Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 2.2.18
A general view of the Florida Capitol early in the morning Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.

A top-of-Sunburn happy birthday wish to Katie Webb, a recent Golden Rotunda winner, one of just two women who are managing directors of a Top 25 lobbying practice, and, without a doubt, a tremendous mother of two and friend to many.

Now, on to politics …

The Federalist Society’s annual Florida Chapters Conference will be held Friday and Saturday at the Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort in Lake Buena Vista, and it’s a must-attend for Republicans hoping to succeed Pam Bondi as Attorney General. Here are five things we hope to see at the panel …

I’m really one of you, honest! That should be the theme of candidate Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge. Endorsed by Bondi, she has an impressive campaign organization and appears to be the clear front-runner so far. That has invited opponents to attack her conservative chops A political committee associated with candidate Frank White points out that Moody used to be Democrat, has Democrat friends, and therefore must be … oh, it’s hard to say this word … liberal. The horror. Moody will use the weekend to convince everyone that’s not true.

Ashley Moody, the favorite in Florida’s Attorney General race?

Who breaks out? If Moody is the favorite, who will emerge in an expanding field to challenge her? Republican candidates expected to attend the conference include White, Ross Spano, and Jay Fant. Democrat Ryan Torrens also will be there, but Sean Shaw hasn’t committed. Each GOP challenger is currently a state Representative with local name recognition. If they hope to expand that, this wouldn’t be a time to hold back.

Can we talk? There are several panel discussions scheduled, including one on the separation of powers. The Attorney General may find it necessary to remind lawmakers they have to follow the rules when governing. It all leads up to the candidate forum later Saturday, when participants offer their perspective on the job.

Modern problems: Another discussion that should be interesting is the one on the First Amendment/Title IX and due process at universities (see State, Michigan). Nancy Hogshead-Makar will offer perspective on girls and women in sports. You may have heard some things in the news about that issue lately.

Let the rhetoric begin: The Federalist Society makes no secret of its goal of promoting conservative judges, and this conference is where it pays for a potential attorney general is on board with that philosophy. Republican candidates especially will be expected to conduct themselves accordingly.


— @Axios: There is much more skepticism inside the administration than has been previously reported about the value of releasing the Nunes memo.

— @Comey: All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.

— @NYTimes: Fidel Castro’s eldest son, a nuclear physicist, has committed suicide, Cuban state-run media said. He was 68.

— @TroyKinsey[email protected]FLGovScott office on federal judge Mark Walker‘s ruling invalidating FL’s arduous felon voting-rights restoration process: “The Governor believes that convicted felons should show that they can lead a life free of crime and be accountable to their victims and our communities.”

— @MarcACaputo: Lol. The Obama-appointed judge who struck down Florida’s scheme for granting felons voting rights made sure to cite …. Citizens United

— @PolitiFact: Big news! Former Florida U.S. Reps. @DavidJollyFL and @AlanGrayson have agreed to serve as reader advocates for PolitiFact. They’ll be critiquing our work and publishing on Read why we’re doing this, and let us know what you think.

— @SteveLemongello: I spoke with Alan Grayson about being hired by PolitiFact — and then spoke with him again an hour later after PolitiFact let him go in the midst of a social media firestorm. But “they’re still going to pay me,” Grayson said.

— @Politics1com: FLORIDA: GOP Guv candidate at 2% in polls in his primary seeks to debate DEM Guv candidate who is at 7% in polls in his primary …

— @Fineout: Here’s the deal – the actual location of a debate btw @richardcorcoran & @AndrewGillum can be wherever. The question is whether the debate will be in a place where all media can access it – and where the moderator is someone who has knowledge about state government/politics

— @MDixon55: [email protected]robbradley: “There are a lot of very substantive” differences between how House and Senate spend money

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The ingredients are present for Democratic momentum at the ballot box in future elections, but when sensationalism is set aside, and numbers are crunched, the approaching “blue wave” might manifest as a ripple.

