challenged by states that Trump won, including Florida. Nelson is suddenly one of the party’s five most vulnerable members in the country, and the nation’s third-largest state is by far the most expensive state of those five. A victory for Nelson will be extremely costly and could drain resources from Democrats elsewhere.
“Democrats press Scott on pre-existing conditions” the Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Democrats continued to attack the state of Florida’s decision to join an anti-Obamacare lawsuit that could take away guaranteed coverage for millions of people with pre-existing conditions. Sen. Nelson highlighted the issue during an event in Orlando, saying 7.8 million Floridians could be hurt if the lawsuit is successful. In Tampa, Rep. Kathy Castor and former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner joined activists for an afternoon event and criticized Gov. Scott for not withdrawing the state from the suit, filed in Texas. It has received new attention after the Trump administration said it would not defend provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate and protections for pre-existing conditions. No longer on the defensive over Obamacare, Democrats are working to make health care a focus of the midterm elections and polls show it’s a top issue for voters.
“New Scott attack ad bashes ‘negative’ Nelson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — It’s the fourth consecutive attack ad the Scott campaign has released criticizing Nelson. This time the ad accuses Nelson of going negative in his campaign — only it doesn’t address Nelson’s campaign exactly since Nelson’s campaign hasn’t actually released any negative commercials. So, the commercial goes after the Democratic organizations that have been running negative ads on Nelson’s behalf and blames Nelson for them. The new Scott 30-second ad, “Negative Nelson,” makes the leap quickly from around a long time to negative campaigning. “When Bill Nelson was first elected, Richard Nixon was President. Yep. Nixon. A professional politician for 46 years, Nelson has learned some tricks. Cheap tricks, like attack your opponent regardless of the facts.”
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“Scott accepts trio of fall debates” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Among the network hosts: CNN, Telemundo 51 in Miami, and Jacksonville’s WJXT Channel 4 (co-hosted by the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute). Dates and times of the debates are not yet available, though the Scott campaign said they’d take place in the fall — presumably well after the Aug. 28 primary. Neither candidate faces formidable opposition from within their parties.
Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will travel to Puerto Rico at the invitation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, to continue to offer “guidance, advice and assistance regarding ongoing Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.” The Governor will participate in the Puerto Rico P3 Summit.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Veterans group breaks policy by endorsing Ron DeSantis for Governor — In a break from its policy of only endorsing congressional candidates, Combat Veterans for Congress PAC is endorsing DeSantis for Florida governor. “Ron DeSantis is a fiscal and constitutional conservative who will work to rein in the out-of-control spending and protect and support our Second Amendment rights in the State of Florida,” the group said in a statement. “As Governor, he will stimulate the private sector to grow and create new jobs while bringing integrity and Judeo-Christian traditional family values to Florida’s government.” For nine years, the Combat Veterans for Congress PAC never endorsed a candidate for state office. However, since 2012 After endorsing and supporting DeSantis in his bid for Congress, the group “observed how he has superbly represented the voters of Florida,” which caused them to change their endorsement policy, in this one case. “We approve of his commitment to honorable principles, strong leadership, and his dedicated service to his country.”
Ryan Tyson poll – Philip Levine, Gwen Graham close via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – This latest poll, taken June 6-9, shows Levine … with 24 percent of likely Democratic voters; Graham with 21 percent; … Gillum with 11 percent; and King with 4 percent. Greene, who filed to run June 1, received 3 percent. Thirty-seven percent of Democrats were undecided. In a cover memo, Tyson noted that while Levine has a much wider lead in other polls, a comparison of internals, demographic samples, convince him that “this race is as close as the top lines suggest.” In particular, the Let’s Preserve poll heavily sampled women voters — 58 percent of the survey group — taking in account the high female turnouts of the past two Democratic primary elections.
“Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum campaigns to seek taxpayer funding in Democratic gubernatorial primary” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Florida’s public financing program allows candidates for governor or any of the three Florida Cabinet posts to receive taxpayer dollars in return for agreeing to certain restrictions. In order to be eligible, a gubernatorial campaign must raise at least $150,000, a point Graham and other top-tier candidates have easily surpassed. Under the program, contributions of up to $250 will be matched by the state, while contributions of over $250 will be matched up to $250. The required paperwork to seek public matching funds must be filed when a candidate formally qualifies. Graham filed hers last week, and Gillum will do the same this week, which is the qualifying deadline for state candidates. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Winter Park housing developer Chris King are not eligible for taxpayer funding for their campaigns because each has loaned themselves money. The same is expected for Jeff Greene, the latest entry into the race. If he qualifies, he’s expected to tap into his personal fortune to fuel his campaign.
