Peter Archives - Page 4 of 163 - Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — What’s up with the opioid probe?

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez wants to know if the state will take any independent action against drug companies for their role in the state’s opioid epidemic.

“As we all know, this is now, and has been for some time, a full-blown public health crisis, and there is no time to waste,” Rodriguez wrote to Attorney General Pam Bondi Friday.

Last year, Bondi announced a multistate investigation to look into potentially unlawful practices in the distribution, marketing, and sale of opioids, but no update has been given to the public yet.

Jose Javier Rodriguez is calling for independent action against drug companies for their role in the state’s opioid epidemic.

Bondi’s office said it has “publicly announced that our investigation includes: written requests for documents and information, known as civil investigative demands or subpoenas.”

But Rodriguez, a Miami-Dade Democrat, wants to know if the office has received responses from drug companies.

“More specifically,” he said, “I would like to know whether your office has taken any steps outside of the multistate investigation to determine if whether these drug companies should be held liable for their role in the opioid crisis.”

The latest numbers show that in 2016 there was a 35 percent jump in opioid-related deaths from the previous year.

Legislators are considering options this Session to stop the spread of drug addiction and patients’ dependence on prescription medicines that could lead to the use of deadly drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Trump, Scott on drilling — Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson both opposed President Donald Trump’s Interior Department plan to potentially open up Florida to offshore oil drilling. Scott, a close ally to Trump, is widely expected to run against Nelson, a Democrat, to take away his Senate seat in 2018. After Trump unveiled his plan to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters, including Florida, Scott said his “top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration’s goal wasn’t to cross Gov. Scott, and in essence, that they should agree to disagree.

DeSantis is officially in — Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis has entered the crowded Florida Governor’s race, and he comes in with the endorsement of President Donald Trump and millions of dollars in his pocket. He announced the decision Friday and said he wants to “drain the swamp in Tallahassee. While the move was not unexpected, his rivals in the governor’s race were quick to attack him. Adam Putnam called him a “typical Washington politician who is focused on nothing more than his next promotion.” Democrats clenched to his close ties to Trump with Andrew Gillum saying he is now “even more determined to spend 2018 fighting against the Trump agenda & standing up for Florida’s working families.”

Jeb! endorses Jimmy — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who is running for a second term, picked up the endorsement of former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush. The former Republican House member was appointed by Gov. Scott as CFO in June, and as he readies for another term, he is likely to face Sen. Tom Lee in the Republican primary. While Lee has said he will run for CFO, he has not yet filed the paperwork. It is not the first time Lee has had similar aspirations. If we take a look back at the archives, Lee ran a failed campaign in 2006 to be CFO, when Bush was governor. Back then, Lee reeled in the endorsement of Bush.

Hammer’s request of Latvala — It’s been a couple of weeks since Sen. Jack Latvala resigned amid sexual harassment and quid quo pro allegations. And now, a prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist has asked him to give at least $1 million in his leftover campaign funds to children with disabilities. Marion Hammer wrote a lengthy open letter to Latvala asking him to make a “profound difference” and donate some of the money he raised in his bid for governor to the Dyslexia Research Institution, for which she volunteers. POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon reported that there is a growing fear among Florida politicos that Latvala could “use millions of dollars in remaining campaign funds to attack political foes that he believed orchestrated his ouster.” When Latvala resigned, he blamed unnamed “political adversaries” for booting him out of office.

Strapped for cash — The Florida Democratic Party has been scrambling to raise money, after two fresh-off expensive wins. But entering into a busy election year with several high-profile, contentious races on the horizon, including the governor’s race and a few statehouse races, the party has approximately $414,000 in the bank. To raise more money, newly-elected Chair Terrie Rizzo has asked county-level leaders to contribute cash for eight regional positions and her financial team has also requested Democrats across the state to pitch in. In a 21-day fundraising effort, Rizzo’s team pulled in $253,000 before the year’s end — more than half the cash it has on hand.

Gov. Scott continues effort to aid Puerto Ricans

Gov. Scott gave an update this week on how the state is helping the thousands of hurricane-displaced Puerto Ricans.

Since the island was walloped three months ago, the governor’s office estimated about 297,000 people have traveled to Florida from Puerto Rico. While it is unclear how many of those have stayed in the state, school districts give an indication.

Florida schools have seen a spike in enrollment since the hurricane season. Scott’s office reports that more than 11,200 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island have enrolled since Oct. 3, 2017.

The governor’s office also reported that about 500 law-enforcement officers have been deployed on security missions to the island and that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle relief center at the Orlando International Airport has assisted more than 10,700 people seeking driver’s licenses, ID card, and other vehicle-related services.

Scott, DOH announce $5 million in grants for Alzheimer’s research

Gov. Scott and the Florida Department of Health announced this week a list of Alzheimer’s disease research projects that will receive a combined $5 million in grants through the Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program.

“These grants support research programs across the state that are looking to find new treatments and preventions that give hope to finding a cure for this heartbreaking disease,” Scott said. “We are proud to build on our commitment to the many individuals and families who have been affected by Alzheimer’s and look forward to seeing the continued success of Florida’s world-class research community.”

Florida Department of Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

Secretary of Health Celeste Philip thanked Scott and the Legislature for their part in keeping state money flowing to the grant program, and commended the board that oversaw the selection process for picking “high-impact projects that represent our state’s agenda of prevention, recognition, treatment and family support.”

The grant money will primarily fund research studies at Florida universities, though the Mayo Clinic and the Mount Sinai Medical Center will also receive funds. The projects were selected through a competitive process open to all researchers in the state.

The University of Miami will pull down the most significant chunk, about $1.18 million, to fund a half dozen projects. UF will receive about $940,000, followed by USF at $821,000 and UCF at just under $500,000. Other schools across the Sunshine State are set to get smaller grant awards.

Instagram of the week

Second camp opens for wounded veterans

Peace River Camp, a camp solely for disabled veterans, celebrated its grand opening this week with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The new camp, which includes on-site sleeping facilities, a screened-in kitchen, fire pit, dining area and restrooms, is located within the Peace River State Forest in DeSoto County. It joins Camp Prairie, near Lake Wales, as the state’s second camp solely for wounded veterans.

Adam Putnam opens the second camp dedicated to providing free outdoor, recreational opportunities to wounded veterans who participate in Operation Outdoor Freedom.

Both facilities are part of the “Operation Outdoor Freedom” initiative championed by Putnam and helped along by private donations.

In addition to the camps, the program provides wounded veterans with opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities ranging from guided alligator hunts to kayaking at no cost. Such events are held on state forests, private lands and along the coasts.

In order to use the Operation Outdoor Freedom camps or go along on the excursions, veterans must be honorably discharged with either a service-connected disability rating of at least 30 percent, or be the recipient of a Purple Heart.

This week in appointments

Gov. Scott this week announced the following appointments and reappointments:

— Kelvin Lawson and Dr. Matthew Carter to the Florida A&M University board of trustees

Lawson, 54, of Jacksonville, is a vice president at Acosta Sales and Marketing. He previously served as the director of national accounts for Johnson and Johnson. He is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending Jan. 6, 2021.

Carter, 65, of Tallahassee, is an attorney and business consultant on energy, economic development, and education with Carter and Associates. He is an Army veteran and previously served as a member of the Board of Governors of the State University System. Carter is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 6 and ending Jan. 6, 2023.

These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Blake Gable to the Florida Gulf Coast University board of trustees

Gable, 46, of Naples, is chief executive officer of Barron Collier Companies. He has served as a board member of the Immokalee Foundation and as a trustee of the Greater Naples YMCA. Gable is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 6 and ending Jan. 6, 2023. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Dr. Athena Randolph and Kathryn McInnis to the Florida Gateway College District board of trustees

Randolph, 60, of Lake City, is co-owner of Randolph Medical Practices. Randolph is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2019.

McInnis, 71, of Old Town, is a retired occupational specialist for the Dixie County School Board. She is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

These appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Kevin Madok to the Florida Keys Community College District board of trustees

Madok, 55, of Big Pine Key, is clerk of courts for Monroe County. Madok is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2020. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Four to the Lake-Sumter State College District board of trustees

Bryn Blaise, 29, of the Villages, is the construction manager for the Villages Commercial Property Management. Blaise is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2019.

Bret Jones, 38, of Clermont, is the principal attorney and owner of the Law Offices of Bret Jones, P.A. He is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

Marcia Butler, 73, of the Villages, previously taught in the Pinellas County school system. Butler is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

Tim Morris, 59, of Leesburg, is the vice president of Ernie Morris Enterprises, Inc. Morris is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

These appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Dr. Daniel Calvo to the Board of Occupational Therapy

Calvo, 40, of Lakeland, is the regional consultant of clinical services for Accelerated Care Plus. He is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending Oct. 31, 2021. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

FDACS recovered $148K for consumers last month

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it recovered more than $148,444 last month for consumers scammed out of their money by Grinchy businesses.

The department received about 2,500 complaints in December, which led to 150 new investigations and 19 arrests. The agency also tacked on another 11,744 telephone numbers to Florida’s Do Not Call List.

Businesses on the naughty list last month included moving companies, vehicle repair shops, pawnshops, health studios, telemarketers, travel sellers and others.

Consumers who believe a business has bilked them out of their money or have suspicions that fraud has taken place can contact the department’s hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA, or 1-800-FL-AYUDA for Spanish speakers.

Florida Health announces radon-themed contest winners

In celebration of National Radon Action Month, Florida Department of Health is announcing the winners of the 2018 Florida Radon Poster and Video Contest.

The contest was launched as an opportunity for students to educate communities about the dangers of radon, the top cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second-leading cause of all lung cancer.

“I want to congratulate the contest winners and thank all of the students who entered this year to help raise awareness of radon,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Philip.

Here is the full list of the winners and their award-winning videos and posters. Each first-place winner now advances to the national contest.

DOH, USDA team up to promote kids’ food program

The Florida Department of Health announced this week that it would work alongside the USDA to expand a program that reimburses child care providers that provide nutritious meals.

“Building lifelong healthy habits starts in childhood,” said Secretary of Health Philip. “The Child Care Food Program promotes healthy habits by exposing young children to nutritious foods to help them make healthy food choices. We encourage parents seeking child care in Florida to enroll their children in facilities that participate in this program.”

The Child Care Food Program is offered at child care centers, family day care homes, after-school programs, homeless shelters and some emergency shelters. DOH keeps an up-to-date list of participating facilities on its website.

Kids in Head Start and children from households receiving Food Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits are automatically eligible to receive free meals benefits at participating facilities.

Tom Lee files ‘fiscal transparency’ bill

Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican, introduced a bill this week that would expand the scope of the Legislative Auditing Committee review to include compliance with transparency requirements.

Under the bill, the reporting requirements for specific local government economic development incentives would be revised. It would also require local government to post certain property tax information and history on their websites.

Tom Lee calls for more fiscal transparency for ‘for specific local government economic development incentives.’ 

A similar bill in the House championed by state Rep. Colleen Burton has been prioritized in the chamber and is set for a vote on week one of Session.

Burton’s bill requires local government to post certain voting record information on websites and property

Currently, local governments are required to have a CPA conduct an annual financial audit if the Auditor General has not already scheduled a review.

Robert Asencio bill aims to keep jobs in Florida

A proposal filed by Miami Democrat Asencio would cut state-backed benefits for Florida businesses that shift focus from the Sunshine State.

Under HB 1171, any company that plans to move 30 percent or more of their business out of Florida would have to give a six-month notice to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and would become ineligible to receive grants, state-guaranteed loans, or tax benefits for five years.

Robert Asencio seeks to cut state benefits for Florida businesses that shift focus from the Sunshine State.

“We have a duty to do everything we can to help Florida’s working families. So, it makes no sense that these companies, who up and leave Florida, damaging our families, communities and our economy as a whole, would be eligible for grants, loans, or tax benefits backed by the state,” Asencio said. “It’s time we invest in the local businesses who intend to stay in our state and ensure that no companies who are here for the short term take advantage of Florida’s resources.”

The bill would put companies eyeing an out-of-state move on a public list, and businesses that try and skirt the law by not reporting their intentions to DBPR would face fines of up to $10,000 a day unless they have a good excuse for skipping town.

Bills filed to help seniors ‘age in place’

A bipartisan effort seeks to “exempt the sales tax on home improvements that help seniors age in place,” according to a news release.

Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, filed the legislation (HB 1123, SB 1448).

“The tax-exempt items would include bed transfer handles, handrails, bed rails and grab bars, stair lifts, shower seats and furniture recliners, all of which make homes safer for seniors and allow elderly adults to retain more independence,” the release says.

Passidomo said her district “is home to many seniors who are fiercely independent and want to remain in their homes as long as possible. These exemptions will help them to do just that.”

Berman added: “By helping the elderly to afford equipment that allows them to remain in their homes, we’re helping them maintain dignity, self-sufficiency and their overall well-being.”

The Florida Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans both have endorsed the bill.

ACLU: Stop ‘cruel anti-immigrant’ measure

Saying that the ‘sanctuary city’ bill prioritized by the Florida House is about “codifying racial profiling into law,” ACLU officials are asking supports to tell their representatives to oppose the bill.

“We have to keep the pressure on if we’re going to beat this terrible bill,” the ACLU’s email blast read. “Tell your representatives to protect Florida communities.”

Proponents of HB 9, which will head to the floor for a vote on week one of the 2018 Session, say the bill is about following the rule of law and about public safety.

The ACLU says it is about “putting a target on the back of people of color across Florida.”

This bill will drive victims and witnesses into the shadows, corrode community trust in law enforcement, drain valuable law enforcement resources, and make Florida less safe, according to the ACLU.

FFRW announced 2018 legislative priorities

The Florida Federation of Republican Women advocacy group has released its picks for the 2018 Session and are asking women to help promote their agenda.

Among their stances this year are opposing the “sanctuary city” ban bill — one that is prioritized by the House — supporting bills that help prevent human trafficking and educate students about the signs of such crimes as well as giving more aid to homeless veterans.

Politics is women’s work.

The group is also supporting two measures that ban a person from lobbying a community redevelopment agency until he or she has registered as a lobbyist with the agency, and making texting while driving a primary offense under state law.

The organization consists of thousands of women who have supported and worked for candidates they believe “will represent the interests of women through responsible governmental policies.”

Solar groups back bill to put up panels in the Keys

The Solar Energy Industries Association and Vote Solar came out in support of a bill filed this week that would fund a pilot program to showcase how a combo of solar power and energy storage can keep critical facilities online during natural disasters.

HB 1133, sponsored by Monroe County Republican Rep. Holly Raschein, would deck out critical facilities in the Florida Keys with on-site solar generation and storage so they can make it through major grid outages without a lengthy downtime.

Holly Raschein is promoting on-site solar for critical facilities in the Florida Keys.

“As we’ve recently experienced firsthand with Hurricane Irma, there’s nothing more crucial in the wake of a disaster than power. On-site solar energy storage systems are a forward-thinking solution to improving the security of energy supply at critical local facilities,” Raschein said. “Given that Florida is the Sunshine State, it only makes sense to tap into this resource when planning for stronger communities that are more resilient in recovering from a disaster.”

Solar groups agree, with SEIA CEO Abigail Hopper calling the bill “a crucial step in preparing Florida for future emergencies.”

“Making sure our first responders and critical facilities have the power they need to deliver lifesaving services during emergencies should be a top priority for any state, and solar plus storage is the easiest and most effective solution,” she said. “This pilot program will demonstrate the effectiveness of solar and storage in maintaining grid resilience and help lawmakers implement this strategy on a larger scale.”

PIFF releases its 2018 legislative priorities

The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida has released its annual list of legislative priorities and this year some of those include addressing the costs of any repeal of the motor-vehicle no-fault law, a bill that Uber is supporting.

PIFF says that repealing the no-fault law would have to include reasonable reforms to the state’s third-party “bad faith” law. It also wants to see legislators preserve a “proven, transparent and performance-based premium tax credit.”

The organization is in support legislation that eliminates the Assignment of Benefits, which PIFF says is the cause for homeowners’ premium increases in the state.

“In 2018, we believe the key priority should be to meaningfully address assignment of benefits (AOB) reform in a way that reduces fraud and abuse, and thereby reduces costs,” said Michael Carlson, the president of PIFF.

Senator praises undefeated UCF Knights

After an undefeated season and a Peach Bowl championship title, Sen. Linda Stewart congratulated the student-athletes that make up the University of Central Florida Knights.

“UCF has demonstrated to the entire nation that our undefeated hometown team is No. 1 with a 13-0 perfect season,” Stewart said. “I am proud of the incredible performance by our true national champions, the undefeated UCF Knights. Charge on!”

Gas prices highest in three years

Motorists in the state saw the highest prices in the last three years, averaging 3 cents more per gallon than the year before.

The highest average price for gasoline in the state last year was $2.73, 6 cents more than the national average. Prices were at their peak early in September and at their lowest in July.

“Gas prices normally decline during January and February, as gasoline demand hits the lowest levels of the year,” said Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA.

Florida gas prices are some of the most expensive in the Southeastern part of the country. Within the state, the cost for fuel spikes in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Gas is least expensive in Jacksonville, The Villages and Orlando.

Oil analysts believe the market is somewhat inflated due to geopolitical tensions and supply concerns, Jenkins said.

FSU Sport Management program ranked No. 1 in nation

The Florida State University has the top sports management program in the nation, according to the independent online publication College Choice.

The master’s degree program in Sport Management at the university was graded on five key data points to receive the honor. That includes quality, reputation, affordability, value and student satisfaction.

FSU was named top sports management program in the nation.

“We are incredibly proud of the recognition our program has received,” said Jeffrey James, professor and chair of the Department of Sport Management. “This achievement is a reflection of our outstanding faculty, staff and students, and we aim to keep this momentum going.”

The program, housed in FSU’s College of Education, gives students a lesson plan that includes courses on sports marketing, sports and the media, legal issues in sports as well as a service-learning program.

Florida State continues rise in Kiplinger’s ‘Best College Values’

There’s more bang for your buck at Florida State University, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, a money-focused publication that annually ranks colleges by best values.

The rankings reflect an educational return on investment. The investment is the cost of attendance.

Kiplinger ranks schools in different categories. One of the most noticeable rankings for FSU is its No. 4 status among public colleges in best value for out-of-state students.

For in-state tuition at public institutions, FSU climbed to the No. 14 spot. It landed at No. 63 across both public and private colleges. The University of Florida grabbed the No. 32 spot overall. Both institutions are well ahead of the next Florida university on the list: The University of South Florida at No. 115.

“Florida State University’s commitment to academic excellence and student success is the driving force behind our continuing rise in Kiplinger’s rankings,” said Sally McRorie, who is provost and vice president for academic affairs at FSU. “Our laser focus on high achievement serves our students well during their studies and after graduation.”

Kiplinger’s system has caught the eye of the Florida Board of Governors, too. The BOG considers the rankings when determining pre-eminence for universities.

Out with the old, in with the new

What better way to bring in the New Year than to get rid of outdated electronics and hazardous household waste?

The Leon County Solid Waste Management Division will hold the next Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection Saturday, Jan. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road.

Citizens can bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to their electronics, with some provisos:

— Only one large-screen television per vehicle will be accepted.

— Propane tanks must weigh less than 40 pounds.

— There is a limit of one tire per participant.

— There is also a limit of 25 fluorescent tubes per vehicle at the collection event.

— Medical sharps, medicines and radioactive waste cannot be accepted.

— Bulky wastes such as appliances (refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc.), and furniture, yard waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage and Styrofoam cannot be accepted.

The event is free for residents, but businesses and other agencies still must call (850) 606-1816 to make an appointment, Monday through Friday, to drop off their items at the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Some fees will apply.