Nate Cohn of The New York Times acknowledges the recent influx of around 300,000 Puerto Ricans and a ballot initiative that would restore voting rights to approximately 1.5 million released felons in a recent post on the Times-owned Upshot, a data-driven politics, policy and economics reporting site. But Cohn writes that “the reality for Democrats is that neither development is likely to fundamentally alter Florida’s political character heading into the 2020 election.”

Cohn argues that both demographics (Puerto Ricans and ex-convicts) have historically low turnout rates, quashing much of the rhetoric surrounding Florida’s ballot expectations in 2020. As Cohn writes for a national outlet, much of his analysis focuses on the presidential election in 2020 rather than the upcoming state-based elections in 2018.

Islanders by the numbers: Cohn subtracts the estimated 75,000 children included in the current tally of Puerto Ricans who have migrated to the state. Then “generously” assumes that 57 percent will register to vote by 2020, leaving the total of new Puerto Rican voters at 130,000. Cohn notes that not all of the new voters will vote Democratic — and not all will vote.

Ex-cons, on the other hand: Should the ballot initiative pass, 1.5 million re-enfranchized felons could make a difference at the ballots. But “ex-convicts tend to have very low educational attainment, and they tend to be young and nonwhite, with low incomes — all factors that correlate with a low turnout,” writes Cohn, leaving a new-voter percentage not expected to be much higher than 30 percent.

A note on persuasion: Cohn writes, “Persuading a voter to switch sides is twice as helpful as turning out a new one: Persuasion both takes away a voter from your opponent and gives you one.” If President Donald Trump were to seek reelection, he could offset demographic changes by appealing to more white working-class voters.


Rick Scott popularity on upswing” via Cameron Easley of Morning Consult –  Scott … finished 2017 on an upswing (7 net points) in popularity … compared to the prior quarter. Fifty-eight percent of voters in Florida approved of Scott during the fourth quarter, compared with 31 percent who disapproved. Scott maintained strong support from GOP voters during the last six months of the year, from 79 percent in the third quarter to 82 percent the following three months. His approval numbers among independents also increased, from 47 percent to 53 percent, along with an 8-point gain among Democrats, during the same time period.

ICYMI –Scott takes big step toward Florida Senate challenge” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon a POLITICO Florida — In the clearest sign he’s ready to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Scott has raised more than $1.1 million for a super PAC he recently revived and stocked it with top consultants from his previous campaigns. Privately, he’s talked up his good polling numbers … A Scott bid would complicate Democratic hopes of winning back the Senate next year — of the 10 Democrats up for re-election in states carried by President Trump, Nelson has been considered one of the most vulnerable. Scott won’t say which way he’s leaning, but some of those familiar with the governor’s thinking peg the likelihood of him running between 80 and 95 percent. “In my opinion, the governor is highly likely to make this race. He has plenty of time to make a final decision,” said William Rubin, a top Tallahassee lobbyist who became personal friends with the governor decades ago when he represented Scott’s hospital company, Columbia/HCA. “The Florida economy is good,” Rubin said, “and people are feeling good about the direction of our state under his leadership.”

Is Rick Scott moving closer to an all-but-inevitable Senate bid?

Sanctuary city debate erupts in Governor’s race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Richard Corcoran … is funding $100,000 worth of edgy television ads promising never to allow sanctuary cities in the state. He also pushed legislation targeting sanctuary cities earlier this month. It’s a gamble that in a state with a large population of undocumented immigrants, the anti-sanctuary city message is a winner. It’s put at least one other GOP gubernatorial contender — former congressman and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — in an awkward spot. And a top Democratic contender, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is seizing the moment to lump Corcoran in with President Trump. In Florida, the House passed a bill banning the cities during the first week of this year’s legislative session, a clear sign it would be part of Corcoran’s public messaging as he prepares for his next political move. The Senate version was pulled from consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee; Florida Democrats and some Republicans helped kill similar legislation last year.

Tweet, tweet:

Happening Saturday — Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham joins several local Democratic and progressive leaders for a “knock till you drop” canvassing session in support of House District 72 candidate Margaret Good. Event begins 10 a.m. at 4833 Riverwood Ave. in Sarasota. Organizers suggest bringing a fully charged smartphone.