Assignment editors — Adam Putnam will hold an announcement with Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr., Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford, Gulf County Mike Harrison and Liberty County Sheriff Eddie Joe White, 2:30 p.m. Central time, Roberts Hall, 831 Florida Ave., Lynn Haven.
“Poll: Sean Shaw leads Ashley Moody, Frank White in Attorney General race” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A new poll of the Attorney General race shows Tampa Democratic Rep. Shaw leading his top Republican rivals in a head-to-head matchup. According to an online poll commissioned by the campaign and conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, Shaw currently leads former circuit court judge Moody by five points, 41-36, and Pensacola Rep. White by 4 points, 40-36. In both cases, 21 percent of voters said they were undecided. … The polling memo shows Shaw with a double-digit lead among independent voters in both head-to-heads, and his lead was nearly the same among women — plus-10 if Moody is his opponent and plus-9 if he faces White. Hispanic and Latino voters preferred Shaw by 33 points in the Moody matchup and by 25 points in the White matchup. The ALG survey included another positive tidbit for Democrats: Trump is still underwater in the Sunshine State. … 43 percent of Floridians had a favorable view of the president, while 54 percent find him unfavorable. Among that group, 44 percent said they had a “very unfavorable” view of the president.
“Jared Moskowitz endorses David Richardson in CD 27” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Rep. Jared Moskowitz is throwing his support behind David Richardson in the packed Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Richardson is one of five Democrats running for the nomination along with Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Donna Shalala. Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, says Richardson is the right candidate to take over the seat from departing Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. In an emphatic statement backing Richardson, Moskowitz said: “During our six years together in the Florida Legislature, nobody was more feared by the Republicans than Representative Richardson. David was a watchdog as opposed to the lap dogs we see in Congress today.” “If the voters of Florida’s 27th Congressional District elect him,” he continued, “they will have one of the most productive Representatives in Congress. Period, full stop. I endorse him!”
“Ed Hooper hits the airwaves in SD 16” via Florida Politics — Depending on where in the Pinellas- and Pasco-based district viewers live, they’ll see a different version of the ad. The ad airing in North Pinellas on Spectrum features an introduction from Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. West Pasco residents will see an ad with the same script but featuring an intro from Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco. Both Gualtieri and Nocco were early backers of Hooper’s Senate campaign. Both spots then cut to Hooper, who says he will “fight for issues that are important to our community, like growing a strong economy, protecting our seniors and making sure insurance is affordable.” He also says that by working with leaders like Gualtieri and Nocco, “we can get a lot accomplished.”
Hooper’s ads are viewable on his campaign website.
Florida Retail Federation endorses Kathleen Passidomo for SD 28 — “Senator Passidomo has been a true champion for retail by helping ensure Floridians are prepared in the event of a disaster, working toward tort reform, providing more than $150 million in tax relief for Florida families and having the best interests of the state’s businesses at heart,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We’re eager to continue working with Senator Passidomo on identifying ways to support retailers, families and our industry going forward.” In announcing its endorsement, the FRF noted that Passidomo sponsored a Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday which provided Floridians with tax relief when purchasing hurricane supplies and has worked on issues important to Florida retailers like tort reform and regulating commerce activities. This past Session, Passidomo worked to continue broad-based tax relief to families and businesses across the state, resulting in $168.6 million in tax relief.
Whoa – “Rene Plasencia alleges espionage by opponent’s treasurer, seeks criminal charge” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — State Rep. Plasencia is alleging that a volunteer who moved from his re-election campaign to the campaign of his Republican primary opponent George Collins illegally downloaded Plasencia’s campaign data and took it with him to Collins’ campaign. Plasencia and his campaign met with an Orange County Sheriff’s Office detective and said they intend to pursue criminal charges, perhaps theft of intellectual property, a third-degree felony. Plasencia is alleging the man now serving as Collins’ campaign treasurer, Zane C. Matter, used access to Plasencia’s webElect political data account to download data after-hours onto a home computer. Matter then left Plasencia’s campaign and joined Collins’ campaign.