And residents can always visit the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center during normal business hours, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (850) 606-1803 or go to LeonCountyFL.gov/HHW/collection for the complete collection schedule and safe packing guide.

Leon County opens Northeast Trail

The county will host a ‘grand opening’ of a multiuse-use trail Monday, Jan. 8, at 2:30 p.m.

Located at the intersection of Thomasville Road (U.S. 319) and Proctor Road, the two-mile trail will be open to hikers, bikers and runners. It’s the newest addition to Leon County’s trail system.

At the grand opening, County representatives will be joined by Tallahassee Mountain Bike Association, Gulf Winds Track Club and Chiles High School Cross Country Team. To find other Leon County recreation facilities, visit LeonCountyFL.gov/Parks.

City of Tallahassee OKs settlement in public record suit

A landmark settlement agreement with the Tallahassee Democrat was approved this week in a lawsuit alleging public records law violations when the paper requested text messages.

The paper reported that the City Commission unanimously approved the settlement after it admitted it violated the Florida Public Records Act when it failed to produce text messages of former City Manager Rick Fernandez.

Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez is at the center of a landmark public records lawsuit settlement.

Fernandez “got four tickets worth $2,000 for a lobbyist’s box office seats to a Florida State University football game that he previously denied receiving,” the paper has reported. Text messages eventually surfaced showing an exchange about the tickets between Fernandez and the lobbyist.

The suit promoted a series of new city policies and procedures related to the retention and production of text messages. It also revised its use cellphones for city business following the case.

City Commissioner Gil Ziffer thanked the Democrat for bringing the issue to the public’s attention, adding that the city needs “to set an example.” Ziffer, who is running to be Tallahassee’s next mayor, said the city needs to be more diligent about preserving text messages and that he plans to make it a priority this year.

Tallahassee family receives free car from Recycled Rides Program

Universal Collision Center in Tallahassee recently partnered with MetLife Insurance, Brehon Family Services, and the National Auto Body Council to present a local family with a much-needed lift. Kelsey and Dante Boyer received the keys to a fully-restored 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Boyers were identified by Brehon through their participation in the Healthy Families program.

“Many of us take transportation for granted but would be unable to live our daily lives without it. It’s been a tremendous honor to support a deserving local family by helping them obtain a safe, reliable vehicle. We hope this is just the first of many families we can put on the road,” said Universal Collision Center’s Sheryl Driggers.

The Boyer family and Universal Collision Center technicians who volunteered their time and talents to restore the 2014 Jeep Cherokee donated to the family.

Recycled Rides is a community action initiative where members of the National Auto Body Council, insurance companies and collision repairers partner with local non–profit organizations to provide deserving individuals and families with the gift of a fully-restored vehicle. Since the program’s inception in 2007, the National Auto Body Council donated more than 1,000 vehicles.

Universal Collision Center brought the Recycled Rides program to Tallahassee, joining with the Brehon Family Services organization to select a family in need. Universal Collision obtained the vehicle from MetLife Insurance Company. As part of the Recycled Rides effort, Universal Collision technicians voluntarily repaired the vehicle involved in the event.

“This incredible gift is life-changing,” said Jackie Malone, executive director of Brehon Family Services. “It’s so exciting when businesses find creative ways to support families in our community. The Boyer family now has easier access to work, education, child care, health care and other daily necessities. We are so grateful to Universal Collision Center, MetLife Insurance and the National Auto Body Council for their generosity.”

The Boyers participate in Healthy Families Gadsden/Leon, a voluntary family support and coaching program that helps parents provide the safe and stable environments children need for healthy growth and development.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

 

10 big questions facing Florida politics heading into 2018

The holidays are over. Welcome to 2018. That means campaign season pretty much starts now. Fasten your seat belts because we guarantee a bumpy ride.

Let’s start with the Top 10 (for now) Florida Politics Big Campaign Questions™:

#1: When does Rick Scott take the plunge?

Or does he? As the USA Today Network-Florida’s James Call writes, “The pundits … say 2018 may not be a Republican year — even in a red state like Florida.” (See Democrat Doug Jones’ squeaker of a win over the GOP’s Roy Moore in Alabama.)

#2: What kind of fight does Bill Nelson have in him?

Don’t count out the old astronaut just yet. The state’s senior U.S. senator this past summer told reporters, when asked about a possible Scott challenge, “I know how to campaign … I’ll leave it at that.”

#3: How does Adam Putnam avoid becoming Jeb 2.0?

By running further to the right. (See his social media for clues.) Then again, that could backfire. (See Jones vs. Moore.)

#4: What tricks does Richard Corcoran have up his sleeve?

Money aside, the House Speaker needs to up his name ID. He’s already staking out a position as a populist, “protecting your tax dollars” candidate—should he run, of course.

#5: So … is Ron DeSantis for real?

He got a thumbs up from President Trump and announced a finance team. But is it enough these days to have a Trump endorsement? Or is that a liability? (Have we mentioned Jones vs. Moore?)

#6: Can Gwen Graham raise real money?

It ain’t enough to just be Bob Graham’s daughter. We wonder if her anti-establishment, people-person stance will get in the way of her ability to make major bank.

#7: Does Andrew Gillum stay in until the end?

Such youth, such promise. Then came the annoying FBI, with its investigating of possible local Tallahassee corruption. He’s been told he’s not a target, the mayor says. But the who’ll-get-indicted distraction is still a problem.

#8: Can Phil Levine connect with Democratic primary voters?

He’s rich and he’s white. And that could be his boon—or his bust.

#9: Can Chris King gain traction?

Seems like a nice guy, smart. Too bad for him nobody seems to know or care.

#10: Can Jose Oliva keep up the Republican Party’s winning streak in the state House?

Mary Ellen Klas has said Oliva himself has “made clear he will not moderate the small-government, no-tax, anti-corporate welfare policies Corcoran has pursued.” Now he must figure out how to translate that to continued electoral success.

What about the unknown unknowns? Email or tweet us your ideas to keep the conversation going. We’ll see you on the campaign trail(s), starting … NOW.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 1.5.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Thank you to all of you who took to Facebook or Twitter or your phones to wish me a happy birthday. I read every one of them and it means a lot to hear from each of you.

I’m sorry there was no Sunburn yesterday; the cold knocked out our power during the middle of the night. But we’re back at it today, with yet another scoop — although is it really a scoop if it’s about the firm of one of your best friends — about a personnel move in the governmental affairs industry.

Personnel note: RJ Myers heading to Suskey Consulting” via Florida Politics — Myers, already a veteran of politics and The Process, is taking his experience to Suskey Consulting, the Florida government affairs firm announced this week. Myers, who will be a Government and Community Affairs Consultant, will be based in the firm’s St. Petersburg and Tallahassee offices. He most recently was Deputy Political Director for Republican Rick Baker‘s campaign for mayor of St. Petersburg. Myers joins fellow new Suskey hire Donovan Brown, the insurance industry expert who was previously with GDB Group, Colodny Fass and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “I could not be prouder of the team we have assembled and the clients we are honored to represent,” said Alan Suskey, the firm’s president.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @JebBush re: Steve Bannon: Honey Badger Lies through His Teeth bit.ly/2DTVefW Hopefully Honey Badger takes a leave from politics for a long while.

— @LedgeKing: .@POTUS to nominate Fl businessman Leandro Rizzuto as Ambassador to Barbados (and with the post) to St. Kitts and Nevis and to Saint Lucia.

— @AlGore: President Trump is once again defying a majority of American citizens, states, and businesses. His offshore drilling proposal threatens our coastal communities, just to prop up a dying fossil fuel industry.

— @LedgeKing: In advance of @Interior expected plan to open up FL waters to offshore drilling, @FLGovScott offers rare pushback to Trump admin: “I have already asked to immediately meet w/Sec. Zinke to discuss the concerns I have w/this plan & the crucial need to remove FL from consideration.”

— @DavidJollyFL: .@GwenGraham is exactly the leader to push back on @realDonaldTrump on this issue and protect our coastlines. She’s led all along. Go get ’em Gwen!

— @Rob_Bradley: This is what happens when a do-nothing Congress hands major policy decisions to unelected bureaucrats in order to avoid confronting difficult issues. Fix the pot law, Congress! Leave alone states with medical marijuana and take marijuana out of Schedule 1.

— @Jenna_Buzzacco: Just saw my first TV ad of the 2018 gubernatorial cycle for … Philip Levine.

— @CBSNews: U.S. weather is so discrepant that Anchorage, Alaska, was warmer Tuesday than Jacksonville, Florida; why is it so cold right now in a warmer world?

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— TOP STORY —

Trump administration proposes massive increase in offshore drilling” via Ledyard King of USA TODAY — The Trump administration is proposing to open up 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf off the U.S. coast to oil and gas exploration, the largest single expansion of offshore drilling activity ever proposed. “This is a start (of) American energy dominance,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters. “And looking at our offshore assets, beginning a dialogue of when, how, where and how fast those offshore assets should be or could be developed.” Even before it was officially announced, the move to expand drilling was denounced by environmental groups and their allies who say it would not only disturb maritime ecosystems but also increase the supply and use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. “President Trump is once again defying a majority of American citizens, states and businesses,” former Vice President Al Gore tweeted. “His offshore drilling proposal threatens our coastal communities, just to prop up a dying fossil fuel industry.”

There is one issue where Rick Scott and Donald Trump don’t see eye-to-eye.

White House: Goal of oil drilling expansion ‘isn’t to cross Gov. Scott’” via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO Florida — The Trump administration’s newly unveiled plan to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters including Florida wasn’t intended to alienate Gov. Rick Scott … though his opposition didn’t appear set to derail it. The Interior Department announced a new five-year plan … that could open up waters in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to drilling. The move, which would roll back policies implemented by past administrations to protect the regions, was quickly met with pushback from Florida officials. Scott, a supporter of Trump, criticized the measure and requested a meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to request that Florida is removed from consideration for the drilling expansion. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected,” Scott said in a statement. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing that the relationship between the White House and the Florida governor remained strong. “Our goal certainly isn’t to cross Gov. Scott,” she said. “Just because we may differ on issues from time to time doesn’t mean that we can’t have an incredibly good and strong relationship.”

As Trump moves to open waters to drilling, Florida lawmakers vow to protect coast” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Drilling rights would also be auctioned in the straits of Florida, according to the plan. In a speech on the Senate floor, Bill Nelson blasted the move, invoking the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill that left Pensacola Beach’s “sugary white sands covered up with black oil.” “We know the economic damage that did all up and down the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. Nelson has long maintained that oil rigs being “too close” to Florida’s shoreline could hurt the state’s tourism-driven economy and military training areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio called on the Trump administration to recognize “bipartisan efforts” to extend the moratorium protecting Florida’s coast from drilling. On Twitter, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast said Florida is united in opposition to drilling. “Our voice has been clear from the start: We will not tolerate drilling near our coast,” he said.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Ron DeSantis makes it official, enters governor’s race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – DeSantis on Friday morning will file paperwork with state election officials creating both his official campaign and a political committee called Friends of Ron DeSantis. The committee can accept unlimited contributions.

Matt Caldwell caps off 2017 with a six-figure December” via Florida Politics — … putting him at $1.56 million raised in 2017. The campaign said it brought in $42,201 for the month with another $59,500 raised through Caldwell’s political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell, for a combined total of $101,701. The campaign didn’t say how much money the Lehigh Acres Republican had on hand at the end of the year, though he finished November with a little over $1 million banked between the two accounts. While the raw numbers tentatively give Caldwell the second-place spot in cash on hand, the fourth-term lawmaker looks to have built up some momentum heading into 2018.

St. Pete Polls on Attorney General’s contest: It’s still anybody’s race – When registered Republican voters were asked who they’d vote for in the A.G. race, former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody beat state Rep. Jay Fant by about a point—10.1 percent to 9 percent. But the overwhelming winner? “Undecided,” at 69 percent. As for the other declared GOP candidates, state Rep. Ross Spano got 6.3 percent and fellow Rep. Frank White got 5.4 percent. When asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the candidates, each one got an “unsure” rating in the 70s.

‘Why I Fight’ is Jay Fant’s first campaign video – Fant—a Jacksonville Republican serving in the House—released his first video Thursday. “Why I Fight” depicts him as a conservative small businessman who is not part of what he calls the political “elite.” “I’m not a career politician,” Fant says. “My career is in small business” … “I’m getting involved in politics because I can’t sit at ringside anymore watching hardworking Floridians get abused by reckless politicians and big government,” he says.

Click on the image below to watch the video:

Jeb Bush endorses CFO Jimmy Patronis for another term” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — The former Republican House member has now picked up the endorsements of two Florida governors: Bush and Gov. Scott, a longtime ally of Patronis who appointed him to be in charge of the state’s checkbooks and a nearly $300 million budget. “As a small-business man, Jimmy understand how to keep our state growing by securing high credit ratings, and through his role as State Fire Marshal Jimmy is protecting those who protect us by fighting to improve mental health and cancer benefits for Florida firefighters,” Bush said.

First on #FlaPol — “Jeremy Ring snags a pile of endorsements from state lawmakers” via Florida Politics — 19 Democratic state lawmakers have endorsed him in the chief financial officer race. The bulk endorsement includes Sens. Randolph BracyOscar BraynonGary FarmerAudrey GibsonBill Montford, Kevin RaderDarryl Rouson, and Perry Thurston, as well as Reps. Joe AbruzzoLori Berman, Ben DiamondBobby DuBoseKatie EdwardsJoe GellerEven JenneShev JonesKionne McGheeSean Shaw and Richard Stark. The campaign called the wave of endorsements “the surest sign yet of building momentum.”

Major conservative PAC backs Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo” via Florida Politics — Maverick PAC, or MavPAC for short, focuses on getting young professionals engaged in the political process. It got started in the 2004 cycle and became known for hosting inexpensive fundraisers aimed at giving younger people access to politicians and top political operators. During the 2016 cycle, Maverick PAC raised over $3.5 million for federal candidates. Curbelo, Mast and another 44 candidates are on the MavPAC roster, including U.S. Sen. Rubio, whose current term runs through 2022. The PAC in the past named Curbelo, a former member, one of its “Future 40.”

David Richardson cracks $1 million raised for CD 27 campaign” via Florida Politics — Richardson brought in more than $500,000 in the fourth quarter for his campaign to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District … Richardson’s campaign said it closed out the year with over $1 million in total receipts including approximately $505,000 raised from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. That broad spectrum included more than 8,700 individual donors who combined to make more than 12,000 online contributions. Those small-dollar donors gave an average of $31.58, with about 97 percent weighing in at $100 or less, while nearly nine-tenths were for $25 or less. In his third-quarter report, Richardson touted 2,400 donors with about 80 percent of them pitching in $25 or less.

David Richardson cracks $1 million in his congressional bid.

Outgoing UNF President John Delaney eyeing potential run for Legislature” via Melissa Ross of WJCT — “It would probably be something local — maybe the state Legislature, either the state House or Senate. I’ll just see what happens,” Delaney said … Delaney, who has served as UNF’s president since 2003, is touting a record of fundraising success and academic achievement and expansion at the school during his 15 years in the position. “Politics is really about luck and timing,” he said. “And I would wait for one of those seats to open up before jumping in. But really, the rule in politics is never say never.”

Josie Tomkow crosses $75K-raised mark in HD 39 special election” via Florida Politics — Tomkow raised nearly $62,000 last month, building on her strong lead in the race to replace former Rep. Neil Combee … The banner month gives the Polk City Republican $75,155 raised for her campaign account in less than two months, and she has $57,800 of that money on hand. Making the list of max checks were Lakeland rancher Suzanne Ellsworth, Wesley Chapel-based Wiregrass Ranch, Dade City seed farmers Chris and Jaclynn Hancock, livestock business Arcadia Stockyard, and many more. Future Senate President Wilton Simpson, sometimes referred to as the “chicken man” due to his poultry empire, even chipped in through his Jobs for Florida political committee.

Democrat Debra Bellanti ‘in it to win it’ for HD 60” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Bellanti is well aware that there are those in her own Democratic Party who think the odds aren’t great that she can beat Republican incumbent Jackie Toledo in the Florida House District 60 race this year. The South Tampa-based marketing strategist and creative director in the health care industry begs to differ. “I’m in it to win it,” she said Thursday morning. “I’m not running just to get my name out. I’m not doing this so I can run later. That’s not my plan. My plan is to win this race.”

Second Democrat enters race for House District 69” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — Lawyer and veteran Javier Centonzio is running for Florida House District 69. “I was honored to serve my country in the military, and now I’m ready to serve my community as a member of the Florida House,” Centonzio said. “District 69 needs a leader who is ready to take on tough issues from day one. I have the experience and the track record necessary to deliver positive results for the district.” Centonzio served four years in the Marine Corps and then five years in the Kansas Army National Guard before moving to District 69 to pursue a law degree from Stetson University College of Law. While at Stetson, he helped create the school’s Veterans Law Institute, which provides pro bono legal assistance to disabled veterans in the community. In 2014, Centonzio received a masters of law in Elder Law from Stetson. He also owns two businesses in the district, including the law firm of Weylie Centonzio.

Marine veteran and HD 69 candidate Javier Centonzio.

Andrew Vargas adds to money lead in GOP primary for HD 114” via Florida Politics — Seven weeks out from the Feb. 20 special primary election, Vargas has raised $154,823 for his campaign while Republican rival José Pazos has a to-date total of $16,750 after tacking on $3,050 between Nov. 28 and Dec. 28. In all, Vargas had $56,947 in his campaign account at the end of the reporting period, while Pazos had about $12,750. Making Vargas’ donor roll over the holidays were lobbying firms Greenberg Traurig and Becker & Poliakoff as well three regional divisions of hospital company HCA, each of which chipped in $1,000. Another 11 contributions came in for the primary campaign maximum of $1,000, with a handful of $500 checks rounding out the month.

— “David Smith announces more endorsements in HD 28 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “Josie Tomkow endorsed by NRA, unified sportsmen of Florida” via Florida Politics

— “Tyler Sirois qualifies by petition for HD 51 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Happening Monday:

***Start the 2018 Legislative Session on the right foot! Florida TaxWatch State of the Taxpayer Dinner is less than a week away; tickets are selling fast. Don’t miss your chance to hear from our state’s elected leaders about issues that will affect YOU. The dinner is Wednesday, Jan. 10, from 6-9 p.m. at the Hotel Duval. Previous guest speakers included Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi. Both 2016 and 2017 events sold out. Hurry — reserve your spot now: www.floridataxwatch.org/StateoftheTaxpayer***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

ICYMI: Rob Bradley blasts feds on medical marijuana decision — The Senate Appropriations Chairman, an early champion of medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State, came out strong after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the federal policy on medical marijuana. “This is what happens when a do-nothing Congress hands major policy decisions to unelected bureaucrats in order to avoid confronting difficult issues,” Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, tweeted (as first reported in last night’s “Last Call” newsletter) … “Fix the pot law, Congress! Leave alone states with medical marijuana … Florida has designed a medical marijuana system that is safe and secure and holds specific entities accountable for bad behavior. It’s not the Wild West, like California,” where a new legalization law allowing recreational use went into effect Jan. 1. “If federal authorities are now scrutinizing states, Florida will be the model.”

Jeff Brandes files ‘certificate of need’ repeal bill, identical to House priority” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Brandes on Wednesday filed a bill that would repeal a controversial “certificate of need” (CON) hospital regulatory process as the House fast-tracks an identical bill. House Republican leaders and Gov. Scott, a former hospital CEO, have long supported repealing certificate of needs, but the effort has stalled in the Senate. This year, though, the bill has a powerful advocate in the Senate: Budget Chairman Rob Bradley, who last Session filed a bill to repeal CONs.