AG race attack: Frank White committee targets ‘liberal judge’ Moody” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — United Conservatives, a committee that has received $50,000 from White’s employer (“Sansing Holdings”) and that spent money in December with Data Targeting, whose Tim Baker is handling White’s campaign, and Meteoric Media, the now-former press shop of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s chief of staff Brian Hughes, rolled out this week. In addition to the website, mailpieces going out currently are reinforcing the claims. The site targets Moody, making the case via video and graphics that she is essentially a shadow Democrat, pointing out that she had written speeches for then-American Bar Association President Martha Barnett. Barnett is historically aligned with Hillary Clinton, including describing herself as being “honored” by the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee at one point, and “serving alongside” Clinton on a panel.

Save the date:

Lauren Baer nets over $580K in year-end report — The Democratic CD 18 candidate raised $583,000 since launching her campaign in September space … with over $400,000 cash-on-hand, according to her year-end FEC report. That’s far outpacing her primary opponent. Lauren Baer for Congress also announced a slew of local endorsements of the former Obama administration State Department official, including West Palm Beach Mayor Jerri Muio, Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon, State Senator Kevin Rader, and State Representative Matt Willhite. Baer was also featured on the cover of Time magazine, where her candidacy was labeled one of “10 Races to Watch” this year.

— “Bill Posey raises $84K in fourth quarter for CD 8 re-election bid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “CD 15 hopeful Andrew Learned tops Democrats in fundraising” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Erin Grall, Wengay Newton draw Democratic challengers” via the News Service of Florida — Vero Beach Democrat Jacqueline Nicole Haagenson opened a campaign account to run against Grall in House District 54 … Grall had raised $81,435 for her re-election bid as of Dec. 31. Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Democrat Keisha Ann Bell opened an account to challenge Newton in House District 70 … Newton had raised $17,370 as of Dec. 31. Also in the race: St. Petersburg Democrat Vito Sheeley, who had raised $4,922, reports show.

— “HD 66 candidates weigh in on sanctuary cities” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics


Senate anticipates ‘significant’ tax cuts” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Finance and Taxation Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel said it’s still too early in the 60-day session to give tax-cut numbers, despite her assurance the final package to be worked out with the House will be “significant” … “Right now, we’re trying to figure out exactly what pieces we want to put in it,” Stargel said. “Obviously, we’ve got some variables out there that we’re still considering when it comes to where we stand on the revenue from the state.” Gov. Scott has requested a $180 million package featuring a reduction in driver-license fees and disaster-preparedness and back-to-school sales tax “holidays.” “I’m looking at proposals before us right now and kind of figuring out what we can afford and what we can’t,” Stargel said. “If we did all the ones that are out there right now, it’s more than we can afford.”

Legislators say they’re starting gaming talks as ballot question has them worried” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Sen. Bill Galvano, the Senate’s incoming president, and Rep. Jose Oliva, the House’s incoming speaker, sat down with top leaders of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Senate leaders concluded they are moving full-speed ahead to reach a deal. “I’d rather, frankly, not have to deal with this issue next year. I believe the speaker designate [OIiva] feels the same way,” Galvano told reporters. “It’s not just the gaming component of it but it’s also a significant part of our revenue, and revenue estimating going forward. So, I’d rather us get it resolved.” Pivotal to their discussion was the potential impact of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that, if approved, will leave future decisions about gambling expansion up to voters and limit the ability of the Legislature to expand gambling in Florida. Galvano said that with the amendment on the ballot, time is running out to complete a deal before the Legislature loses its ability to make comprehensive changes to the state’s gaming laws. “There may be a mass exodus to the Georgia line if it passes, and it looks like it’s on its way,” he said.

House alters child marriage bill to allow some minors to wed” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — A proposed change to a House bill that would have made it legal for some adults to have sex with children as young as 14 was tossed on Thursday after it drew criticism from a top senator. But a House panel still pushed forward a proposal that would allow certain minors to wed, moving away from the strict ban on all child marriages it had originally. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who championed the companion bill in the Senate, said it was “appalling” that state Rep. Kimberly Daniels filed an amendment that would have changed the House bill to “give a non-criminal violation to any adult having sexual relations with a 14 or 15-year-old.” Hours after Daniels filed her amendment, she asked to withdraw it because it was “not germane to the bill,” state Rep. Chris Sprowls said. The House bill heads to the full floor now and would allow a 16-year-old who gets pregnant to marry the father if he is 18 or younger.