“George Gainer, Mel Ponder, Cord Byrd face foes as qualifying starts” via the News Service of Florida — Fort Walton Beach Democrat Mary Jeanne “Gigi” Gibson opened a campaign account to run against Gainer in Senate District 2, which is made up of Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington and part of Okaloosa counties, according to the state Division of Elections website. Gainer, who qualified for the race, had raised $176,100 for his re-election bid as of May 31. Also in the Panhandle, Valparaiso Democrat Rebecca Koelzer opened an account to challenge Ponder in Okaloosa County’s House District 4 … Ponder, had raised $100,375 for his re-election bid as of May 31. Meanwhile, in Northeast Florida, Fernandina Beach Republican Joseph Francis Zimmerman opened an account to challenge Byrd in House District 11, which includes Nassau County and part of Duval County. Byrd had raised $70,960 for his campaign account as of May 31. Also in the race is Yulee Democrat Nathcelly Leroy Rohrbaugh.
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley will speak to the Fort Myers Republican Women’s Club Luncheon, 11:15 a.m., The Helm Club in The Landings Yacht, Golf and Tennis Club, 4425 S. Landings Drive, Fort Myers.
“The Key West mayoral candidate with the most cash is no longer in the race” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — … citing a back injury. Danny Hughes, a full-time Key West resident for five years who hails from New Orleans, said ending his campaign, in which he has so far raised $48,685 and spent all but about $5,000, was a surprise even to himself. “We already have our signs, we have everything,” Hughes said. “We were all teed up and ready to go.” His departure leaves 10 candidates who have announced a run to succeed Mayor Craig Cates, who is term-limited after being first elected in 2009. Key West elections are nonpartisan. Hughes said the back issue started June 1 and hasn’t gotten any better after two weeks of rest. After three days of testing at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Hughes made the decision to end his campaign.
— VILLAGE PEOPLE —
In a recent POLITICO Magazine feature, Michael Grunwald takes a deep dive into The Villages, offering readers a glimpse into what he describes as “Florida’s political Tomorrowland.”
Per Grunwald, Villagers are politically incorrect at times and they’ve come to love Trump and be critical of those against him. The story also points out that The Villages is whitewashed and reliably red, and home to a growing population that routinely turns up at the ballot.
“For all the hype about Puerto Ricans moving to the Sunshine State after Hurricane Maria, or high school students like the Parkland gun control activists turning 18 and registering to vote any Democratic surge could be offset by the migration of Republican-leaning seniors who like Florida’s balmy weather and lack of income tax,” writes Grunwald.
Nostalgia: U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, whose district encompasses The Villages, told Grunwald, “They want an America that’s a little more like it was when they were growing up, and that’s what Trump is offering.”
Dissenters: Grunwald describes the uniformity of The Villages before diving into its politics, in which — just like the area’s architecture — one style rules. Conservative beliefs are dominating and prevalent, but there are a few Democrats among the masses. One, Oren Miller, is even running for state Representative.
Old against young: For the needle to move left in Florida, younger Democratic voters have to show up at the polls. But the amount of Villagers, and older voters in general, is increasing. Concludes Grunwald, “Future results will depend a lot on whether white, older, exurban enclaves like The Villages keep growing faster than the multiracial, younger, urban enclaves of the left.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Appellate court puts hold on smokable medical marijuana” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — An appellate court has shot down a trial judge’s order to make immediate her ruling that medical marijuana can be smoked in Florida. The 1st District Court of Appeal, in a one-page order dated Monday, quashed Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ order allowing patients to smoke. The state’s appeal of the decision placed an automatic ‘stay,’ or hold, on the ruling pending review. Gievers’ order lifted that stay. “The stay provided for by (the) Florida Rule(s) of Appellate Procedure … shall remain in effect pending final disposition of the merits of this appeal,” the appellate court’s Monday order said. “An opinion setting forth this Court’s reasoning will issue at a later date.”
“Judge could face reprimand for reference letter” via the News Service of Florida — A Miami-Dade County judge could face a public reprimand at the Florida Supreme Court because she wrote a letter of reference for a man charged in a federal health care fraud case, according to documents filed on the Supreme Court website. County Judge Deborah White-Labora wrote the letter in January 2018 on behalf of Sam Konell, who was later sentenced by a federal judge to five years in prison. White-Labora reached a stipulation agreement with an investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and acknowledged that such reference letters violate the state’s judicial conduct code. The Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended a public reprimand, though the Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to decide punishments for judges.