House hurricane committee postpones meeting” via the News Service of Florida — Continuing to look at dozens of proposals about hurricane-related issues, the chairwoman of a House select committee Thursday postponed a meeting scheduled for next week. The House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness, created after Hurricane Irma slammed into the state in September, was scheduled to meet Monday. But Chairwoman Jeanette Nunez sent a memo to members saying the meeting would be moved back a week. “Based on the number of revised and new recommendations submitted by members over the holidays and the extent and complexity of the comments executive agencies have provided related to the member recommendations, I have decided to postpone our Monday, January 8 meeting until Tuesday, January 16,” Nunez said in the memo. “We have devoted a great deal of effort toward evaluating and improving Florida’s hurricane response and preparedness, and I believe it is important that we take the extra week to make sure we address these important issues in a thoughtful and inclusive manner.” The committee is looking at ways to help the state recover from Irma and to better prepare for future hurricanes. Proposals touch on numerous issues, such as evacuation routes, underground utility lines and aid for the agriculture industry.

Americans for Prosperity praises Keith Perry, Manny Diaz for sponsoring regulation reform” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — In a new mailer, the conservative-leaning Americans for Prosperity-Florida wants voters to congratulate two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Keith Perry and state Rep. Manny Diaz, who are championing bills that seek to significantly reduce government regulations. The measures will be up for debate in the upcoming Session. If passed, they would establish an advisory council inside the governor’s office to find ways to reduce red tape. Reducing red tape has been a popular pledge for conservative leaders over the years.

Here is the mailer:

Happening Saturday — State Sen. Travis Hutson and state Rep. Paul Renner, both of Palm Coast, join Farm Share to host a free food distribution at the WE Harris Community Center, 400 Harris St. Distribution begins 9 a.m., and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

— LUCY MORGAN REFLECTS ON RAUNCHY CAPITOL —

Pulitzer-winning journalist Lucy Morgan, who covered government extensively for what is now the Tampa Bay Times, shared anecdotes in a piece published by her alma mater, describing rampant sexual harassment and debaucherous Capitol behavior in the late 20th century.

The piece is timely, following the nationwide #MeToo movement, and, locally, the recent resignations of powerful men like Jack Latvala due to incidences of sexual harassment and other wrongdoings.

But per Morgan’s recollections, sexual harassment used to be worse. A lot worse. Without awareness and proper reprimands, women were forced to learn to not be alone with powerful men who could not keep their hands to themselves, Morgan recalls.

“Some men cannot be trained,” writes Morgan. “Back then, few women were powerful enough to do anything but run and cry.”

Morgan wrote that in Capitol restrooms she often found a “woman in tears who needed to be consoled because some legislator or lobbyist made unwanted sexual advances.”

Liquorlature: Booze was prevalent. “Sen. Tom McPherson of Fort Lauderdale had the M & M hour — a periodic cocktail party he sponsored with another South Florida legislator” … “Did I mention there was also a lot of liquor? Lobbyists supplied it to any legislator willing to accept the gift.”

The watering hole: “Sen. Dean Dempsey Barron of Panama City had a beautiful handmade wooden liquor dispenser supplied by lobbyists that was never empty. Barron referred to his office as the Senate ‘watering hole.’”

The cover-up: A House-hid secret in the 1990s came to light after an unexplained $47,000 payment to Kathy Jennings raised brows. Jennings was paid the amount to keep quiet about a sexual harassment complaint regarding then-Rep. Fred Lippman. “Lippman was formally admonished and lost his position as House Majority Leader but remained in the House,” recalls Morgan.

— STATEWIDE —

Rick Scott’s Puerto Rico roundtable reaches same concern as others: housing” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Having largely tackled many of the education and jobs challenges arising from the mass migration of Puerto Ricans seeking a place to live in Florida after Hurricane Maria largely shut down their lives on the island, state and local officials gathered in Orlando told Gov. Scott that housing remains a major problem. Scott met with about two dozen Central Florida elected and nonprofit officials including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette, Osceola County Chairman Fred Hawkins Jr. and Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez and mostly received praise for his administration’s efforts to coordinate services offered to tens of thousands of people fleeing Puerto Rico since September. That praise focused mainly on job support and education accommodation efforts, and on coordination of resources and programs, and responsiveness. Not so with discussions of housing challenges, which ran more of a gamut from universal concern to, when state Sen. Victor Torres got his turn, anger and frustration. “Quite honestly there is a crisis, and we can’t solve it … city by city or county by county. we need a statewide strategy on that,” Dyer said.

The (continuing) wrath of Maria: Gov. Rick Scott hosted another roundtable, this time at the Multi-Agency Resource Center in Orlando, to discuss ongoing relief efforts for those displaced by Hurricane Maria.

Governor’s office seeks $1,200 to respond to Gwen Graham’s Hollywood Hills query” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The governor’s office sent an invoice for $1,200 to Graham after her campaign issued a news release alleging that Scott and his office had not responded to her September open records request. In that news release, Graham, a leading Democratic candidate aiming to succeed Scott as governor, demanded, “What is Rick Scott trying to hide?” Graham filed a records request under Florida’s public records laws for communications between Scott and his staff and nursing home administrators, particularly focusing on cellphone activity, but also seeking records from state agencies involved.

Audubon happy Scott opposes drilling, releases Session priorities” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Audubon Florida announced its legislative priorities on Thursday, but also was happy to see Gov. Scott oppose the U.S. Department of Interior’s possible drilling explorations in the Sunshine State. “We were glad to see Gov. Scott’s response, coming out strongly in opposition to drilling near Florida’s waters,” said Julie Wraithmell, the interim executive director of Audubon Florida who took over after Eric Draper left to lead the Florida State Parks system. “It’s rather shocking to think that so soon after the 2010 Deep Horizon incident, we could be having this conversation already.” Audubon spearheaded the passage of Amendment 1 — commonly referred to as Florida’s Water and Land Legacy — in 2014, which provided for Florida Forever, a dedicated funding source for public land acquisitions. That’s a project Audubon will continue to pursue in the 2018 Session. Audubon also is throwing its weight behind the Department of Environmental Protection’s request to fund Everglades restoration at more than $300 million. Wraithmell … also is excited about legislation from Sen. Rob Bradley that addresses Florida’s springs.

American Board of Medical Specialties gears up to battle opioid crisis, including in Florida” via Florida Politics — In October 2015, the American Board of Medical Specialties — which oversees 24 Member Boards — added Addiction Medicine as a subspecialty. The expansion will allow physicians to now apply for new certification through the American Board of Preventive Medicine. This new subspecialty — further proof that opioid addiction has become a top priority in the health care industry — came after years of developing curricula and fellowships in graduate training programs nationwide, as well as supporting the research necessary to set up addiction medicine as a legitimate medical specialization. Additionally, ABMS Boards are incorporating safe opioid education initiatives into Maintenance of Certification (MOC) programs for the 47,000 Board-certified Florida physicians about opioid abuse, misuse and responsible prescribing procedures.

Family of slain professor in ‘agony’ over trial delays” via The Associated Press — An attorney representing the parents of Dan Markel said they “remain in agony” due to the delay. Markel was shot in his garage in the summer of 2014. Police said that killing was sparked by a bitter divorce and family squabbles. Media outlets reported a judge agreed to push back the trial of Katherine Magbanua until October. She is one of three people charged in the slaying of the Florida State University professor and Toronto native. Magbanua has pleaded not guilty to charges that she helped orchestrate the plot. Sigfredo Garcia is scheduled to stand trial in July. Luis Rivera has already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Name change marks VISIT FLORIDA exit from racing” via the News Service of Florida — The Troy Flis-owned IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team, which this past summer had its $2.875 million sponsorship canceled by Florida’s embattled tourism-marketing agency, is now the Spirit of Daytona Racing. “Last season was so difficult, but even though we were on the back foot for a lot of the year, I think we learned a lot as an organization and improved as a team,” Flis told California-based Racer magazine in December … The Spirit of Daytona, based out of an 8,000-square-foot shop in Daytona Beach, will first roll at the three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 this weekend at the Daytona International Speedway. Commercial partnerships are expected to be announced by the team before the event. VISIT FLORIDA spokesman Stephen Lawson noted that VISIT FLORIDA “is completely out of the racing business.”

Those Iguanas falling from trees in Florida? They probably aren’t dead” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — When temperatures dip into the 30s and 40s, people from West Palm Beach to Miami know to be on the lookout for reptiles stunned — but not necessarily killed — by the cold. They can come back to life again in the warmth. Iguanas, which can be as long as 6 feet, are not native to South Florida. They have proliferated in the subtropical heat, causing headaches for wildlife managers — and occasionally popping up in toilets. It took a prolonged cold spell to significantly reduce their population in 2010. (The same cold snap also resulted in the deaths of many invasive Burmese pythons.) Iguanas climb up trees to roost at night, said Ron Magill, communications director for Zoo Miami. “When the temperature goes down, they literally shut down, and they can no longer hold on to the trees,” he said. “Which is why you get this phenomenon in South Florida that it’s raining iguanas.” “Even if they look dead as a doornail — they’re gray and stiff — as soon as it starts to heat up and they get hit by the sun rays, it’s this rejuvenation,” he said. “The ones that survive that cold streak are basically passing on that gene.”

— SCOTT’S LEGACY —

“Scott will depart as he arrived, a solitary and distant figure without a clearly defined personality in the minds of many of his constituents,” writes Steve Bousquet.

Ahead of Scott’s potential bid for the U.S. Senate, the article questions (and answers) what will be remembered of the Governor’s legacy. The positives: a “workaholic” nature helping to guide the state through Hurricane Irma and leading the state out of a recession. The negatives: a whole lot more.

A man of firsts?: “Scott is the first Florida governor with a permanent campaign fund during his entire time in office … Scott is the first governor who was sued successfully for violating state public records laws … Scott will be remembered as the governor who ditched the state aircraft, a campaign promise he could keep easily because he had the money to replace it with one of his own … To get to the Governor’s Mansion .. Scott … spent more than $70 million of his own money, ran as an outsider, flew in his own plane, kept his travel plans secret and regarded the mainstream news media as an unwelcome distraction.”

Separate from the others: “More inmates have been put to death under his watch (26) than by any of his predecessors … Highly scripted and ill at ease in public, Scott’s style is starkly different from his four predecessors.”

From the horse’s mouth: “People expect certain things from their politicians like smoothness and likability,” said former top aide Steve MacNamara. “Rick didn’t have those.”

From a different horse’s mouth: “He’s the governor who led Florida’s economic recovery,” said former Senate President Don Gaetz. “When he got into office, Florida was on its knees economically, and when he leaves, Florida will be ahead of most states in terms of economic progress.”

— WATER WARS —

A series of legal issues dating back to the 1980s will have its day in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decades-long debate over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin will be heard in the high court for the first time Monday. “At the heart of the matter,” reports SCOTUSblog. “Is how and for whom the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages five dams and four reservoirs in the Chattahoochee and Flint River system.” More specifically, what’s in question is how the Corps reallocates water.

The issue began after a series of droughts but has since evolved.

A history lesson: “In 1997, the states (Alabama, Florida and Georgia) and the federal government entered into a compact for the ACF basin,” … But that fell through, ultimately leading to “eight separate cases in six different federal courts challenging various impacts of the Corps’ operation of its reservoirs.” … “In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that ‘the Corps had the authority to allocate substantial quantities of storage in Lake Lanier for purpose of water supply for the Atlanta metropolitan area.’”

The oyster collapse: “After a drought and the collapse of its oyster fishery in 2012, Florida filed a motion for leave to file a complaint for equitable apportionment and injunctive relief against Georgia in the Supreme Court in 2013.” Florida argued that Georgia’s consumption reduced flow to Apalachicola, affecting the salinity of the water and ruining the oyster fishery.

Not so fast: Ralph I. Lancaster, Jr., the special master over Florida’s motion, concluded relief for Florida should be denied. Florida’s exceptions to Lancaster’s conclusions will be heard Monday.

— OPINIONS —

Florida’s 1.5 million missing voters” via The New York Times editorial board — Today, Florida disenfranchises almost 1.5 million of its citizens, more than 11 states’ populations and roughly a quarter of the more than 6 million Americans who are unable to vote because of a criminal record. Felon disenfranchisement is a destructive, pointless policy that hurts not only individuals barred from the ballot box, but American democracy at large. It can make all the difference in places like Florida, which didn’t stop being competitive in 2000; the state remains a major presidential battleground, and victories for both parties in state and local elections are often narrow. That could all change if a proposed constitutional amendment gets enough signatures to be placed on the ballot in November and wins enough support. The initiative would automatically restore voting rights to the vast majority of Floridians who have completed their sentence for a felony conviction, including any term of parole or probation. The right to vote is the most meaningful mark of citizenship in a democracy. It should be withheld only in extreme circumstances, and its restoration shouldn’t depend on the whims of a governor. What’s worse, many of these laws, especially in the South, are inextricable from their racist origins.

Marleny Olivo: Palm Beach School Board should stop attacking charter school students” via Florida Politics — This week I asked to join litigation against the Palm Beach County School Board. As a working mother of two young sons, this is not a battle I wanted to fight. But I have little choice. The school board is mistreating charter school students, including my younger son. Board members have filed a lawsuit against House Bill 7069, which the Florida Legislature adopted last Session. This bill requires all education dollars to be spent on public school students equally, including charter students. But the board doesn’t want to comply. It is ridiculous for the board to think district school students deserve more money than those in charter schools. Charter schools, after all, are public schools. They are funded by public dollars, though managed privately. They must meet strict standards, and they’re closed if they receive failing grades or don’t meet parents’ expectations. Yet the school board wants to disregard its obligation to the county’s charter students.

Melba Pearson, Shalini Goel Agarwal: Keep Florida from falling further behind; adopt meaningful criminal justice reform” via Florida Politics — While a majority of states — including Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas — have adopted comprehensive criminal justice reforms over the last several years with bipartisan support, Florida has done little to evaluate its existing policies and create a more effective system. Other states are reducing incarceration levels while simultaneously lowering crime rates and saving millions of dollars. It’s clear that Florida is sending too many people to prison for too long, and in doing so, wasting our tax dollars. It’s time that our legislators do something to stop as well as reverse Florida’s ineffective reliance on mass incarceration. Fortunately, several leading legislators have proposed these reforms and are taking to heart that Floridians say the primary purpose of the criminal justice system should be to rehabilitate, not punish. Now is the time for the entire legislature to support their effort. It is time for our leaders to adopt smart policies that will prevent crime and reduce recidivism, while saving taxpayer dollars and keeping us safe.

Vacation rentals bill would neuter local governments” via TCPalm Editorial Board — Sen. Greg Steube is at it again — attempting to vacate the authority of local governments to regulate their respective communities. Steube’s latest target is vacation rentals. Senate Bill 1400 would give the state sole authority to regulate vacation rentals. It also would nullify vacation-rental rules already on the books in respective cities prior to 2011 — regulations grandfathered in under current law. Local governments, and the citizens they represent, should decide vacation-rental rules for themselves. Not the state. Once again, Steube is attempting to insert state authority where it doesn’t belong.

— MOVEMENTS —

New interim U.S. attorney for Tampa named” via Frances McMorris of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Maria Chapa Lopez was appointed the interim U.S. attorney by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She is one of 17 current and former federal prosecutors that Sessions named as interim U.S. attorneys Wednesday. Chapa Lopez’s appointment arises out of the period last year when about 50 U.S. attorneys were asked to resign, propelling several first assistant U.S. attorneys into those top prosecutorial positions. On Jan. 4, some of those acting U.S. attorneys will have served the maximum amount of time permitted under the Vacancies Reform Act. Chapa Lopez replaces acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow, who will resume his role as first assistant U.S. attorney.

Maria Chapa Lopez was named Wednesday as the Interim U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

Former lawmaker Rich Glorioso reapplies for PSC seat via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Glorioso, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who served in the House 2004-12, has again thrown in his hat to be considered for a seat on the Florida Public Service Commission. Glorioso’s was one of two initial applications for a vacancy created by the withdrawal of former Rep. Ritch Workman. The applications were released Wednesday by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council. Gov. Scott had picked Workman to replace Ronald Brisé on the panel, which regulates investor-owned utilities in the state. But Workman, a Melbourne Republican, bowed out after a sexual misconduct allegation. Glorioso was a finalist last year to serve the unexpired term of former Commissioner Patronis, who stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as state Chief Financial Officer.

George Meros joins Holland & Knight’s Tallahassee office” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Meros a prominent litigation attorney in the state, most recently involved in the high-profile case of embattled Sen. Jack Latvala, has joined the Holland & Knight’s Tallahassee lobbying effort. The international law firm announced Wednesday that Meros, formerly with the Gray Robinson law firm, is a new partner in its Tallahassee office. Meros was most recently part of a trio of attorneys that helped Senate President Joe Negron navigate internal investigations into sexual harassment allegations against Latvala. In another prominent case, he acted as lead counsel for the Florida House as it defended the state’s new redistricting plan.

Help wanted: GateHouse Media seeks statewide political reporter” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — GateHouse Media’s Florida newspapers are looking for a reporter that can take on a beat “demanding a mix of daily, enterprise and longer-term investigative pieces” that “compliments” the work of The Associated Press and News Service of Florida. The job was posted on Dec. 21, less than a month ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session. The position has not yet been filled. Until late last year, Tia Mitchell works at Jacksonville’s Florida Times-Union as its dedicated Tallahassee “bureau chief.”

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Representatives from Sarasota’s MLK Celebration Committee discuss plans for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include State Sen. Brandes, state Rep. Shaw, USF Professor of Public Administration and Political Science Dr. Susan MacManus and Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on how Florida hotel tax dollars are being used to promote tourism and alternative ways the money can be used. Joining Walker-Torres are state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay; Orange County Comptroller Phil DiamondRichard Maladecki, Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association; David Downing, President and CEO, Visit St. Pete Clearwater; and Robin Sollie, Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A preview of the 2018 Florida Legislative Session, including the agendas for Gov. Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. PolitiFact will clear up misconceptions about the Florida Legislature and the legislative process.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore, attorney Sean Pittman and political reporter Dara Kam.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg speak with chairs of the South Florida legislative delegation.

— ALOE —

Kevin Cate’s ‘Blizzard’ tees will support charity — The Tallahassee-based communications savant wrote in an email Thursday: “Nothing tops how much fun I’m having with the fact that it snowed in Tallahassee yesterday. It was pretty much zero inches, but for Tallahassee, that’s a once-in-28-years blizzard. So we made a shirt (and a tank top and hoodie). All profits will go to a local charity (The Kearney Center) that helps homeless people.” To get your own ‘I Survived the Blizzard of ‘18’ T-shirt, hoodie or tank top, click here.

It’s tough for Floridians to deal with snow, even zero inches of it.

Midtown Reader plans expansion this month” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The bookstore will be closed for renovation next week … A projected reopening date is set for the third week of January. The store owned by Sally Bradshaw first opened November 2016. A newly installed staircase will lead from the current bookstore room to a refurbished upstairs lounge and book-selling area. The second-floor level, which will be double the size of the current store layout, will have enough space to host the larger literary events Midtown Reader offers. It will also allow for an expanded inventory, couches and tables where readers and students can relax and study and a cafe area selling Lucy & Leo’s cupcakes. “Now you can stop by your neighborhood bookstore, buy a freshly baked cupcake, a mug of hot coffee, and a new book and curl up on the couch to read or study,” said the email signed by Bradshaw and the Midtown Reader staff.

Disney offers multi-day discount for Florida residents” via Bay News 9 — The three- and four-day “Florida Resident Discover Disney” ticket is now available. The tickets allow guests to visit one of the four Disney World theme parks per day. The three-day ticket costs $159, while the four-day ticket costs $179. The “Park Hopper” option can be added to either ticket at an additional cost and allows visits to multiple parks per day. Tickets can be purchased now through June 20 and are valid through June 24. Proof of Florida residency is required to purchase the tickets.