Florida lawmaker: Law that OKs child marriage well-crafted” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Republican Rep. George Moraitis voted against a bill that would ban child marriages except for some 16- and 17-year-olds when a pregnancy is involved. He cited a legislative staff analysis showing that between 2012 and 2016 only one 13-year-old was allowed to marry and said he encourages pregnant “women” to get married. “The current law is … very good, in my opinion, a very carefully crafted balance,” Moraitis said. He said it’s “very reasonable” to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent, regardless of whether the girl is pregnant. And Moraitis noted that pregnant girls under 16 still need a judge’s permission to get married. “There’s literally only a handful of cases that would fall under what I would say are potentially abusive,” he said. “To focus on a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old or something like that when we’re talking about the hundreds and hundreds of people that could get married. I’m particularly focused on the pregnancy aspect of it. I don’t want the message to be that it’s better not to get married.”

In the House Judiciary committee yesterday Rep. Moraitis voted against a bill seeking to ban child marriage, stating that current law — which has allowed 13 year olds to marry men more than twice their age — is well-crafted.

‘Political gymnastics’: House panel kills Kathleen Peters’ ethics proposals” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Rep. Peters’ attempt to amend a House ethics reform bill resulted in virtual fireworks Thursday, with a prominent lobbyist saying she was targeting him and a lawmaker bemoaning “political gymnastics” that temporarily gummed up the measure. One of Peters’ amendments would have banned sitting lawmakers and their immediate family members from working for lobbying firms. The other would have barred lawmakers from working for a lobbying firm, including law firms with lobbying teams, while in office. Both eventually were voted down. “This was geared at one person: He’s here with a target on his chest,” lobbyist Ron Book said, referring to himself. Peters is a political ally of former Sen. Jack Latvala; Book represented women that Latvala had allegedly harassed. And Book’s daughter Lauren is a sitting state senator.

Church gun bills teed up in House, Senate” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – The Republican-controlled Senate Rules Committee voted 7-5 for the Senate version of the measure (SB 1048). Earlier in the day, the House Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 along party lines to approve the House version (HB 1419). Under current law, people with concealed-weapons licenses can carry guns at churches and other religious institutions, but they are barred from doing so if schools are on the property. The bills seek to address that school issue, though some details of the proposals differ. The Senate bill, however, was changed last week to get it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has blocked gun-related measures in recent years. The Senate version includes restrictions, such as a prohibition on carrying guns during school hours or when school extracurricular activities take place on the property.

Texting while driving’ bill gets closer to becoming law” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — A bill that would allow police to pull people over for texting while driving took another step toward becoming law, passing its third and final House committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo and Rep. Emily Slosberg, still has to pass in both the House and Senate before becoming law. If it passes, Florida will join 43 other states by making texting while driving a primary offense, allowing police to pull over drivers solely for sending messages while behind the wheel. The modest penalties for violating it would stay the same: $30 for a first offense and $60 for the second, plus court costs. A driver would incur three points on their record only on the second offense. Currently, citations are exceedingly rare. In 2016, barely 1,400 people were ticketed for texting while driving, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.

What Jeff Porter is reading —New report: PIP repeal could cost motorists” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Repeal of Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system would drive the cost of coverage up by 5.3 percent, or $67 per year, according to an analysis conducted for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. The findings assume that more drivers will buy underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage to protect themselves against motorists who skip purchasing insurance for themselves, according to the report. Indeed, motorists who buy full coverage would see increases of 7.3 percent, or $150 per year. Those who buy only mandatory coverage would see increases of more than 72 percent, or $340, on average. A bill (HB 19) by Vero Beach Republican Erin Grall, which cleared the House on a vote of 88-19 Jan. 12, would repeal Florida’s personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance mandate. The Senate version (SB 150) by Brandon Republican Tom Lee, is pending on the floor.