What Lenny Curry is reading — “Court upholds Jacksonville pension surtax” via the News Service of Florida — A state appeals court rejected a challenge to a 2016 ballot measure aimed at addressing an underfunded pension system in Jacksonville. The city’s voters approved the measure, which called for a half-cent sales-tax surcharge to help deal with the pension problems. But a group of citizens filed a legal challenge to the measure, including arguing that the ballot title and summary misled voters and that the referendum should be voided, according to a ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal. A Duval County circuit judge upheld the ballot measure, and a three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed.
“Questions linger as ‘Hurricane Formula One’ bears down on Miami” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hurricane Irma hit Florida last year as a Category Four hurricane and caused billions of dollars worth of damage in South Florida. But the Miami City Commission last month voted to bring “Hurricane Formula One” to the streets of Miami every year for the next 10 years. Miami’s city manager is now negotiating with Formula One on terms to bring the race to Miami. But there are lingering questions of who is paying for this storm of sound and expense that’s bearing down on the city. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has spearheaded efforts to secure the race. In comments to Florida Politics, Mayor Suarez said “Miami is a world-class, global city and Formula One is a world-renowned, global event. Naturally, joining forces is something that would be highly exciting for both our city and the racing world.” Suarez sees the event as a revenue magnet. “Formula One has the potential of making an enormous impact on our economy and elevate our standing on the world stage of sports and entertainment. This event would attract tourists, race enthusiasts, visitors, and media outlets from all over the world to Miami, creating incredible excitement and opportunity.” But not everyone is as optimistic.
“Florida has more to lose with sea rise than anywhere else in the U.S., new study says” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — By 2045, nearly 64,000 homes in Florida face flooding every other day. Half of those are in South Florida. If you buy a house now, before your new mortgage is paid you might have to regularly do the rolled-up-pants, shoes-in-hand commute that has become an enduring image of sea rise. These numbers, released in a report compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, used housing information from Zillow and a flood model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that predicts 6 1/2 feet of sea rise by the end of the century. By the end of the century, Florida’s number of at-risk homes jump from 64,000 to a million. In 2100, the report said, about 1 in 10 homes in Florida will face flooding every other day. That puts the Sunshine State at the top of the list nationwide for homes at risk.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Supreme Court sides with Florida man in free speech case” via Jessica Gresko of The Associated Press — The Court sided with Fane Lozman in a lawsuit that began with his 2006 arrest at a City of Riviera Beach city council meeting. Lozman, who also won a case against the city at the Supreme Court in 2013, was arrested while talking about corruption in the county during a public comment portion of the meeting. Lozman argued he was arrested in retaliation for being a critic of the city and sued. But a lower court said Lozman was barred from bringing a lawsuit for retaliation because a jury found a police officer had probable cause to arrest him for disturbing a lawful assembly. The Supreme Court disagreed, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing in an 8-1 decision that Lozman’s lawsuit isn’t barred. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented. “What happened to me was wrong. It happens all the time to public speakers. This is going to tell municipalities that you’re not immunized from legal actions. There is a price to pay,” Lozman said.
“Donald Trump announces plans for Pentagon to create ‘space force’” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — Vowing to reclaim U.S. leadership in space, Trump is directing the Pentagon to create a new “Space Force” as an independent service branch aimed at ensuring American supremacy in space. Trump envisioned a bright future for the U.S. space program, pledging to revive the country’s flagging efforts, return to the moon and eventually send a manned mission that would reach Mars. The president framed space as a national security issue, saying he does not want “China and Russia and other countries leading us.” … “My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest spacefaring nation,” Trump said in the East Room, joined by members of his space council. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”
— OPINIONS —
“Sean Shaw: A legal strategy to combat gun violence” via Florida Politics — As is often the case in Florida, Republican leadership rolled common-sense reforms like raising the age to purchase a rifle to 21, banning bump stocks, and more money for school safety, into a bill that would also arm our teachers. Unfortunately, the tragic reality is it took three of the most horrific mass shootings ever, all occurring in our state in the past two years, and the fierce advocacy and leadership of our state’s children to force a real conversation about gun violence among our elected leaders. As Attorney General, I will use the independence of the office to hold state government accountable, fully investigate these horrific shootings and other acts of violence, prosecute those breaking the laws we already have in place, and challenge unjust federal laws that provide near-total immunity for gun manufacturers who should be held accountable for their role in gun violence. Stopping gun violence requires our next Attorney General to embrace the independence of the office fully. Florida’s Attorney General is not appointed by the Governor but elected by the people.