Game of Thrones returns in 2019, HBO confirms for first time” via James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly — The Emmy-winning sensation won’t be back for its final season until 2019. Last summer, EW was first to report that GoT might skip 2018, after the show’s showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss explained they planned to spend a year and a half crafting the show’s final episodes in an effort to make the final hours as spectacular and satisfying as possible (the eighth season, currently in production, is expected to film until this summer). Later, HBO programming chief Casey Bloys confirmed to us that a 2019 date was indeed possible. Since then, star Sophie Turner let slip in a recent interview that she didn’t expect the show to come back until next year either. As for the final season’s content, so far the GoT team has managed to keep a lid on spoilers with unprecedented behind-the-scenes security. Yet former Thrones actor Jason Momoa was recently visiting the set and teased to EW: “It’s going to be the greatest thing that’s ever aired on TV. It’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to f — up a lot of people.”

Happy birthday to our ol’ friend Bruce Cotton and former state Rep. Doc Renuart. Early birthday wishes to friends of the ‘burn Bryan Anderson and Kyle Simon.

Jacksonville Bold for 1.5.18 — Cold outside, 2018 is hot

The weather report was unprecedented this week. Cold as ice, as the Foreigner classic goes.

But for those needing a warmup, the 2018 political landscape brings the heat.

Right now, it’s hotter than July in the orbit of almost-Jacksonville Rep. Ron DeSantis. He’s got the billionaires backing him, and a robopoll saying he’s more popular than Adam Putnam.

Time will tell there.

The race to replace DeSantis in Congress also is heating up.

We also have Democratic candidates making moves — both in 2018 and 2019.

And if you read down far enough, you will see us predicting a Jaguars Super Bowl win.

Perhaps we are still celebrating the New Year on that last item?

Bold is back (as you can see) and we are ready for whatever 2018 brings.

Billionaires back DeSantis for Governor

Breaking: lots of people who can buy and sell most of those reading this blog post want DeSantis for Governor.

If Ron DeSantis were an 80s pro wrestling group, they’d be called Money Inc.

Team DeSantis rolled out more than 50 Floridians stretching from Miami through the Panhandle and featuring Palm Beach billionaire Thomas Peterffy; and more than two dozen national names, topped by Las Vegas casino mogul and conservative political rainmaker Sheldon Adelson.

DeSantis’ state financial leadership team includes Republican donors and timeshare moguls Jackie and David Siegel of Windermere; Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus; Palm Beach fundraisers Gay and Stanley Gaines; and Art Hudson of Orlando.

In addition to Adelson, the national committee includes David Bossie of Dallas, who is chairman of the Citizens United political activism organization and was a deputy campaign director for Trump; Republican financier Rebekah Mercer of New York; Dick Uihlein of Chicago, a big backer of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Club for Growth; and Christian-conservative cause financier Foster Friess of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The GOP race for Governor is shaking out to be Tallahassee interests backing Putnam versus outside interests backing Richard Corcoran. This raises interesting questions for the House Speaker and undeclared candidate. Can he compete with these machines?

Putnam has on-hand roughly $15 million; DeSantis, no doubt, will be able to catch up.

DeSantis leads in poll … is it real?

The DeSantis campaign pushed out a poll, via POLITICO, that has the congressman leading Putnam — even before declaring his candidacy.

Are friends electric? Are pollsters robotic? Ron DeSantis and Marc Caputo say yes to the latter.

“The automated ‘robopoll,’ which had a sample of 1,423 likely GOP voters, had DeSantis with 28 percent, ahead of Putnam (25 percent), and Corcoran (3 percent),” the POLITICO write-up asserts.

President Donald Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis matters bigly also. 84 percent of Republicans polled view Trump favorably. And 36 percent see themselves as “Trump Republicans.”

Worth noting: A robopoll is generally not something POLITICO Florida embraces. However, in this case, it made an exception … for reasons not disclosed.

Also, worth noting: This is the only poll that has shown DeSantis even within striking distance of Putnam.

Fred Costello in CD 6 GOP derby

State Rep. Fred Costello is joining what appears to be an increasingly crowded field in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Costello finished a distant second to incumbent DeSantis in the 2016 primary, with 24 percent of the vote; however, with DeSantis essentially running for Governor at this point, Costello will join a field that includes businessman John Ward.

Other candidates — including former Green Beret Michael Waltz, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns, and Brandon Patty — are taking hard looks at the race; if that field shakes out with six candidates, a hard 24 percent could be competitive.

Fred Costello’s campaign is classic red state.

Costello plans to roll out his campaign Saturday, Jan. 6, at Rockefeller Park at the Casements in Ormond Beach. Rallies follow throughout the day throughout the district.

Costello was a former Ormond Beach Mayor before moving on to the state Legislature. He intends to brand his campaign with a fealty to Trump, an adherence to so-called “Judeo-Christian values,” and localism.

“I have lived, raised my family, worked, played and prayed in Congressional District 6 for 40 years. As a USAF veteran and business owner who has served you as a dentist, Ormond Beach Mayor & State Representative, I am well prepared to Stand for US!”

Costello’s campaign will roll out prominent backers speaking at the events: among them, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk, state Rep. David Santiago and state Sen. Dennis Baxley will be among the elected officials on hand for regional launches.

Greeting him on the trail, per POLITICO Florida: a complaint that he was campaigning as early as August 2017.

Prediction: DeSantis endorses someone else in this field. DeSantis was irked earlier this year by another candidate, John Ward, jumping in too early.

Al Lawson challenger scores CBC staffer endorsement

Rontel Batie, a Democrat challenging incumbent Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, brought out an endorsement from a former Congressional Black Caucus executive director (Abdul Henderson) this week.

Al Lawson isn’t taking Rontel Batie seriously yet. And Batie is exploiting the situation.

Batie has pointed out previously that Lawson doesn’t line up with the CBC. Batie, a former Corrine Brown staffer who emerged from the CBC’s political operation, is clearly more prepared to line up with the caucus.

“I am pleased to have received an endorsement from Abdul Henderson, who served as the Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2015-2016. Abdul is very familiar with my work ethic and has long believed that we need to make room for young leaders in Congress like myself,” Batie said.

State Reps. preview 2018 Legislative Session

In 2016, Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer overcame competitive primaries to win nominations — despite powerful interests and strong candidates going against each of the three in the process.

Clay Yarborough is one of three Jacksonville Republicans beginning year 2 next week.

The general elections, in each of their districts, lacked drama: all three beat write-in candidates, garnering over 90 percent of the vote.

We asked the three of them to evaluate the working relationship of the Duval Delegation going into the Legislative Session, their own personal priorities for the 60 days, as well as getting their thoughts on working with City Hall throughout the process this year.

All three of them believe that the delegation is in sync.

Fischer and Byrd messaged specifically on lowering taxes further; Yarborough discussed bills of specific importance to him, including a measure that would repurpose unused medications for those who need them in the state.

As well, all three discussed how the new configuration in the Mayor’s Office — with Chief of Staff Brian Hughes taking an official role — would affect Jacksonville priorities.

None anticipated an adverse effect; Fischer offered the hottest quote.

“The addition of Brian Hughes is a force multiplier for the city. If you want to build something that lasts,” Fischer said, “hire Brian Hughes.”

Of course, “Build Something That Lasts” is the name of Mayor Lenny Curry’s political committee.

Read the entire interview here.

SPLC lauds Melissa Nelson

The Southern Poverty Law Center lauded Melissa Nelson, 4th Circuit State Attorney, for meaningful reforms that have halved Duval’s arrests of children.

The SPLC gave Melissa Nelson props … something that never happened to Angela Corey.

“It is encouraging to see that the number of children prosecuted as adults in Florida has declined, but the fact that we’re sending more than 1,000 children into the adult criminal justice system every year is troubling. Florida prosecutes more children as adults than any other state — often at the sole discretion of prosecutors,” asserted an SPLC representative.

“Some areas of the state with reform-minded state attorneys are keeping their promises to send fewer children to the adult system. In Duval County, there was a nearly 50 percent drop in children going to adult court,” the SPLC continued.

Civil citations were among the reforms that activists thought former State Attorney Angela Corey was too slow to implement. Nelson beat Corey by a more than two to one margin in the 2016 Republican primary, with anecdotal evidence of Democrats and independents crossing over to vote against Corey.

Curry to appear on ESPN Sunday

Jacksonville Mayor Curry is a hard-core NFL fan — and one of his life goals will be completed this weekend on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown.

The reason: the Jaguars are hosting a playoff game, and Curry proclaimed standout defensive end Calais Campbell the Mayor of “Sacksonville.”

An ESPN producer reached out Tuesday via email:

“We are heading down to Jacksonville this week to speak to the Jaguars defensive line, and Calais Campbell, who last month you proclaimed as the ‘Mayor of Sacksonville.'”

“Would you have a window of availability anytime Thursday or Friday to be interviewed on camera about your proclamation? We’d be happy to conduct the interview in your office as it would only take about 15 minutes (we would just need about an hour or so to set up),” the producer wrote.

ESPN could soon feature the ”Mayor of Sacksonville.’

While we haven’t confirmed Curry’s participation in this, sources familiar with his thinking say there is no way he would miss this opportunity.

Campbell, a tenth-year player from Miami, has 14.5 sacks on the season; the big-ticket free agent holds the franchise record.

The Jaguars are favored in Sunday’s tilt against the Buffalo Bills by upward of 7 points, and tickets for the game are sold out and are the hottest ticket among the wild card games on the resale market.

The Jaguars are a 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, meaning that barring a string of upsets in the first two rounds, this will be their only home playoff game.

$490,000 buys a lot of BBQ

WJXT contributed the latest in a depressing and distressing cycle of stories about Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown’s family’s failed business venture — a BBQ sauce plant that couldn’t get off the ground, despite SBA and city loans and grants totaling well over $3 million.

Per WJXT4 THE Local Station”: The bankruptcy judge spelled out a restructuring plan to pay back a portion of what’s owed.

After $3M in loans and grants, Katrina Brown’s sauce biz couldn’t get off the ground.

“The Brown family companies operate two businesses and owe the city a total of $572,000. The city is suing them separately over the $220,000 grant and a $350,000 loan. Of that, the judge ordered the family to pay back the city only $80,000 the next seven years,” a solution which “leaves city taxpayers $490,000 short.”

The Councilwoman’s Porsche likely won’t be seen around City Hall, either.

“Katrina Brown’s debt to pay off her Porsche was also in the settlement. She got an insurance payout enough to cover the outstanding car loan. Documents don’t disclose why, but sometimes you see payouts after an accident.”

Three-way dance in at-large 2

A Democrat might jump into the scrum in Jacksonville City Council’s at-large District 2.

Darren Mason — a member of Duval Democratic Party leadership and an alumnus of the office of current Councilwoman Joyce Morgan — is mulling a run.

Darren Mason is prepared to flex his political muscles and enter the field of play for 2019.

Currently, two Republicans are in the race: well-financed Ron Salem and former Councilman Bill Bishop.

The calculus: Bishop and Salem would cannibalize the Republican vote in this citywide race, clearing a path to the runoff for Mason.

Worth noting: oppo on Bishop was pushed out in 2015 when he ran for Mayor.

Worth asking: Does Mason have Google?

He should be in the race by mid-January, according to an informed source.

Happening Saturday 

State Sen. Travis Hutson and state Rep. Paul Renner, both of Palm Coast, join Farm Share to host a free food distribution at the WE Harris Community Center, 400 Harris St. Distribution begins  9 a.m., and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

JTA launches test track for self-driving vehicles

Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s new autonomous vehicle (AV) test track opened Wednesday, featuring a self-driving 12-passenger vehicle.

The JTA track — between Intuition and Daily’s Place — will research different AVs over the next two years, writes Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal. The inaugural ride was with a Transdev vehicle with room for six seated passengers and six standing passengers.

JTA unveiled a new autonomous vehicle test track, open to the public to help users get used to the technology and to provide JTA with feedback.

“In Jacksonville, we clearly continue to stay ahead of the curve in how we provide transportation to our citizens,” CEO Nat Ford told the Journal. “We thought really big with this.”

The track will see a rotation of vehicles — of various sizes — every six months, testing different speeds and functionalities to select the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) as part of the Skyway infrastructure. JTA intends to retrofit the 2.5-mile Skyway infrastructure, with offramps to expand the transit system into Brooklyn, LaVilla, San Marco, to EverBank Field and more.

City Council to review Jacksonville Zoo ‘living shoreline’ project

After six years of talk and planning, an eco-friendly project to stem erosion at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens shoreline may finally be realized — pending City Council approval.

Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union reports that the city’s Environmental Protection Board voted in November to fund a “living shoreline” project, using part of a $165,000 trust made up from fines collected from polluters.

In addition to city council approval, legislation to allow the money to be spent must be filed — expected sometime this winter, Patterson writes.

The project showing Jacksonville Zoo’s proposed ‘living shoreline.’

According to city lawyers, an agreement for the new money must be treated like a construction project, one where Public Works Department officials review and approve. Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a project permit, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved the project.

Usually, a bulkhead would be used to stop the waves, but it would isolate turtles, wading birds, crabs and other creatures in the river from shallower water. Bulkheads can also be affected by the water and storms.

The proposed living shoreline would be a more sustainable way to block waves, applying reef balls in the river adjacent to the shore’s low-tide line. Reef balls, concrete domes with holes, intended to allow shellfish and other creatures grab hold and start new reefs to filter water and slow waves.

Three UF Health Jacksonville leaders to retire

As 2017 ends, three of UF Health Jacksonville senior leaders — Russ Armistead, CEO; Penny Thompson, vice president of Government Affairs; and Bill Ryan, senior vice president and chief financial officer — enter retirement. Each made significant contributions to patients and staff for years to come.

Russ Armistead, Penny Thompson and Bill Ryan.

On Aug. 16, 2004, Armistead was recruited to UF Health in Gainesville as associate vice president of Finance and Planning. In December 2012, amid negotiations to take an administrative position at Augusta University, then known as Georgia Regents University, UF Health President David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., asked Armistead to become CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and use his financial expertise to lead the hospital into a more profitable future. Armistead began as CEO Jan. 7, 2013.

His legacy includes improving the cultural harmony of hospital staff and physicians through hospitality training, promoting increased employee engagement numbers by addressing issues that matter to staff, and by making himself available through weekly rounds and his “A Few Minutes with Us” biweekly video series.

On Jan. 1, Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, will assume the role of CEO following Armistead’s retirement.

Thompson began her career with UF Health Jacksonville Jan. 20, 1987, as director of communications and marketing. In this role, she fostered important relationships within the media and the community to make UF Health Jacksonville a more well-known resource for patients in its service areas.

Thompson served the past 18 years as vice president of Government Affairs. Her accomplishments include playing a vital role in securing an additional $2 million in city funding for the hospital, which unlocked more than $18 million in federal funding. She also secured funding through the hospital’s Volunteer Services budget to start the Arts in Medicine program, which has transformed the experiences of countless patients in their time of need. Thompson was also key in establishing UF Health Jacksonville as one of two designated Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in the city of Jacksonville.

Ryan joined UF Health Jacksonville as CFO in December 2001, believing he was fully prepared to manage the financial assets of a large academic hospital. Ryan admirably negotiated the internal relations, budgets and debt arrangements to successfully maintain UF Health Jacksonville as a fully functioning and valuable safety-net hospital for the Jacksonville community.

In September 2003, Ryan retired, but would return as CFO in July 2015.

Predictions for 2018

For the third straight year, Florida Politics has advanced predictions for 2018 in Northeast Florida.

Super Bowl Shuffle for Shahid Kahn and the mayor? We predict it!

Last year, we got a whopping 40 percent right.

Could we do worse this year? It’s possible!

Our crystal ball sees Al Lawson and John Rutherford walking to re-election in the House.

We also see a Democrat — perhaps even one with a pulse — emerging to run against Curry.

JEA privatization, we believe, will be a tough sell.

Real candidates will emerge to face City Council incumbents Anna Brosche, Katrina Brown and Garrett Dennis.

And the Jaguars will … GULP … win the Super Bowl.

Read the whole slate here.

Also worth reading: People to watch in 2018 and How botched were last year’s predictions?

Last Call for 1.4.18 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, an early champion of medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State, came out strong after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday rescinded the federal policy on medical marijuana.

“This is what happens when a do-nothing Congress hands major policy decisions to unelected bureaucrats in order to avoid confronting difficult issues,” Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, tweeted Thursday.

Selling marijuana is still a federal crime, but the Obama administration had given guidance to federal prosecutors to not charge those, particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers,” who distribute and use medical marijuana under a state law.

The AP reported: “Instead of the previous lenient federal-enforcement policy, Sessions’ new stance will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it.”

Bradley also tweeted, “Fix the pot law, Congress! Leave alone states with medical marijuana and take marijuana out of Schedule 1,” referring to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification system. That schedule is for “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” including heroin, LSD and peyote.

He added in a follow-up tweet, “Florida has designed a medical marijuana system that is safe and secure and holds specific entities accountable for bad behavior. It’s not the Wild West, like California,” where a new legalization law allowing recreational use went into effect Jan. 1.

“If federal authorities are now scrutinizing states, Florida will be the model,” Bradley said.

Evening Reads

Trump administration plans to allow expanded drilling off U.S. continental waters” via Darryl Fears of the Washington Post

As Trump moves to open waters to drilling, Florida lawmakers vow to protect coast” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun-Sentinel

Audubon happy Rick Scott opposes drilling, releases Session priorities” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis ‘surprised’ by Donald Trump’s new feud with Steve Bannon” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

What Rick Scott’s legacy as governor will look like” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Governor’s office seeks $1,200 to respond to Gwen Graham’s Hollywood Hills query” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Jeremy Ring snags a pile of endorsements from state lawmakers” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

What’s the Tallahassee landscape after the ouster of Jack Latvala” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida farmers brace for cold weather” via The News Service of Florida

Those iguanas falling from trees in Florida? They probably aren’t dead” via Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times

Quote of the Day

“As a fan of the president’s, I hope that [Massachusetts senator and liberal icon] Elizabeth Warren is the Democratic nominee. That would be a dream come true for us.” — Brian Ballard, longtime Florida lobbyist and top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, as quoted in a McClatchyDC.com story.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Republican political operative and pundit Roger Stone is slated to speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. That’s at 11:45 a.m., Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr., Orlando.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will speak to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches. That’s at noon, Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.

The Florida Board of Chiropractic Medicine is scheduled to hold a conference call. That’s at 1 p.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 7342425515.

The Republican Party of Florida will begin its two-day annual meeting, with events including evening caucus meetings. They begin at 7 p.m., Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Dr., Orlando.

Last Call for 1.3.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

A National Rifle Association lobbyist wants ousted Sen. Jack Latvala to give some of his millions in leftover campaign funds to children with disabilities.

“I am not asking for money for bicycles, Nintendo Switch or PS4 game consoles … I am asking for money to buy the gift of reading, the gift of writing and the gift of math,” Marion P. Hammer writes in an open letter to Latvala.

Hammer works as a volunteer with Dyslexia Research Institute and its laboratory school, Woodland Hall Academy. She has asked Latvala to make the check out to them.

Latvala was pushed out of office after two separate Senate investigations concluded he sexually harassed women in his orbit and may have traded votes for a sexual encounter.

His resignation is effective Jan. 5, but the money he has raised in his bid for governor is still available to him.

Evening Reads

Florida’s 1.5 million missing voters” via The New York Times editorial board

Florida ranks third for small-business job growth in 2017, study says” via Keith Larsen of the South Florida Business Journal

Sean Shaw to decide on Attorney General bid in ‘very near future’ ” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Outgoing UNF president John Delaney eyeing potential run for Legislature” via Melissa Ross of WJCT

What’s in a name? Not ‘community’ college” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida

Relieve all nine terrifying minutes of the great Tallahassee blizzard of 2018” via Mark Hinson of the Tallahassee Democrat

Miami clears way to transfer bay site to casino giant Genting” via John Robbins of Miami Today

Derek Jeter business plan projects big profits and spike in Marlins attendance” via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald

Consultant wants lawmakers to declare UCF national champs” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“The icepocalypse in Tallahassee has passed. Please return to your regularly scheduled hysteria.” Paul Flemming, a public information officer at the Florida Office of State Courts Administrator, tweeted on Wednesday morning after it stopped snowing in Tallahassee.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering will hold an all-day public workshop on new rules governing card games in Florida. That’s at 9 a.m., North Broward Regional Service Center, 1400 W. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.

The Law Enforcement Officers’ Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet to consider nominations for inclusion for 2018. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 2331 Phillips Road, Room B1055, Tallahassee.

The Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys will hold a conference call. That’s at 10 a.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 2057836401.

A panel that will include state Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, will discuss the opioid crisis at the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club. That’s at noon, Michael’s on East, 1212 East Ave. South, Sarasota.

A meeting will be held on The Florida Opportunity Fund of Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization. That’s at 3 p.m., 750 S. Orlando Ave., Suite 200, Winter Park.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat running for governor, will deliver remarks at the Palm Beach Democratic Party’s monthly meeting in Delray Beach. That’s at 7:15 p.m., South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach.

The Delegation for 1.3.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Congress returns facing monster agenda

Congress returns today following the Christmas recess. Whether the cold weather or a daunting agenda is the most depressing, some members may wish they could have stayed home longer.

A full “to-do” list confronts them as they resume arguing on any possible solutions those issues. With an election year looming, plays to the bases of both parties will be in vogue.

Heading the list — again — is funding the federal government. The continuing resolution passed during the final days of 2017 gives the government enough money to fully operate through December 19.

Congress returns with funding the federal government first on the agenda.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was also facing a deadline before a stopgap funding bill kept it going until March. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is also facing a March deadline imposed by President Donald Trump.

These are huge issues legislators like to put off, but certainly not tackle, in a short period — especially when nearly 88 percent of House and Senate seats are on the ballot in November.

“Some of these things they are talking about are huge, contentious issues,” Jane Calderwood, Chief of Staff to then-Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe told The Washington Post. “I can’t imagine it’s doable, and certainly not doable in a thoughtful way.”

Things can deteriorate rapidly if election-year politics dominates the policy debates.

For example, Republicans will most likely want a “clean bill” for the government funding measure. Democrats, who are smarting from criticism by immigration activists over not forcing a DACA bill last month, may look to tie that issue to funding the government.

It doesn’t end there. Trump has said there would be no DACA fix unless there is funding for a border wall, an end to what is known as “chain migration” as well as terminating the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, also known as the “immigration lottery.”

Another issue of particular interest to Floridians is the disaster relief bill. The House passed the $81 billion measure on December 21, but the Senate took no action.

Some in the House fear the Senate will expand the price tag to such an extent that budget-conscious members in non-affected states could balk. Florida agriculture (as well as disaster victims in Texas and California) needs assistance quickly.

The legislative schedule is out, showing Congress takes one week off for each monthly holiday until June. Look for calls from those in tight re-election races to call for shorter breaks.

The fact that this is a pivotal election year will become clear in relatively short order.

Nelson claims Congress is hurting Puerto Rico

Democrats in the House and Senate have often said the Trump administration’s response to the plight of Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria. Florida’s senior senator has joined that criticism, but last week he took a shot at his colleagues in Congress.

Following a trip to the island after Christmas with Democratic Rep. Darren Soto from Orlando, Nelson lamented the fact that so many are still without power and some of the necessities to recover. More than three months after the storm hit, Nelson feels Puerto Ricans remain neglected.

Puerto Rico is being ‘neglected’ in help for Hurricane Maria, Bill Nelson says.

“Puerto Rico is not being treated right,” Nelson said. “You can imagine here in Florida if we had gone 97 days without electricity people would be so hopping mad they would absolutely demand things.”

Nelson took it even further with some dramatic rhetoric. Not only is Congress not helping Puerto Rico, but their actions are actually hurting residents. According to Nelson, the recently enacted tax reform bill eliminated benefits previously enjoyed by Puerto Ricans.

“A knife was put to the neck of Puerto Rico,” Nelson said, adding: “This is not right. This is not fair.”

The current disaster relief bill pending in the Senate would require Puerto Rico to pay for 10 to 25 percent of its recovery dollars. The U.S. Commonwealth is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

“Puerto Ricans are Americans,” he said. “They are U.S. citizens, and a lot of my fellow members of Congress don’t understand that.”

Rubio: Maybe tax reform leans too far toward corporations

Even a week after Congress passed, and Trump signed, the controversial tax reform bill, it continued to be a source of news stories. The two-term Florida Republican made significant headlines with comments before and after the proposal cleared Congress.

After threatening to vote “no,” the two-term Republican won concessions for the Child Tax Credit, thereby earning his support. Now, he seems to agree with some of the Democratic criticism of the bill.

Marco Rubio seems to echo Democratic criticism of the GOP tax reform proposal.

“I thought we probably went too far on (helping) corporations,” Rubio told a group of reporters. “By and large, you’re going to see a lot of these multinationals buy back shares to drive up the price. Some of them will be forced, because they’re sitting on historic levels of cash, to pay out dividends to shareholders. That isn’t going to create dramatic economic growth.”

Despite the analysis, Rubio remains pleased that the bill passed.

“There’s a lot of things in the bill that I have supported for a long time (such as) doubling the Child Tax Credit,” he said. “And it is better — significantly better — than the current code.”

Politics on DACA fix coming front and center

The House and Senate are getting ready to take up a legislative solution to address those younger undocumented immigrants who have been protected from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. Trump canceled the order signed by former President Barack Obama and gave Congress 6 months to come up with a fix.

Democrats are trying to turn up the heat on Republicans with a series of videos highlighting individuals who are affected by what Congress either does or does not do. Part of the urgency comes from the fact Democrats were criticized by activists for not sticking with demands for a DACA fix before the year ended.

The videos are in the range of 1:30 to more than two minutes. The Democratic National Committee is distributing them to activists and media around the country.

“In the time since the Trump Administration eliminated DACA, more than 13,000 DREAMers have lost their legal status to live, study and work in the United States of America,” the DNC email said. “As we enter 2018, the fate of nearly 800,000 DREAMers continues to remain in the balance. Trump’s reckless decision to end DACA without a proper legislative solution will not only harm DREAMers but also our nation’s economy.”

Trump has another take. In a tweet, he said “Democrats are doing nothing for DACA — just interested in politics. DACA activists and Hispanics will go hard against Dems, will start “falling in love” with Republicans and their President! We are about results.”

The president has said there will be no deal on DACA without funding for a border wall and the end to “chain migration” and the immigration lottery.

Gaetz casts only ‘no’ vote against human trafficking bill

Just before leaving for the Christmas recess, Congress passed and sent to the president a bill designed to have the federal government work more closely with states to combat human trafficking. That bill, the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act, passed the Senate and the House with only one “no” vote.

The lone “nay” vote was cast by Ft. Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz. His primary opponent, Cris Dosev, was quick to blast the first-term representative.

Matt Gaetz cast the only ‘no’ vote on the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act.

“That Matt Gaetz could vote against a law to fight human trafficking and sex slave trade is beyond comprehension,” Dosev said in a release. “What was he thinking?”

Gaetz defended his action in a Facebook live posting, saying he voted no because, despite the best intentions of the bill, it represented “mission creep” at the federal level. He criticized the creation of a coordinator and a committee within the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to develop best practices for states and transportation groups to combat human trafficking.

“Unless there is an overwhelming, compelling reason that our existing agencies in the federal government can’t handle that problem, I vote no because voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington to go and create more federal government,” Gaetz said. “If anything, we should be abolishing a lot of the agencies at the federal level like the Department of Education, like the EPA and sending that power back to our state governments.”

Gaetz also responded to Dosev without mentioning him by name.

“He apparently takes the view that we really do need to address our problems with more government,” he said. “And so, if that’s your view, if your view is we’ve got to grow government to solve our problems rather than prioritizing the entities that we already have, well I assure you there’s a candidate out there for you, but It’s not me.”

DeSantis inching toward run for governor

For anyone needing further proof the Ponte Vedra Republican is running for governor, his end-of-year actions point toward a departure from Congress. DeSantis, who has become a regular visitor to Fox News and other media outlets is already building a team.

On Friday, DeSantis announced several national big names, headed by Palm Beach billionaire Thomas Peterffy and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, to a national finance team. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus is also on board.

Another prominent name is David Bossie, Chairman of Citizens United, whose victory in the U.S. Supreme Court removed restrictions and unleashed unlimited campaign spending in political races.

Ron DeSantis is building his financing team for a possible run for Florida Governor.

While the signs point toward a run, DeSantis is still playing his cards close to the vest. He may have received his most significant national boost last week when President Trump weighed in with his support via Twitter.

Democrats believe they have a chance in Congressional District 6 if DeSantis leaves. Nancy Soderberg, who announced a run against DeSantis in July, had already raised $336,000 as of September 30.

So far the Republican side of the 2018 governor’s race has Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam running well ahead of anyone else. The only other major announced candidate, state Sen. Jack Latvala, is expected to withdraw soon, while the only other major expected candidate, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, has said he would wait until after the 2018 Legislative Session before deciding.

The Democratic field includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

Murphy wins bet on Peach Bowl outcome

As she returns to Washington for the new year, the first-term Democrat from Winter Park will soon have a bucket full of Florida oranges in her office. Alabama Republican Mike Rogers will deliver them.

Murphy can thank the University of Central Florida Knights, who defeated Auburn 34-27 in Monday’s Peach Bowl, for the citrus. Before the game, Rogers — who represents the district where the Auburn campus is located — made a wager with Murphy on the outcome.

Alabama’s Mike Rogers loses a Peach Bowl bet to Stephanie Murphy.

Rogers must now deliver the oranges to Murphy’s office in a UCF helmet. Murphy represents the area of Orlando hosting the UCF campus.

Had Auburn won, as most expected, Murphy would have been forced to “roll” the small oak tree from Toomer’s Corner oak lineage onto the lawn at the U.S. Capitol.

Former FBI agent to run against Bilirakis

When the calendar turns to an election year, candidates begin announcing their runs for re-election or challenges to incumbents. For the Palm Harbor Republican, the opposite has occurred.

A former FBI agent and federal prosecutor from Trinity announced on Tuesday his candidacy to challenge the six-term congressman.

“American service is an enduring promise that crosses generations, connects us to one another, and inspires hope,” said Democrat Chris Hunter, 44. “All of us are looking forward to renewing the American promise of service to our country and to one another.”

Expect the political commentary involving the FBI to be part of Hunter’s stump speeches.

Former federal prosecutor Chris Hunter is the second Democrat to file against Gus Bilirakis in Florida’s 12th Congressional District.

Hunter is a political newcomer who applied to the FBI following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and as an agent focused on counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and international fugitive investigations. He most recently worked as a senior prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice concentrating on health care fraud.

Congressional District 12, which covers all of Pasco County and part of north Pinellas, is a heavily Republican district that Donald Trump won by nearly 19 percentage points. Bilirakis’s father, Mike Bilirakis, held the seat for more than two decades before Gus, 54, succeeded him.

“Public service is a privilege,” said Hunter, 44. “It is not an entitlement program for career politicians. Career politicians who sell out to the highest bidder or to political power brokers violate the trust we all place in our government. What’s worse, they turn their backs on our shared values and the true meaning of American service.”

F. Rooney livens up holidays with ‘purge’ comments

The Christmas holidays are often fairly quiet as far as news headlines go, but the Naples Republican shook up the post-Christmas holidays with a comment that generated big headlines. When he said last week the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice needed a “purge,” the country noticed.

Rooney, being interviewed by MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson, explained that he “would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it,” he replied. He added that “we’ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here, those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good works being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.”

Francis Rooney caused a stir over the holidays by suggesting a ‘purge’ of the FBI.

Rooney’s specific agitation was with some involved in the ongoing investigation of alleged ties between agents of Russian influence and the Presidential campaign of Trump.

“That investigation is totally off the rails … I’m very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it ‘deep state’ or what, are kind of off the rails,” Rooney asserted, adding that the DOJ and FBI don’t “respect the Constitution.”

After some reflection, Rooney, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, reconsidered his use of the word “purge.”

“It might be a pretty strong word. I’m not maybe the most nuanced political person in the world,” Rooney said in a Wednesday interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

At the same time, he said he was “pretty frustrated” with bias among FBI and DOJ officials on the investigation into the Trump campaign.

Poll: Mast in statistical tie with hypothetical Democrat

An end-of-year survey found the Palm City Republican nearly even with a hypothetical 2018 Democrat opponent. The survey conducted by the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP), showed Mast leading the generic candidate by a point, but trailing 47-45 when respondents were given additional information on the recent tax reform bill.

The survey results likely gave some encouragement to the two Democrats running against Mast: Lauren Baer and Pam Keith.

Lauren Baer and Pam Keith get some encouragement from new polling in the race against Brian Mast.

Baer, a former U.S. State Department official under President Obama, leads her primary rival with $250,000 raised through the end of the third quarter and had about $236,000 on hand. She has also picked up an endorsement from the Victory Fund gay rights advocacy group and, if elected, would be the Sunshine State’s first openly gay member of Congress.

Keith, who lost her bid for U.S. Senate in 2016, had raised $150,000 for her campaign through the end of September and had just under $64,000 in the bank. The Navy veteran and labor lawyer from Palm Beach Gardens picked up an endorsement from VoteVets, a progressive-politics organization dedicated to getting military veterans elected to public office.

Both Democrats trail Mast, also a military veteran. He has raised $1.58 million through September 30 and had about $921,000 on hand, with no Republican Primary challenger in sight. Despite the money advantage, the district remains a priority for Democrats as they seek to retake the House in 2018.

Hispanic Caucus leaders endorse Curbelo opponent

Democrats believe that if they are to retake the House of Representatives in 2018, they must defeat the two-term Republican from Kendall. Curbelo’s main competitor, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, picked up two Christmastime endorsements from House Hispanic leaders.

California Democrats Pete Aguilar and Linda Sanchez both endorsed Mucarsel-Powell, her campaign announced. Aguilar is whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Sanchez is the past chair.

The Democratic-dominated caucus last month rejected caucus membership for Curbelo, based on his positions and activities regarding the DREAM Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Republican tax bill that was approved in late December.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell gets a boost from members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“I am proud to support Debbie in her run for Congress,” Aguilar said in a news release. “Like so many immigrants, Debbie and her family came to America in search of a better life for their children — and by working two and three jobs, learning English at night, and by never giving up, Debbie was able to achieve the American Dream.”

Sanchez added, “As an immigrant and a Latina, Debbie is the champion Miami families deserve in Washington to advocate for this community. Debbie has spent her career expanding health care access to underserved communities in South Florida, predominantly serving communities of color.”

Earlier in December, Mucarsel-Powell announced endorsements from South Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel.

“Congressman Aguilar and Congresswoman Sanchez want a colleague they count on and the families of FL-26 want a representative they can depend on, unlike my opponent who says one thing at home and does another in DC.”

Curbelo is unapologetic for his votes. In a Twitter exchange with former WIOD radio talk show host Fernand Amandi, Curbelo makes his case for re-election in a Democrat-leaning district.

“I campaigned on repeal and replace and tax reform,” he tweeted. “My constituents elected me by a wide margin. I kept my word and voted accordingly and in your tribal world that disqualifies me.”

As of September 30, Curbelo had $1.35 million cash on hand while Mucarsel-Powell had $162,000.

Jamestown Associates names new partners, COO

Jamestown Associates has made some key personnel moves, with Barney Keller and Jon Kohan named partners, and Lisa Morrison promoted to chief operating officer. Jamestown is the award-winning Republican political consulting firm primarily responsible for advertising in Trump’s 2016 presidential victory.

Republican consulting firm Jamestown Associates is making some key personnel moves.

CEO Larry Weitzner praises the changes in a statement: “Barney and Jon excel at everything they do, and they will make great partners as Jamestown Associates continues to grow. They work hard, think smart and, most importantly, always put the client first, which has been a core of our philosophy from the beginning. Lisa has been with Jamestown for over a decade. She is a proven leader and manager, and as we grow, Lisa will ensure our continued smooth operations.”

Combined, the trio brings more than 30 years of earned experience through some of the nation’s toughest political campaigns, the statement adds.

Delegation could grow by two seats after 2020 census

Florida continues to be an attractive location to live according to the most recent statistics. That means the state may be in line to pick up two additional seats in Congress.

The U.S. Census estimates Florida’s population is now 20.98 million, with the state growing at a 1.6 percent clip — tied with Arizona for the fifth-largest percentage population increase between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017.

Only Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Washington expanded at larger percentages, as the nation’s estimated population stands at 325.7 million, a 2.3 million increase.

Florida’s congressional delegation may grow by two, to 29, in 2020 based on new Census numbers and population projections.

The addition of 327,811 Floridians over the past year, and projection by Election Data Services for the state to hit 22.23 million in 2020, accounts for the likely expansion of the state’s congressional delegation.

If the 2020 Census confirms these trends, Florida could become an even more critical swing state in presidential elections. With two more House seats, the delegation would swell to 29 House districts, and when adding the two senators, the state would carry 31 electoral votes.

For every state that gains seats, there are others who lose. Election Data Services projects Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon would each increase a seat, while Texas could grab three, after the 2020 Census.

Meanwhile, to keep the U.S. House at 435 members, Alabama, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia would each drop a seat. Illinois could lose one or two, having to battle Minnesota for the other seat.

California, 39.5 million, and Texas, 28.3 million, remain the only states ahead of Florida regarding population. California grew by 240,177, the third-largest increase. Texas topped the growth list by adding 399,734 people.

Paulson’s Politics: Florida’s Congressional Delegation will be bigger; will it be better?

In many respects, Florida’s congressional delegation reflects some of the best and worst aspects of a congressional delegation. On the positive side, Florida continues to have massive population growth which is reflected in a growing number of representatives in Congress.

On the negative side, even though Florida now has the third largest delegation in Congress, it has constantly been rated as one of the weakest state delegations in Congress.

A recent Roll Call study of state delegations found that Florida’s “ratio of clout to delegate size is the lowest of any state.”

Florida entered the union in 1845 and had a single representative for a quarter of a century. As late as 1899, Florida had only two representatives. Florida’s population growth and growth in the size of the congressional delegation did not occur until World War II.

During the war, Florida had over 20 military bases which trained hundreds of thousands of military personnel. Many of these soldiers would move to Florida after the war or after they retired.

This massive population growth in Florida would not have been possible without technological advancements such as the control of mosquitoes and other insects, the emergence of home air conditioning and the development of the interstate highway system.

It was not until after the 1960 census that Florida’s congressional delegation grew to 10 members. Each passing decade would add three to four new members to the delegation. By 2000, Florida had 25 members in its delegation. Two more members were added after the 2010 census and during that decade Florida passed New York to become the third largest state.

The most recent census numbers reflect state population as of July 1, 2017. From 2010 through 2017, Florida had the fifth fastest rate of growth and added 2,179,806 people to the state. Florida’s current population stands at 20,984,400.

If population growth continues at the current rate, by 2020 Texas will add two new members, and Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Oregon will each add one new member. With six new members going to the above-listed states, it means that Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose one representative.

The final changes will take effect in 2022, after the 2020 census is completed.

Few states can come close to matching Florida’s post-World War II population and congressional growth. Unfortunately for Florida, no State has less political clout that Florida. Bigger is not always better.