“John Thomas: Duke Energy should keep its promise to Polk County” via Florida Politics — Duke Energy partnered with U.S. EcoGen in 2011 to build a $400 million plant to produce biomass renewable energy … Relying on this agreement, U.S. EcoGen has already spent more than $40 million developing the project and bought more than 1,300 acres in Polk County for the new facility. The project was delayed by everything from the discovery of gopher tortoises to the new federal tax reform law — things beyond the control of the smaller company. U.S. EcoGen asked Duke Energy for a one-year extension, meaning it would start delivering power in 2020, but the megacorporation said no. This refusal is both baffling and harmful to consumers, since the state Public Service Commission has said the project would save ratepayers almost $60 million. Baffling, that is, unless you consider that it looks like Duke Energy has taken an interest in operating its own renewable energy business. In a PSC document from last year, Duke Energy asked permission to enter the renewable energy field, which would make it a direct competitor with U.S. EcoGen — not a partner. Unless, of course, it found a way to stop U.S. EcoGen’s plant from ever opening. Duke Energy has a real chance to do something good for its ratepayers, good for this community, and good for the public.
“Paul Bradshaw: It’s time for Tallahassee to grow up” for the Tallahassee Democrat — Imagine an alternative history for Tallahassee, one where a modern skyline of a dozen or more 20-story buildings boldly defines the urban core in the historic city center; a skyline that projects the power, optimism and sophistication of being the capital of the nation’s third most populous state. Unfortunately, that idealized Tallahassee doesn’t exist. To fully understand, you have to go back decades to the Martinez administration and the origins of Southwood. St. Joe Company — which had previously been a sleepy landowner holding vast tracts of timber and grazing land — decided it wanted to take a more aggressive role as a developer, including on its land near Capital Circle SE. But it had one problem. With Tallahassee’s government-dominated city center more than five miles away, there was little incentive for state workers to live in that area. St. Joe had an inspired (if self-serving) idea: Instead of asking workers to travel to the Capitol complex every day, essentially move the Capitol complex to St. Joe’s cow pastures. St. Joe got its anchor tenant and Tallahassee lost the full potential of revitalizing its downtown. It was quite possibly the worst planning decision in the history of Tallahassee. If Tallahassee is serious about revitalizing its downtown and creating a vibrant mix of land uses that provides opportunities for working, shopping and living within a walkable area, the city needs to partner with the state and recommit to growing up instead of growing out.
— MOVEMENTS —
First on #FlaPol — Jennifer Wilson, formerly of Adams & Reese and Sen. Tom Lee’s office, is joining Shumaker Advisors. We’ll have a full story later today. Till then, here’s a quote from firm President and CEO Ron Christaldi: “We are very excited to have Jennifer join our team. Her experience and leadership as a key staffer to multiple members of the Florida Legislature help bolster our presence in Tallahassee and throughout Florida.”
New and renewed lobbying registrations
Makayla Anne Stilianou Buchanan, Kevin Andrew Doyle, Wexford Strategies: Florida Title Group
Michael Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: 831 Federal Acquisition dba The Big Easy Casino
Rachel Cone, Southern Strategy Group: Tallahassee Corporate Center C/O Hall Investments
Paul Lowell, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Gomez Barker Associates
Jonathan Paul Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Lazlo326
— ALOE —
“Michael Jackson’s elephant escapes enclosure at Florida zoo” via the Associated Press — An elephant that once lived at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch briefly escaped its enclosure at a Florida zoo. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens posted on Facebook that Ali the bull elephant wandered through a gate that was accidentally left open Sunday and wound up in a courtyard behind the giraffe and elephant barn. The zoo said guests weren’t endangered and safety protocols were quickly put into place. Zoo staff used food to entice the elephant back into the enclosure. Ali was loose for about 20 minutes.
What Jeff Brandes is reading — “Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg” via Hannah Denham of the Tampa Bay Times — The Academy at Suncoast Developers Guild will operate through the software development community, Suncoast Developers Guild, Inc. … It was recently licensed by the state, said Suncoast President Toni Warren. The school will welcome 15 to 30 students in the initial class; each of them will go through an online application, interview process and be charged $14,900 in tuition. Warren called it Florida’s first 501(c)(3) not-for-profit computer coding school. “(St. Petersburg) is really where the creatives live,” Warren said. “People come to our school because they want to express their creativity and they want to be in an industry with continuous learning.”
Happy birthday to our favorite BCC team member, Lyndsey Brzozowski, as well as our man in Jacksonville, A.G. Gancarski.