In 172 years of statehood, no Floridian has been selected as Speaker of the House, majority or minority leader in either the House or Senate and only one Florida member of Congress, Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young of Pinellas County, has ever been chair of one of the three “power committees” of Congress. Young chaired the House Appropriations Committee from 1999 to 2005.

Florida’s massive population growth has not helped Florida in having more power in Congress. Florida now has 29 electoral votes in presidential elections, and will have at least 30 by the time of the 2024 election. As the only competitive mega-state, Florida will continue to receive massive attention in presidential campaigns.

The bad news for Florida is that our congressional delegation will continue to be the Rodney Dangerfield of congressional politics. Our representatives “get no respect.”

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.3.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

First in Sunburn — Ronald A. Brisé, the former state utility regulator denied a third term by Gov. Rick Scott, now is joining the Gunster law firm as a government affairs consultant.

The news was shared first with Florida Politics (as was yesterday’s exclusive, ICYMI, on McGuireWoods Consulting opening a new Tallahassee office).

Brisé will join his former Public Service Commission (PSC) colleague Lila Jaber, now Gunster’s Regional Managing Shareholder. He will be based in the Tallahassee and Orlando offices.

“Ron brings a tremendous amount of legislative and agency experience with him to Gunster, which complements our government affairs services and strengthens our statewide footprint even further,” managing shareholder Bill Perry said in a statement.

Brisé was first appointed to the PSC, which regulates investor-owned utilities, in 2010 by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Brisé had reapplied for another term before Scott decided to go with former state Rep. Ritch Workman. Workman since withdrew his nomination after a sexual misconduct allegation.

Brisé, who also served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2006-10, “leverages a wealth of experience in governmental, legislative, political and business arenas to represent clients in matters that include appropriations, business development, education, governmental and legislative affairs, public policy, and economic development,” the firm said.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @MarcoRubio#IranProtest result of regime that spent billions of $ to prop up Hezbollah, Assad & Huthi missiles instead of prosperity for own people

— @RichardCorcoran: Sanctuary cities are a threat to the safety of our communities. On week one of Session, the Florida House will pass a bill that will enforce the rule of law.

@MDixon55: Senate Majority still Backs Jack (Latvala)? He’s on invite committee sent out this morning for its pre-session Tallahassee fundraiser.

— @Justice2Jesus: AS WE APPROACH FL LEG REG SESS 2018 THERE IS NO REAL PURPOSE TO LOOK FORWARD TO AS NOBODY REALLY IS DOING WHATS RIGHT, IF EVEN THEY KNEW.

— @criminalDfense: First official day for Josh Doyle as The Executive Director of @theflabar! Congratulations Josh! I am thrilled to work with you and look forward to wonderful times ahead!

— @SkipFoster: BREAKING: @NWSTallahassee calling for up to 1 inch of snow/.1 inch of ice in Leon County.

— @Fineout: so if it’s really going to snow in Tallahassee, I think it should be a week from today. And if we are wishing, make it a blizzard

— @KMcGrory: Let this headline sink in: Monster storm to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks tremendous cold late this week

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Under Terrie Rizzo, Florida Democratic Party’s shaky finances get ‘immediate’ boost” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Less than a month into her new role and following a period of turmoil at the Florida Democratic Party, Chair Terrie Rizzo gave an “immediate” $253,000 boost to the party’s shaky finances. Rizzo told Florida Democratic Leadership in a memo that the party’s financial team called on “Democrats and Democratic leaders from every corner of the state” and raised the money in 21 days. Even with the recent spike, the party has less than half a million dollars in the bank heading into an expensive election year, which includes the governor’s race and a handful of highly-contested statehouse races.

Ron DeSantis edges out Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran in Republican gubernatorial matchup” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News — A new poll from Remington Research Group found DeSantis … routes both Putnam and Corcoran in a hypothetical matchup, taking 28 percent of the vote to Putnam’s 25 percent. Corcoran received only 3 percent of the Republican primary vote in the hypothetical robopoll matchup, while a significantly larger portion of voters — 44 percent — said they are undecided as to who they’d vote for in the GOP primary. When the options were narrowed to two — DeSantis and Putnam — DeSantis once again narrowly took the lead over the state Ag Commissioner, taking 30 percent to Putnam’s 29 percent. More than a third of poll respondents — 36 percent — self-identified as “Trump Republicans,” while another 31 percent said they were “Christian Conservatives.” Only 14 percent said they were traditional conservatives. The smallest number — 5 percent — identified as Tea Party Republicans. The poll, published by a group run by former Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz adviser and political consultant Jeff Roe, does not have any apparent or publicly known ties to any Florida gubernatorial candidates or campaigns.

Fred Costello’s new congressional campaign hit with FEC complaint” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — … a likely precursor to what’s going to be a sharp-elbowed GOP primary. Costello is running for the 6th Congressional District, which includes southern Jacksonville and stretches down to New Smyrna Beach. It is currently represented by Republican Rep. DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for governor. The complaint, filed by Orange City resident Tom Homan, alleges that Costello was campaigning prior to being an official candidate, which could violate federal election laws. The 10-page complaint points to the fact that Costello told local media outlets his potential policy platform and discussed a run when addressing local business and political leaders, including calling himself the “best candidate.” “As early as Aug. 9, 2017, Costello had made unequivocal public statements through an orchestrated and planned media rollout that he was a candidate for Florida’s sixth US congressional district,” read the complaint. Costello said that he does not think he violated any rules, including one that limits potential candidates to spending less than $5,000 prior to officially filing.

Federal prosecutor steps up to challenge Gus Bilirakis” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “American service is an enduring promise that crosses generations, connects us to one another, and inspires hope,” said Democrat Chris Hunter, 44. “All of us are looking forward to renewing the American promise of service to our country and to one another.” Hunter is a political newcomer who applied to the FBI following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and as an agent focused on counterintelligence, counterterrorism and international fugitive investigations. He most recently worked as a senior prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice concentrating on health care fraud. Concerns about President Donald Trump‘s leadership helped him decide to take on an uphill political campaign. Congressional District 12, which covers all of Pasco County and part of north Pinellas, is a heavily Republican district that Trump won by nearly 19 percentage points.

Political foe takes aim at state House seat held by Republican Party chief” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times – Former Hernando County Commissioner Jeff Stabins pre-filed paperwork to challenge state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia for the House District 35 seat, which represents most of Hernando County. Stabins, 58 and also of Spring Hill, served three previous terms in the Legislature and two terms on the County Commission. He comes into this race swinging at Ingoglia, who has been a political foe for some time. For Ingoglia, who heads the state Republican Party, this is his first primary challenge. Ingoglia also has pre-filed, seeking his third consecutive term in the Legislature. No other candidate has stepped forward seeking the seat.

Republicans can’t generate buzz for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat, and some say it’s unwinnable” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The seat that encompasses Little Havana, most of downtown Miami and Miami Beach is now considered unwinnable by some Republicans in Congress and fundraisers who could infuse millions into a competitive congressional race, according to interviews with high-ranking GOP officials and potential donors. Keeping Ros-Lehtinen’s seat was always going to be a challenge for Republicans after the longtime Miami congresswoman announced her retirement in May. Republicans couldn’t draw top-tier recruits, such as Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera; one announced candidate made national news for claiming to have boarded a spaceship with aliens; fundraising has lagged, and one of the top GOP candidates recently left the race. “The seat is now going to go to the Democrats,” said Raquel Regalado, a former Miami-Dade school board member and candidate for Miami-Dade mayor who recently announced she was dropping out of the Republican race to replace Ros-Lehtinen.

Carlos Guillermo Smith re-election video doesn’t hold back” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The minute-20-second video dubbed “Pride in 49” is being sponsored on social media including Facebook. In that speech, Smith declares that pride means having the courage to love who you want, to be unapologetic and to live lives “openly and without fear.” The video scenes go back and forth between Smith at the podium, and Smith out walking in the parade. “And yes, to be proud of who we are as LGBTQ Floridians also means we need to push back against discrimination, not just against homophobia and transphobia, but we also need to challenge racism, and we need to challenge xenophobia, and we need to challenge Islamophobia,” Smith continues. “That is Orlando United … My name is Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, and I am a progressive, feminist, queer, Latino, liberal, Democrat, and I am proudly serving you all in the Florida House of Representatives. Soy Latino!” he concludes, [“I am Latino.”]

Click on the image below to watch the video.

What Tony DeSisto is reading —In exchange for a political donation, David Simon will personally apologize for killing Omar on The Wire” via Matthew Dessum of Slate — Simon, the creator and showrunner of The Wire, has found a unique way to raise money for Democratic candidates: anyone who donates $1,000 or more to a slate of progressive congressional candidates before midnight will receive a personal apology from Simon for killing off beloved character Omar Little. Little, played by Michael K. Williams, was a charming and intelligent stickup artist who made a living robbing drug dealers; he was eventually — and unceremoniously — shot to death in the show’s final season. Simon made the offer on Twitter while explaining the urgency: the candidates in question must raise $100,000 by the end of 2017 to earn matching funds from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Article you won’t read in Sunburn –Florida Legislative Session 2018: Five issues to watch” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times because the first two issues the story highlights are “budget” and “education.” Really, the budget and education should be watched this Session. #Shocking

Richard Corcoran vows to pass ‘sanctuary city’ ban bill on week 1 of Session” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — On week one of Session, House Speaker Corcoran is determined to pass a bill that would penalize local officials who support the passage of so-called “sanctuary city” policies. State Rep. Larry Metz championed an identical bill last year that passed the Florida House, but went nowhere in the Senate. The same effort, however, went nowhere in the Senate. House leadership has made it a priority to push through the bill this year, but whether history will repeat itself in the Senate remains to be seen. Republican Sens. Aaron Bean and Greg Steube are leading the effort in their chamber.

Children collateral damage in opioid epidemic” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — With a 35 percent jump in opioid-related deaths in 2016, legislators are considering a variety of options to stop the spread of drug addiction and to keep patients from getting hooked on prescription medicines that can lead to the use of even more lethal street drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl. Policymakers are focusing their attention on drug users, dealers and doctors. But child-welfare advocates want to make sure that the needs of wounded children and other family members – the collateral damage in the life of an active addict – aren’t forgotten. Teenagers and tweens with drug-addicted parents may not have to enter the child-welfare system because they are not as vulnerable as younger children, who are dependent on others to provide basic necessities, like preparing meals or bathing. The statistics are staggering across the state. The Legislature, which begins its annual session Jan. 9, is moving forward with another Scott proposal that would limit doctors to prescribing seven days’ worth of opioids for patients with acute pain. Research shows a direct correlation between the length of the first prescription for pain medications and the chances of becoming hooked on the drugs. But focusing solely on addicts or would-be users is only a partial solution, child-welfare experts agree.

Group supports Bob Rommel, Dennis Baxley for bills on campus free speech” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Generation Opportunity is sending out campaign mailers lauding Republican state Rep. Rommel and Republican state Sen. Baxley for their support of freedom of speech because the pair introduced bills this Session seeking to prevent college campuses from restricting free speech to “free speech zones.” Generation Opportunity, which promotes conservative economics among young adults, is related to but independent from Americans for Prosperity, the conservative-economics group founded by Charles Koch and David Koch. The Gen-Op Florida flyers going out in Rommel’s House District 106 and Baxley’s Senate District 12 are paid for by Americans for Prosperity. The free-speech on campus issue is one Generation Opportunity has been pushing for a long time, and the Florida measures are similar to bills recently approved in Missouri and Virginia. Rommel’s House Bill 909 and Baxley’s Senate Bill 1234 are titled the “Campus Free Expression Act” and seek to end a practice on many college and university campuses that allow students to exercise free speech only in designated areas. Both bills were filed Dec. 11. Neither has received committee assignments.

Here are the mailers:

and

Never satisfied, environmentalists should just take the win for Lake O reservoir” via Florida Politics — What the Legislature ultimately approved — in the form of a somewhat more palatable Senate Bill 10 — was praised by environmental activists, farming interests (including the sugar industry), local and state leaders. Heralded as a “grand compromise,” SB 10 began the process of building a new southern reservoir, settling the issue once and for all. Or so many thought. Since then, a handful of environmental organizations — the Everglades Foundation, the Sierra Club, Bullsugar among others — began raising concerns over the South Florida Water Management District’s modeling used to develop the reservoir. They just don’t use enough land, the environmentalists say. So why now the red flags? Is it possible that, after a rare legislative success, these environmental groups are seeking further relevance? Or are they so hellbent on buying land, they will risk a Hail Mary pass to get what they wanted — and lost — in the Legislature? Perhaps these concerns are less about the survival of the Everglades than they are about the survival of the Everglades Foundation (and its satellite organizations)?

Bill would pave way for slot machines in north Florida” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A north Florida lawmaker has filed legislation to again allow Gadsden County to hold a “countywide referendum” on authorizing slot machine gambling at a local racetrack. Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Democrat who represents Gadsden and part of Leon County, filed the bill (HB 1111) Tuesday for the 2018 Legislative Session starting next week. But the bill may be a long shot in a Republican-controlled House that opposes expanding gambling. Gretna and Gadsden County — which has “unique economic development challenges,” the bill says — have long sought to add slots.

Bills of late Don Hahnfeldt to be transferred Speaker Corcoran said Tuesday that a motion during Opening Day of Session would be made to transfer the bills sponsored by Hahnfeldt, who unexpectedly died during Christmas break. To accommodate sponsorship, Corcoran said members would be allowed to exceed their six bill limit if necessary. Days before he died, Hahnfeldt filed a bill that would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. The Republican from The Villages was the chief sponsor of nine other measures.

Tweet, tweet:

Florida Cabinet looks less relevant than ever in 2018” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Gov. Scott has scheduled only eight Cabinet meetings for the year ahead, with no meetings in April, July, October and November, those latter two months being close to a busy general election cycle when statewide candidates are usually far from Tallahassee. But Cabinet meetings also are among those rare instances when Scott holds question-and-answer sessions with Capitol reporters. Those will be fewer and farther between in 2018. The Cabinet, made up of Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, met 11 times in 2017 and 2016 and 15 times in 2014.

— STATEWIDE —

Gov. Scott ‘hopes’ Congress finds permanent solution to kids health program funding” via Ryan Benk of WJCT – Congress has passed a funding measure that keeps the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) going through March — the program insures hundreds of thousands of kids in Florida. But without a permanent solution in place by the end of January, many families could see their coverage lapse and Gov. Scott won’t say whether they should be worried. The temporary funding bill partially funds a continuation of CHIP through March. The program helps cover around 200,000 Florida kids from low-income families who don’t qualify for Medicaid but still can’t afford private insurance. Congressional leaders promise a more permanent compromise by the end of this month, but if an agreement isn’t reached, some states — including Florida — will run out of money. In Jacksonville, Scott wouldn’t say whether the state would warn parents of possible disenrollment. “The goal is that the federal government continues the program. Our Agency for Health Care Administration has been working with the federal government,” he said. “We’ve been talking about extending it and I hope that’s what they do.”

Talk is cheap, and help is expensive: Gov. Rick Scott hosted a roundtable in Miami to discuss ongoing relief efforts after Hurricane Maria. Last month, he urged Congress to pass disaster relief funding.

Lottery lawsuit on ‘pathway to resolution,’ new filing saysvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Attorneys for the Florida Lottery and House Speaker Corcoran have confirmed a tentative end to their fight over a multimillion-dollar agency contract, saying in a Tuesday court filing they’re officially on a “pathway to resolution.” The sides filed a status report in the case, now with the 1st District Court of Appeal, asking that the lawsuit stay open but continue in a holding pattern till April 1, after the end of the 2018 Legislative Session. That’s because the “resolution of this matter will turn on the results of the appropriation process,” the report said … Last month, the Lottery agreed to tweak a multiyear deal — for new equipment and other items — to require legislative oversight and approval. 

Corrine Brown asks appeals court for prison reprieve” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Slated to report to prison Jan. 29, former Congresswoman Brown is asking a federal appeals court to allow her to remain free while she continues to fight her conviction on charges related to a charity scam. Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, filed a 37-page document at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that seeks to keep her out of prison while an appeal is pending. The request is based on what will be a key issue in the appeal: whether U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan improperly removed a juror who said during deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty. Kent wrote that the issue could lead to the reversal of Brown’s conviction and, as a result, she should stay out of prison during the appeal. But Corrigan, who sentenced Brown to five years in prison, refused last month to allow her to remain free during the appeal and said she is required to report to prison by noon Jan. 29. Corrigan also rejected arguments that he improperly dismissed the juror.

City of Tallahassee, Democrat forge settlement agreement over public records suit” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The suit alleges that City Manager Rick Fernandez, who is on a paid leave of absence, deleted text messages that showed he asked a local lobbyist for four expensive skybox tickets to a Florida State football game in 2016. When a Democrat reporter asked the city to produce those text messages, the city said no such record existed. Fernandez told the newspaper he never received such tickets. The lobbyist worked at the time of the request for a firm that is at the heart of a federal investigation of the city-county Community Redevelopment Agency and several key business leaders. Under the settlement agreement, which is expected to be Wednesday’s City Commission agenda, the city will formally admit to a violation of the public records law. It then goes on to establish a public records retention policy that may be a model for other cities in the Sunshine State. It recommends several policy changes for commissioners to consider for adoption.

— MARCO RUBIO TALKS (TWEETS) ED. REFORM —

In a two-part series of tweets, U.S. Sen. Rubio claimed government reform will only “fully benefit” a specialized workforce and emphasized the importance of vocational training.

This take grabbed the attention of RedState.com. The online conservative news site used the tweets to highlight the need for evolving education in a changing workforce. There’s a stigma associated with vocational training, RedState’s Joe Cunningham argues, and it’s time for a paradigm shift.

The problem: “Many traditional public schools still hold on to the idea that you need four classes of academic-focused English classes, rather than training kids to write in a professional or business perspective,” writes Cunningham. “They are frequently taught to write short stories and poems but hardly ever taught to write a resume or cover letter.”

The tweets: “#TaxCuts & less regs will grow economy. But only workers with right skills will fully benefit from this growth,” per Rubio’s Twitter. “This is why focus on #VocationalTraining & #Apprenticeship programs for young Americans & displaced workers is more important than ever.”

Something to think about: “Not every student needs a high-level physics or calculus class, but everyone should take business math or a personal finance class,” writes Cunningham.

***Nursing home care is better in states with a Certificate of Need process, because it ensures seniors have access to the right type of care where in the areas they need it most. The best way to ensure a high-quality long-term care sector that balances the need for nursing home care and home and community-based services is to preserve Florida’s Certificate of Need process. That’s why everyone who cares about Florida’s elders should reject the Constitution Revision Commission proposal to eliminate Certificate of Need in Florida.***

— OPINIONS —

Florida’s raging debate over … Daylight Saving Time?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube wants to exempt Florida from the clock-changing tradition and make our state the only one east of the Rockies operating on a different timetable. If you drive across the Georgia state line, you’d lose an hour. If you drove back, you’d gain one. But don’t fuel up the DeLorean just yet. One of Steube’s fellow Republicans, Miami Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, has filed a dueling daylight bill to do just the opposite and make DST permanent — if Congress first OKs it. So much DST to debate! I have given both arguments solemn consideration and determined that, on this issue, I am … passionately indifferent. I just don’t care — at least not compared to the gobs of other issues I’d rather state leaders tackle. Some people love DST. Others hate it. A few wished they could go back in time and murder the guy who invented it. A few more were enraged at people who incorrectly called it Daylight “Savings” Time (with an “s”). And several people said they can never remember which time was DST and which wasn’t … which made them angry as well. Very few were indifferent.

— MOVEMENTS —

Roger Stone discloses secret foreign lobbying” via LegiStorm — Stone … indicated that he secretly signed a client in May of last year to lobby on security interests in Somalia as the U.S. military sent troops there. Stone filed a lobbying disclosure about the work Dec. 29, although it indicates the effective date of registration was May 1. That makes it more than six months late after the 45-day window expired in which he was required to register. The late disclosure occurred even as federal agents are showing intense interest in the financial connections that Trump advisers have to foreign interests. The client is Capstone Financial Group Inc., a Buffalo, New York-area firm that specializes in international commodities. The small-cap company trades on the over-the-counter market. Its stock nearly quadrupled from $. 95 to $3.70 in the three months after Trump’s election, but the price has since plummeted to $. 75 … Stone was to lobby for Capstone on “commodity rights and security of the same in Somalia.” The effective registration date was just two weeks after Trump sent dozens of troops to Somalia to combat the al-Shabab terrorist group.

Personnel note: Lawrence Mower joins Times/Herald capital bureauvia Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Hailing from the Palm Beach Post’s investigative team, Mower is the newest reporter to join the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau. Mower started the job last week and will cover state government and the Legislature, just in time for Session, which starts Jan. 9. “I’m really happy to be here during a pretty exciting time in the capital,” Mower said. Mower fills the position left vacant by Jeremy Wallace, who left the Times/Herald bureau last year for the Houston Chronicle. Mower joins Elizabeth Koh and Emily Mahoney as the bureau’s newest reporters.

— ALOE —

AAA promotes ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ month” via Florida Politics — January is “Move Over” month in Florida, according to a Tuesday news release from AAA-The Auto Club Group. A new law requires passing motorists to give adequate space to law enforcement, tow truck drivers, utility service vehicles and other first responders that are stopped on the side of the road. “This law is in place to protect the ones who protect us,” AAA spokeswoman Montrae Waiters said in a statement … The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) reported 204 crashes and 68 injuries as a result of a motorists’ failing to move over in 2016.

Can’t wait to readTravel as a Political Act by Rick Steves. “With the world facing divisive events and movements like the rise of nationalism, Trump, Brexit, Erdogan, and more, there’s never been a more important time to travel. Steves believes the risks of travel are widely exaggerated, and that fear is for people who don’t get out much. After years of living out of a suitcase, he still marvels at how different cultures may find different truths to be self-evident. By sharing his experiences from Europe, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East, Rick shows how we can learn more about own country by viewing it from afar.”

Happy birthday to one of the hardest working activists in the state, Ella Coffee, as well as to Dunedin Mayor Julie Bujalski, Rachel Gelbmann of the First Amendment Foundation, and big thinker Ed Turanchik.

Last Call for 1.2.18 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller and former Herald reporter Audra D.S. Burch have won the First Amendment Foundation‘s inaugural Lucy Morgan Award for Open Government Reporting for their series, “Fight Club: Dark secrets of Florida juvenile justice.”

“Miller and Burch secured datasets from four state agencies and analyzed 10 years of data for the series, which revealed systematic chaos, cruelty and human rights violations within some of the state’s juvenile justice institutions,” according to a Monday press release.

The award—named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times)—is awarded to reporters “whose work exemplifies the tenacity, drive, and courage that characterizes Morgan.” (Burch, by the way, has since moved to the New York Times.)

The award “honors a Florida journalist who smartly uses public records to report stories exposing corruption, revealing government conflicts of interest or otherwise serving the public interest,” according to the Foundation.

It will be presented at the Foundation’s annual Sunshine Recognition luncheon on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at the Governors Club in Tallahassee. For more information on the luncheon and on other awards that will be given, visit www.floridafaf.org or call (850) 224-4555.

Evening Reads

Marco Rubio correctly identifies America’s biggest education challenge” via Joe Cunningham of Red State

Ron DeSantis edges out Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran in Republican gubernatorial matchup” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News

Corrine Brown asks appeals court for prison reprieve” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Fred Costello’s new congressional campaign hit with FEC complaint” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Republicans can’t generate buzz for Illeana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat, and some say it’s unwinnable” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Recreational marijuana in Florida likely on hold for years” via Frank Gluck of the Naples Daily News

Richard Corcoran vows to pass ‘sanctuary city’ ban bill on week 1 of Session” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics

City of Tallahassee, Democrat forge settlement agreement over public records suit” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat

The unhappy top 10: Floridians’ consumer complaints in 2017” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Alabama opens as four-point favorite over Georgia in CFP championship game” via David Purdum of ESPN

Quote of the Day

Is it my imagination or did my man (U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz) spend the entire Christmas break sleeping on a cot in Fox News headquarters, appearing daily on various Fox shows with trademark witty one liners?” — Sen. Rob Bradley tweeted.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights



Wake Up Early?

The Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board will meet privately to review cases to determine probable cause and will hold a public meeting to review cases where probable cause was previously found. That’s at 9 a.m., Zora Neale Hurston Building, 400 West Robinson St., Suite N901, Orlando.

The Department of Health’s Institutional Review Board will hold a conference call to consider general agenda items. That’s at 9 a.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 2922384719#.

The DEO Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission will consider pending cases that are ready for final review, and the Chairman’s report. No public testimony will be taken. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 101 Rhyne Building, 2740 Centerview Drive, Tallahassee.

Margaret Good, the Democratic candidate in a special election for House District 72, is slated to speak to the Manasota Chapter of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. That’s at 11 a.m., Sarasota County Democratic Party headquarters, 7358 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

The Miami-Dade County Democratic Party will hold a “legislative send-off” for Democratic lawmakers. Participants are expected to include Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens, and Rep. Kionne McGhee of Miami. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Gramps, 176 N.W. 24th St., Miami.

Sunburn for 1.2.18 – Happy New Year!

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

No resolutions from us; instead let’s get Sunburn back up and running with some good news about some great people…

Personnel note: McGuireWoods Consulting opens new Tallahassee office” via Florida Politics – These three have good reason to toast the new year: Veteran lobbyists Sean Stafford, Rhett O’Doski and Ryder Rudd have opened a new office in Tallahassee for McGuireWoods Consulting. The announcement was shared first with Florida Politics. “We are excited to welcome Sean, Rhett and Ryder to the team and establish a strong government affairs practice in Tallahassee,” Jim Hodges, incoming president and CEO of McGuireWoods Consulting, said in a statement. “They are seasoned professionals who possess the relationships and policy expertise to be tremendous assets for both current and future clients, as well as a great resource for the law firm and its attorneys.” The three lobbyists have more than six decades of combined government relations experience in Florida and were formerly with the Advantage Consulting Team, founded by Stafford and O’Doski in 2008.

And now, here are some key stories which happened during the holiday break that you may have missed:

Ron DeSantis rising — In good company, DeSantis is starting the year with his best foot forward. Shortly after President Donald Trump on Twitter all but formally endorsed the Florida congressman for a 2018 gubernatorial bid, DeSantis’ “Finance Leadership Team” was made public, revealing a docket of gilded GOP givers. Among them: Sheldon Adelson, owner of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, and Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge fund billionaire Robert MercerFoster Friess and donors that usually associate with Charles Koch’s and David Koch’s conservative network also were named. The Koch brothers were uncharacteristically absent from the list, but DeSantis was spotted golfing with Charles Koch at a June retreat.

Bill Nelson surveys Puerto Rico — The U.S. Senator’s tour of Puerto Rico was marked by desperate scenes on the island. Nelson was astonished at how much of Puerto Rico has gone so long — 97 days at the time of his visit — without power. On his tour, he was accompanied by Orlando Democratic Congressman Darren Soto. Soto visited Bayamon Hospital. He noted an exodus of doctors and nurses. The hospital itself had less than ideal conditions for patients, with tarps hanging from the ceiling and water leaking.

Francis Rooney goes full Trump  In related news of positive relationships between Florida congressmen and Trump, Rep. Rooney of Naples called for a “purge” of what he said is a coalition of anti-Trump biased bureaucrats working inside the DOJ and FBI. The claim pertains to questionable texts and other elements that point to a bias in those handling the Robert Mueller investigation. Rooney isn’t alone in his claims; he just made news for his diction. Florida Reps. Matt Gaetz and the earlier mentioned DeSantis have echoed similar concerns — but they refrained from using the word ‘purge.’

A lone spectator watches the New Year’s Eve fireworks from a walkway in Cascades Park Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in downtown Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Rest in peace — On a somber note, the Legislature and the people of Florida lost an admired lawmaker in the unexpected death of state Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, which occurred on Christmas Eve. Hahnfeldt, who was elected in 2016, manned Sumter and parts of Lake and Marion counties. A former submarine commander for the U.S. Navy, he was admired by his peers in the House. There are now six open seats in the Legislature just days ahead of Session.

The latest from the Emeril beat  House Speaker Richard Corcoran is once again meddling in the affairs of public funds and celebrities. This time the spotlight is on star chef Emeril Lagasse. Corcoran wants to know whether the show, “Emeril’s Florida,” which received $11.6 million in public funds, made too much money in its six seasons produced by MAT Media. The state House filed a motion before the holidays, requesting full financial disclosures.

Out of money — Leon County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Andy Janecek painted a dismal picture for the party’s finances in an email sent to Democrat county leaders across the state. The email was a call to arms of sorts, asking the county groups to pitch in to help pay eight regional directors. Referencing newly elected Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, Janecek said she had “inherited a mess.”

Judge halts pot licensing  Health officials were legally ordered to halt the process of granting a license to a black farmer to grow medical marijuana. Recall the carve-out for granting the license is a remedy for the Pigford cases, which ultimately found federal discrimination toward black farmers. The injunction is a result of Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City, and his lawyers. They argued the law’s requirement that the black farmer must also belong to the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter is unconstitutional. Given the halt, Smith and team might be right, too.

Judge rules against state on greyhound drug testing  Florida regulators used an outlawed set of protocols to drug test greyhounds, according to a recent ruling of Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stevenson. The tests found greyhound trainers Charles McClellan’s and Natasha Nemeth’s dogs had cocaine in their system, but Stevenson said the procedures used to drug test the dogs were outlawed, making the results insignificant. The ruling has some implications. It marks another defeat for the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, continuing a losing streak in court. Regulators also worry that the decision voids drug testing for dogs and have subsequently filed a temporary rule to test greyhounds in the meantime.

Brandy Abruzzo, the wife of state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, took to Twitter this week to tell her side of the story.

Hell hath no fury — Boynton Beach Democratic state Rep. Joe Abruzzo’s rocky divorce made post-holiday headlines after his wife, Brandy Abruzzo, took to Twitter and called the lawmaker a “scam artist and narcissist.” She also accused him of assault and claimed he was in cahoots with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office because they did not arrest the representative following her claim that he assaulted her. This news comes at a time when the Legislature is arguably more aware than it has ever been on issues relating to assault and corruption. But Rep. Abruzzo’s spokesperson has called the claims baseless, and accuracy of the allegations has yet to be confirmed.

Minimum wage boost — Nothing says “Happy New Year!” like a 15-cent raise in the state’s minimum wage. The increase came Monday, making $8.25 the lowest wage possible for all workers who are covered by the federal minimum wage. The state passed Florida’s minimum wage law in 2005. Since then, it has risen a total of $2.10 an hour, or 34 percent. This year’s increase is the largest since 2012.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Financially-strained Florida Democrats ask county leaders for money” via Ana Ceballos of Florida PoliticsIn calls to county-level Democratic party leaders last week, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo asked for financial assistance to pay for the salaries of eight newly hired regional staffers.Only six out of the 67 county committees have made a donation. While FDP officials paint this as a fundraising effort, the move is a clear sign that the party, fresh-off two pricey victories, is struggling financially. One of those was the Palm Beach County Executive Committee, which Rizzo still chairs. After consulting members, Rizzo donated $10,000 on behalf of the Palm Beach committee.

Field finalized in race for Neil Combee House seat” via the News Service of Florida — Without any last-minute entries, the three-candidate race to replace former Republican Rep. Combee of Auburndale was finalized last week. Republicans Jennifer Spath and Josie Tomkow will square off in a Feb. 20 special primary election, with the winner facing Democrat Ricky Shirah in a May 1 special general election. Combee left the House District 39 seat last month to take a federal agriculture job. HD 39 includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties.

Four candidates to vie for Daisy Baez House seat” via the News Service of Florida — Republicans Jose Pazos and Andrew Vargas, Democrat Javier Fernandez and unaffiliated candidate Liz de las Cuevas qualified to run in House District 114. Rep. Baez resigned in November after pleading guilty to a perjury charge in an investigation of her residency. The Republican primary will be held Feb. 20, with the general election on May 1. That means the seat will be open throughout the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts Jan. 9 and is scheduled to end March 9.

State House election finance reports due — Qualifying candidates for Miami-Dade’s House District 114 and Central Florida’s House District 39 will have to submit their campaign-finance reports by Tuesday. For HD 114, that includes Republicans Jose Pazos and Andrew Vargas, Democrat Javier Fernandez, and unaffiliated candidate Liz de las Cuevas. In HD 39, that includes Republican candidates Jennifer Spath and Josie Tomkow, along with Democrat Shirah.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Gov. Rick Scott pulls plug on ‘Project Sunburst’ website with his emails” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — A highly publicized effort by Gov. Scott to put his emails — as well as the emails of his top staff — online has been quietly shuttered. More than five years ago Scott launched “Project Sunburst” with fanfare and called it an “unprecedented step” to give citizens a transparent window into his administration. Scott decided to make public his emails several months after he ordered an investigation into how and why emails he wrote right before he became governor were deleted. But this fall the main part of the “Project Sunburst” site was taken down completely. And before that happened, many of Scott’s staff stopped making their emails available to the site. “Every email hosted on Sunburst will still be available online,” spokesman John Tupps said. “Also, the Governor and Lt. Governor’s emails will be posted on our website on a weekly basis where we currently post all other public records.” But media organizations seeking emails by Scott’s top staff, including his chief of staff, will have to make public records requests for them.

Florida could soon implement pre-arrest diversion programs statewide” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — A pair of criminal justice reform proposals are laying out an ambitious plan that could reduce crime and incarceration rates in Florida by implementing pre-arrest diversion programs statewide. If approved by the state Legislature, the bills would direct all judicial circuits in the state to create and implement both an adult and juvenile civil citation programs. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, filed his bill last week and state Rep. Larry Ahern, a Seminole Republican, is expected to file a similar companion bill in the House.

After fatal derailment in Washington, Debbie Mayfield urges Scott to review rail safety” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican, has been pushing legislation the past two years to have the Florida Department of Transportation exercise safety and regulatory oversight over Brightline, and in a letter to Scott she urged he get behind her SB 572, the proposed High-Speed Rail Passenger Safety Act. Her efforts represent the concerns of many political leaders along the Treasure Coast, which would be the ride-over country for Brightline’s proposed West Palm Beach to Orlando route. Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, received federal approval for that route and financing backing for the $1.1 billion needed in the past two weeks. Couple that with the environmental permits, and the train has virtually left the station. It now has all federal and state environmental approval and financing it needs, though the company indicated it still is reviewing financing options.

Democrats push bills that would put warning labels on prescription opioids” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Sen. Annette Taddeo introduced her bill, and a similar bill was filed by state Rep. Joseph Geller in the House early in November … Under both bills, pill bottles would have to carry a red sticker with a big, eligible written warning before a pharmacist or a practitioner can dispense Schedule II drugs, which have a high potential for abuse. The Department of Health would also need to create a pamphlet that would be distributed for free to people who get their prescriptions. Labels on pill bottles are not a new thing. At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration began to require new warnings on containers last year to warn about the dangers of combining opioids.

Broward lawmaker: End session money chase by governor, Cabinet” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Rep. Evan Jenne … filed his proposal (HB 707) and says statewide officials should be held to the same standard as lawmakers, who are barred from fundraising during regular, extended and special sessions because it creates the appearance of a quid pro quo at the Capitol. “Everybody should play by the same rules,” Jenne told the Times/Herald. “It’s just to avoid the appearance of impropriety.” The governor can legally raise money during sessions even though he has life or death power over every bill and appropriation affecting lobbyists and their clients. Cabinet members lobby lawmakers on all kinds of issues but have no constitutional role in the fate of specific legislation like the governor does. Gov. Scott sidestepped a question about it. “It’s a decision for the Legislature,” he told reporters. Jenne’s bill received only two House committee references — ordinarily a good sign — but no senator has filed the proposal. Even if it passed, it would not have any impact on the upcoming session.

Jeff Brandes and family returned from China in 2017 with a new adopted daughter.

Must-read about Brandes and his family — “John Romano: watching a family’s love grow at Christmas” via the Tampa Bay Times — An awkward dance of translated introductions and tentative hugs in an orphanage waiting room in the Guangdong province of China. It is mid-November and Natalie and Jeff Brandes are some 9,000 miles from their St. Petersburg home. As of that moment, so is the 8-year-old girl standing before them. Jeff and Natalie have talked about this for years. During the early days of their marriage, and through the births of daughter Lottie and sons Colin and Conor. They had the means, and they felt the calling. And now they were learning the reality of adopting an older child. So when does love arrive? Maybe it starts when they are preparing to leave. Jeff … watches as Fu Ying (aka Lizzie) forever walks away from the only home she has known, and drives off with a pair of strangers. “When she got in the car with us,’’ he says, “I thought this was the bravest little girl in the world.’’ One month into her American life, Lizzie loves chicken nuggets from McDonald’s, Disney movies and swimming. All of which were brand-new in her world. Communication is a work in progress, but day-to-day life is pretty manageable. Natalie’s mother, Winnie Jackson, was a little older than Lizzie when she came to the United States, and still speaks Cantonese. “We started on this journey sort of looking at it through our own eyes, but it’s kind of morphed,’’ Natalie said. “You’re exposed to this need, and you realize it’s not about you anymore. It doesn’t matter how difficult things might be on any given day because what they need is more important. There’s no need I have that will ever compare to what they’ve been through … These kids have no families and their futures are bleak, and they deserve better than that.’’

Flags will be at half-staff for Don Hahnfeldt, who died Christmas Eve.

Flags ordered at half-staff for Don Hahnfeldt” via Florida Politics — Flags will be flown at half-staff today (Tuesday) to honor the late state Rep. Hahnfeldt, Gov. Scott announced Friday. Hahnfeldt, first elected last year to represent House District 33, died on Christmas Eve. The district includes Sumter County and parts of Lake and Marion counties. Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Sumter County Administrative Building in Wildwood, the Sumter County Courthouse in Bushnell, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Jan. 2. Hahnfeldt, of The Villages, “distinguished himself during his 32-year career in the U.S. Navy, commanding two nuclear submarines and serving as Commander of the Pacific Fleet’s Strategic Submarine Squadron,” according to Scott’s statement.

— Funeral services scheduled for Hahnfeldt will take place 11 a.m. on Tuesday at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church located at 7081 SE Highway 42, Summerfield, Florida 34491. In lieu of flowers, Hahnfeldt’s family has suggested sending contributions to The Dolphin Scholarship Foundation.

***Nursing home care is better in states with a Certificate of Need process, because it ensures seniors have access to the right type of care where in the areas they need it most. The best way to ensure a high-quality long-term care sector that balances the need for nursing home care and home and community-based services is to preserve Florida’s Certificate of Need process. That’s why everyone who cares about Florida’s elders should reject the Constitution Revision Commission proposal to eliminate Certificate of Need in Florida.***

— STATEWIDE —

Texting ban may soon be enforced on Florida’s deadly roads” via The Associated Press — Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky says it is hard to separate texting drivers from drunken drivers as he cruises down a suburban interstate highway. Both weave. They speed up and slow down for no obvious reason and get too close to other cars. They endanger their lives and others. Florida, with some of the nation’s deadliest roads, is one of the last states to not fully ban texting while driving, but the Legislature will soon consider a bill that would. However, studies conflict over whether such bans have any effect. Florida law says texting by non-commercial drivers is a secondary offense — law enforcement officers must see another violation like speeding or an illegal lane change before they cite a driver for texting. The bill would make texting a primary offense. Forty-three states already make texting while driving a primary offense. Three besides Florida list it as a secondary offense — Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota. There is no state law against texting in Arizona, Montana and, for noncommercial drivers 22 and older, in Missouri.

5,000 rape kits result in 1,300 DNA ‘hits’ in Florida” via WTXL — Nearly 5,600 previously unprocessed sexual assault kits have now been tested … These recently processed kits have resulted in nearly 1,400 hits in a federal DNA database. Before a 2016 law, Florida had not required rape kits to be tested. Law enforcement agencies are now required to submit evidence within 30 days of the beginning of their investigations, and the lab must process the sexual assault kits within 120 days of receipt. Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Just think of the cases that can potentially be solved, and not only help victims here in Florida but victims throughout the country.”

Florida’s rape kit backlog is shrinking, with more than 1,400 ‘hits’ says Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Florida could spend a billion dollars on an Everglades reservoir. But will it work?” via Jenny Staleovich of the Miami Herald — This spring, Florida lawmakers approved plans for a massive new reservoir near Lake Okeechobee, touting the billion-dollar project as a breakthrough in the decades-old effort to save the Everglades. Less than a year later, South Florida water managers are struggling to make the ambitious project a reality — while environmental groups have begun to raise concerns that the plan is based on flawed data and that it may become a Trojan horse used to challenge long-standing water quality standards for the fragile Everglades ecosystem … Lawmakers, pushed by powerful sugar and agriculture interests, called for a reservoir on state-owned land below the lake. That meant squeezing a deeper reservoir onto a smaller footprint, with less land for cleaning water. They also sacrificed the valuable option to buy sugar land, requiring the South Florida Water Management District to relinquish the state’s only leverage to acquire more land — long before anyone knows for sure whether the downsized reservoir and treatment marshes will work. “They’re giving up something big here for something that might not work,” said William Mitsch, director of the Everglades Wetlands Research Park, who worried that without more treatment, “they’re just going to have another Lake O belching into the Everglades.”

Duke, TECO customers face storm charges — Duke Energy Florida asked state regulators last week to approve a proposal to collect $513 million from customers to cover the costs of Hurricane Irma and replenishing a storm reserve. Duke plans to recover the money over a three-year period, starting in March, according to a news release and a filing with the Florida Public Service Commission. Tampa Electric Company also its own proposal to collect about $87.4 million from customers starting in March. The money would go to covering storm damage and replenishing a reserve, with the largest chunk — nearly $77.7 million — stemming from this year’s Hurricane Irma, according to the filing. Tampa Electric also is seeking to collect much-smaller amounts related to hurricanes Hermine and Matthew in 2016 and tropical storms Erika in 2015 and Colin in 2016.

Regulators to look at need for two power plants” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — State regulators will hear arguments in March on proposals for two new power plants in Putnam and Pasco counties that would supply electricity to customers of electric cooperatives throughout Florida. Filings with the state Public Service Commission show a two-pronged strategy by Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc., to help meet future power needs. Seminole, which provides wholesale power to cooperatives throughout the state, wants to build a 1,050-megawatt plant at its already-existing site in Putnam County and contract for electricity generated at a 573-megawatt plant in Pasco County that would be owned by a subsidiary of General Electric Co. The Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing March 21 on key regulatory approvals — known as seeking determinations of need — for the projects.

Florida joins nation’s first mobile network for first responders” via the Tampa Bay Times — Florida has joined a national program designed to improve mobile communications for first responders. Gov. Scott made the decision Thursday, joining its plan to build a nationwide wireless network. FirstNet will be solely used by those who work in law enforcement and emergency services. The idea is to make communication among first responders more efficient and reliable, according to the agency. Currently, departments use their own digital and radio communication tools, making interagency communication difficult, at times, according to firstnet.gov. Once FirstNet is rolled out, all first responders will communicate on one network. It’s also supposed to improve communication during disasters and large, densely populated events — times when cell networks used by civilians are prone to overload, rendering cellphones useless for communication. AT&T will build, operate and maintain the infrastructure required for the network in Florida, the company said in a news release, at no cost to the state.

Controlled substance dispensing rule to change” via the News Service of Florida — Pharmacies and physicians who dispense controlled substances will now have just one day to report information to the statewide prescription-drug monitoring program. The Legislature passed a bill this year that trimmed the reporting time and required that reporting be done through the state-approved electronic reporting system. In the state fiscal year 2016-2017, an average 6,024 dispensers each month reported controlled-substance prescription information to the database, dubbed E-FORCSE, which is an acronym for the Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation. The report shows that the number of queries to the database submitted by health care practitioners in the fiscal year 2016-2017 increased 30.3 percent over the number of queries submitted the previous fiscal year. The Legislature during the 2018 session is expected to pass legislation to help decrease the state’s opioid epidemic, and lawmakers are considering whether to mandate that doctors use the database before prescribing controlled substances.

Judge tells big tobacco to keep paying Florida” via The Associated Press — A judge in Florida is ordering R.J. Reynolds to continue paying the state millions of dollars in tobacco settlement money despite selling off major brands. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen in Palm Beach County issued his ruling nearly a year after Attorney General Bondi sued the tobacco company and Imperial Tobacco Group. R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies were part of a landmark multibillion-dollar settlement with Florida to compensate the state for treating sick smokers. But the company sold cigarette brands Kool, Winston, Salem and Maverick to Imperial Tobacco Group in 2015 and neither company continued to make payments to the state. When Bondi filed the suit January, she said Florida was already owed $45 million and could lose $30 million a year going forward.

A ‘Red Bull rule’? State strikes back on drugs in race dogs” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Calling it an “immediate danger” that needs “emergency action,” gambling regulators this week filed a temporary rule to allow them to keep testing racing greyhounds for drugs. The moves come after an administrative law judge struck down the testing program, saying it was “invalid.” The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling in Florida, also asked Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson to reconsider his ruling. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

State just says ‘no’ to booze from vending machines” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — State regulators this week rejected a request to install high-tech beer and wine vending machines in South Florida, a proposal opposed by lawmakers and industry groups. A Miami-Dade company had sought an OK from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) to offer what it calls “self-checkout micro marts” with wine and beer. The day after Christmas, however, ABT director Thomas Philpot in part said the “unmanned, albeit remotely monitored, sale of alcohol from vending machines would contemplate a sale in a manner not permitted by the (state’s) Beverage Law.”

The banker to Florida’s medical marijuana players is getting out of the business” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — First Green Bank, a Central Florida community bank that operates only in this state and doesn’t require a federal charter … was handling accounts for six of the state’s seven licensed producers of medical marijuana. But now, in a move that underscores the volatility of the state’s nascent market, First Green has announced that it is closing the accounts of its cannabis clients and won’t be handling their money past early January. Initially, the announcement — which comes just a few months after the bank celebrated being the first in the state to handle medical marijuana clients — sent some clients scrambling. But the bank has apparently found a new institution willing to take its place, and companies that spoke to the Miami Herald say they’re confident that Florida’s 40,000 card-carrying medical marijuana patients won’t notice any hiccups. “There will be no interruption or change in operations as far as patients and members are concerned,” said Jake Bergmann, CEO of Surterra Holdings, a medicinal marijuana operator and a First Green client.

Florida’s capital adds solar farm to city’s energy grid” via The Associated Press — Officials say a $33.2 million, 20-megawatt solar farm was connected to Tallahassee’s energy grid Monday. The facility was built without taxpayer dollars. Miami-based Origis Energy USA will run it under contract with the city of Tallahassee. The solar farm is the size of 92 football fields. Officials say it will produce up to 2 percent of the city’s total power supply. That’s enough to light up 3,400 homes. Some 2,000 residential and business customers signed up for a special subscription service to receive solar power at a slightly higher rate than regular customers. An additional 7,000 homes could be illuminated by solar energy when the second phase of the project is completed in 2019.

— STEPPING UP —

Step Up for Students is involved in almost every aspect of Florida’s school choice voucher program.

Ninety-nine percent of the more than 100,000 yearly Florida Tax Credit Scholarships are approved by Step Up. It is not only a state contractor for the scholarships, reports the Orlando Sentinel, but a fierce advocate for school choice in Florida.

Often referred to as vouchers, the scholarships are given to students who are “generally among the poorest in the state and kids who are struggling the most in public schools.”

Those scholarships have increased from “41,000 children a decade ago to more than 140,000 today using three scholarships at 2,000 private schools across the state.”

About 70 percent of all students on the scholarship are African American or Latino.

Tampa Venture Capitalist John Kirtley helped launch the tax credit scholarship under then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Kirtley said he does not worry about families who have enough money to find what they believe is the right education for their kids. Instead, he works “every day to help those who don’t have the means to make a choice.”

— Advocacy: “Step Up has helped to win legislative approval of major expansions of the scholarships — the cap on the tax credit program grew from $118 million in 2010 to about $700 million this year and is set to continue to grow.”

— Making changes: “Step Up President Doug Tuthill proposed changes that would prevent schools from falsifying fire and health inspection documents as well as require more schools to submit financial reports and allow the state to inspect more schools.”

— Leading the charge: “Every significant recent change to the scholarship law was either initiated or supported by Step Up.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Palm Beach adjusts to having the president as one of its part-time residents” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Lori Rozsa of The Washington Post — This holiday season, as Trump makes his 10th visit as president, his presence has become an afterthought to many. Logistical problems caused by his stay remain a mild annoyance, but those who live and visit here say they have learned to plan around the inconveniences. On Worth Avenue, an upscale shopping district just north of the president’s private estate of Mar-a-Lago, shoppers and store owners now change their schedules on the basis of when the Trump plans to arrive. Palm Beach does look different when Trump is in town. But it appears these changes have become so routine that some residents were surprised to hear he was already in town — settled in with his family and golfing At a nearby Trump course.

End of TPS program means thousands of Haitians, mainly in Florida, facing deportation” via Candice Norwood of POLITICO — The Trump administration announced in November that TPS — a humanitarian immigration program for migrants from 10 countries facing conditions that prevent them from returning safely — will end for about 59,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S. This decision could force … more than 32,000 other Haitians in Florida to leave by July 2019. In Haiti’s case, the country has not recovered from the 2010 earthquake; an estimated 2.5 million people still need humanitarian aid, according to a United Nations report. Family separation is a huge concern for Florida’s Haitian community and advocacy groups. Haitian TPS recipients in Florida have an estimated 18,800 U.S.-born children. Legislative solutions … include the ESPERER Act … introduced by South Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and co-sponsored by seven other Florida lawmakers. Another is the ASPIRE-TPS Act … submitted by New York Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke and co-sponsored by 14 others, including Florida Reps. AlceeHastingsFrederica Wilson, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

— DARKNESS —

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority says the island is producing 65-70 percent of normal output.

But that doesn’t tell us much.

The figure reported by The Associated Press and The New York Times is hard to peg to households because the system that measures how widely power is distributed is broken.

Also affecting this statistic are the critical facilities like hospitals and water treatment plants that were energized first after the storm. They consume a lot more power than a household, skewing the perception of the reported figure.

The remote areas of the island, such as the mountainous town of Morovis near the center of Puerto Rico, are mostly without power. The AP reported that there are 30,000 living without electricity in Morovis. Just three days before Christmas, families waited in line for “two hours under the searing sun for their twice-a-week handout — 24 bottles of water and a cardboard box filled with basic foods such as tortillas, canned vegetables and cereal.”

— Military.com reports that even the Army Corps of Engineers agrees it cannot be determined how many households are without power.

— NYT reports that most of the island should have power by the end of February. But, recall: Gov. Ricardo Rossello promised in Oct. to restore 95 percent of electricity by mid-Dec.

— Top power restoration engineer at the Corps on what’s taking so long: “The sheer amount of work.”

— Full restoration of power on the island? Not until May, according to the Corps.

— OPINIONS —

Florida Politics’ 2017 politician of the year: Richard Corcoran via Joe Henderson — “Basically, if you liked his performance in 2017, you will love it in 2018. And if you didn’t, well, buckle up.”

Sunshine State News list of winners and losers in Florida politics — Winners: Scott, Rachel Perrin Rogers, Carlos Curbelo, Ted Deutch, POLITICO Florida, Francis Rooney, Taddeothe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Losers: Jack Latvala, Frank Artiles, Alex Diax de la Portilla, Anitere Flores, Daphne Campbell, Ana Rivas Logan, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Stephen Bittel, Ritch Workman.

Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith’s winner and loser of 2017 in Florida politics — Winner of the year: Corcoran; Loser of the year: The Florida Senate; Runner-up winners: Scott, Nelson, Marco Rubio, Perrin Rogers, Jimmy Patronis, Brian Ballard/Susie Wiles, John Morgan, Taddeo, Gaetz, DeSantis, Mar-a-Lago, Florida’s image; Runner-up losers: Florida political parties, Stephen Bittel, Rick Baker, State Sens. Latvala, Jeff Clemens, Artiles, Andrew Gillum.

Support health centers that serve communities and save state money” via Andrew Behrman for Sunshine State News — It’s no secret that being able to access affordable, quality health care is critical to maintaining good health and enjoying a prosperous life. In Florida, our community health centers fill the role of providing comprehensive primary and preventive care to every patient, regardless of their ability to pay. And by helping to keep these patients out of hospital emergency rooms, we are able to save the state millions of dollars every year. With Florida’s legislative session just around the corner, it is crucial that our elected officials remember the essential services provided by Federally Qualified Health Centers and protect current funding levels that keep these centers operating. This is necessary, so they can continue to serve our growing patient population of more than 1.45 million patients every year. As president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, I have seen firsthand the impact these centers have in every community. Some individuals, including those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, can’t afford comprehensive primary care services. That’s why our centers provide critical medical care to ensure that all Floridians have the chance to maintain their health and well-being.

— MOVEMENTS —

State reopens search to fill PSC post — Florida has renewed a search to fill a spot on the state’s Public Service Commission, after appointee Workman withdrew after a sexual misconduct allegation. The Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council set a Jan. 12 application deadline for the utility-regulatory job. Gov. Scott appointed Workman, a former state House member, in September to the $132,000-a-year post. The appointment was scheduled to begin Jan. 2, with Workman subject to Senate confirmation after that. But Workman withdrew when Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers said she would not put his appointment on her committee’s agenda because of what she described as “abhorrent” sexual behavior toward her last year. Workman, a Melbourne Republican, insists he does not recall the incident. His withdrawal and the process of selecting a replacement means the PSC will start 2018 with four of its five seats filled, with the end of longtime Commissioner Ronald Brise‘s term.

Open Tallahassee judgeship gets a dozen applicants” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — When it comes to applying for a judgeship, the third time could be a charm for Alan Abramowitz. Abramowitz, executive director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Office, is one of 12 applicants for a Tallahassee-area circuit judge seat opening because of the retirement of Charles A. Francis. Abramowitz has applied to become a judge twice before. Francis, first appointed to the bench in 1999, will step down from judicial office on March 31.

Cori Henderson will be in charge of evaluating Deepwater Horizon settlement claims.

Cori Henderson selected to evaluate Deepwater Horizon settlement applications” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Henderson, who’s also a former legislative aide to state Sen. Tom Lee among others, was picked to be program administrator for Florida Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., the corporation created by the state Legislature to oversee distribution of 75 percent of the Deep Horizon lawsuit settlement money, which will exceed $1 billion for Florida, along areas of the Gulf Coast. Distributions could start being approved as early as Jan. 29. Florida will receive $2 billion over an 18-year period. She’ll evaluate and rank economic recovery project applications for the first $300 million available from individuals, organizations and local governments responding to losses suffered because of the massive soil of nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, much of it washing up on beaches from Florida to Texas.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Galleon Condominium Apartments

Colleen Castille, Colleen Castille: Destin Fishing Fleet

Marnie GeorgeJames Magill, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Thomas Albert Kennedy

Allison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husband & Daughton: Curaleaf Florida

Chris Spencer, GrayRobinson: ISF

— FLORIDIAN OF THE YEAR —

Tampa entrepreneur Kiran Patel has made hundreds of millions of dollars growing and selling health care companies. Together with his wife, he has given more than $240 million over the years to support the arts, education and health care in Florida.

— ALOE —

Airbnb visitors to Florida surge 75 percent in 2017” via the Tampa Bay Times — If its latest guest numbers are any indication, Airbnb is here to stay. The California-based hospitality giant counted 2.7 million guests in Florida this year, a whopping 75 percent increase over last year’s guest pool. For the 40,000 Airbnb hosts in Florida, that came out to a combined $450 million earned over the year. Hosts typically make about $6,700 annually. Hillsborough is one of six counties in the state that inked tax agreements with Airbnb this year to collect and pay bed and sales taxes on bookings. Other counties include Polk, Sarasota, Miami-Dade, Broward and Leon.

Artificial lagoon in St. Johns community will be the largest man-made water feature in U.S.” via Andrew Warfield of the Jacksonville Daily Record — Beachwalk’s Crystal Lagoon is filling up. The developer of the Beachwalk community in St. Johns County has begun filling the 14-acre Crystal Lagoon centerpiece of the multiuse development. Within the first week, 2 million gallons have poured into the water amenity. Set against a white lining, the lagoon is taking on the natural turquoise hue that will deepen into a “Caribbean” blue as it approaches its 10-foot depth. When completed, Beachwalk’s Crystal Lagoon will be the largest man-made water feature in the U.S. The lagoon will be maintained with water treatment technologies similar to those used in municipal water systems.

Beachwalk’s Crystal Lagoon is no longer an artist’s rendering; it is beginning to fill up.

Disney World’s Trump robot has been the object of ridicule. Here’s what would make it better” via Michael Cavna of The Washington Post — Perhaps it’s time to send in the clowns of satire to fix this little fiasco. “Besides the obvious complexion inconsistency, his hairline — or how it’s coiffed — isn’t low enough,” says Ann Telnaes, The Washington Post’s Pulitzer-winning political animator. Plus, “His eyes are too large,” she adds, “and they’ve obviously taken off quite a few pounds” from his frame. Matt Davies, Newsday’s Pulitzer-winning cartoonist, agrees that the key is the hair. “The animatronic version’s woolen helmet is wrongly placed,” he tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “I draw Trump with his hair swooping down over his eyes.” Mike Luckovich, the Pulitzer-winning veteran for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, finds Disney’s design flaws closer to the center of Trump’s countenance — as well as the ineffable nature of persona. “The reason it misses so bad is because it’s hard to capture mania in a robot,” Luckovich says. “Plus, I think his upper lip is too close to his nose. Trump also has tiny slits for eyes. The robot’s eyes are too open.”

What Michelle Todd is reading — “Terroir Alert! Champagne is expanding and tempers are popping” via Matthew Dalton of The Wall Street Journal — An invisible line separates the backwater town of Ventelay, France, from the bubbly opulence of Champagne. For the first time in nearly a century, France is considering an expansion of the Champagne region. 40 towns [have been] proposed for inclusion in Champagne’s new terroir by the National Institute of Origin and Quality, or INAO, France’s regulatory agency that rules on such matters as whether a moldy sheep’s-milk cheese is truly Roquefort or a bottle of red is a proper Bordeaux. … There are currently 319 [municipalities] with the distinction. The final lines of the new Champagne map likely won’t be drawn until 2021 … experts are now examining hundreds of thousands of properties in secret.”

Happy birthday from over the holidays to Rep. Chris Latvala, fmr. Senator Mike BennettHolly Brooks, Brian Crowley, Mike Danish, Charlie Dudley, Nick Duran, CoreMessage’s Jennifer Fennell, Joe Hice, Natalie Kato, Brock Mikosky, Joel Ramos, Jack Skelding, Hill+Knowlton’s Ali Spiegel, Corey Staniscia, Nancy Texeira, Eddie Thompson. Celebrating today is our friend Erin Mitchell.

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