Fair wants ‘home hardening materials’ included in sales tax holiday” via Florida Politics – The Florida Association for Insurance Reform said items such as impact-resistant windows and doors should be included in the disaster preparedness sales tax holiday plan moving through the Florida Legislature. The Senate’s plan, SB 620 by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, would set up two tax-free weeks for disaster prep supplies in 2018, and the list includes the usual items: flashlights, radios, tarps and batteries, among other things. But FAIR said adding “home hardening materials” could be more helpful in preventing major damage if another major hurricane hits the Sunshine State. The group pointed to in-house research showing that for every $1 invested in mitigation the state avoids $4 or more in post-hurricane spending.

USF president Judy Genshaft first learned of consolidation idea last fall” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – She was in the state Capitol in late October, she said, the day Sen. Bill Galvano was officially designated the Senate’s next president. Sen. Jeff Brandes invited Genshaft and USF St. Petersburg lobbyist Helen Levine to his office afterward, she said. There, he floated the concept of phasing out the independent accreditation at both USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee, uniting those schools as one university under Tampa control. “He said to me, ‘What do you think about this?’” Genshaft recalled Thursday after a campus board meeting at USF St. Petersburg. “It was a new concept that I had not heard before, so my reaction was, ‘I will follow the law, whatever is approved.’” She added: “I was surprised, I was surprised.” Brandes said their broad conversation circled around several ideas for the future of the USF System. Consolidation was just one path discussed, by no means a final plan.


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may have hurt, not helped, Florida on oil drilling, critics say” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — “Now that the public record includes this very public, premature and unequivocal statement by the secretary, any final decision that excludes Florida is actually more vulnerable to challenge than if he had said nothing,” said Alyson Flournoy, a University of Florida environmental law expert who spoke on a conference call arranged by Rep. Kathy Castor. She noted Zinke’s comments are not legally binding and step on the Interior Department’s decision-making process. The agency, which has floated a five-year drilling plan that affected numerous states, must consider all comments during a 60-day period that began Jan. 4.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may have made things worse for offshore oil drilling for Florida.

Judge rules Florida’s voter-restoration process is unconstitutional” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — A federal judge on Thursday said the system used by the state to vet which ex-felons get to have their voting rights restored is unconstitutional. “Florida’s vote-restoration scheme is crushingly restrictive,” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in a 43-page ruling. “The scheme crumbles under strict scrutiny because it risks — if not covertly authorizes the practice of arbitrary and discriminatory vote-restoration.” Walker said the process should change, but did not say how. And gave Gov. Scott, who was the main defendant in the case brought forth by the voting-rights group Fair Elections Legal Work, until Feb. 12 to respond on the issue. In a statement, Scott said he would continue to defend the clemency process in court. But Walker gave a brutal assessment of the process, saying the state requires ex-felons to conduct themselves to the “satisfaction of the board’s subjective — and frankly, mythical — standards.”

Florida may issue gun licenses with incomplete background checks” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Legislature is considering changing the state’s concealed weapons law so that people could receive licenses even in cases when their criminal background checks are incomplete. A sponsor of the provision, Sen. Kelli Stargel, said the provision was sought by Putnam, the agriculture commissioner and a Republican candidate for governor. Putnam has made his support for gun rights a centerpiece of his campaign … The House version of the bill (HB 553) came before the House Commerce Committee Thursday at the state Capitol, and Democrats raised questions about why people whose criminal histories haven’t been verified would be entitled to carry a concealed weapon. Stephanie Owens of the League of Women Voters of Florida said the provision makes it easier for criminals to obtain gun licenses in Florida. “It opens the door for criminals to acquire a permit due to an incomplete backcheck. This is dangerous language and it should be stricken from the bill,” Owens told legislators.

Amtrak crash give Brian Mast more ‘resolve’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Mast of Palm City said he’s got more “resolve” to fight a high-speed passenger rail service planned to roll through his district after being among the members of Congress traveling on an Amtrak train Wednesday that struck a garbage truck, killing one person, in West Virginia. Local governments and residents on Florida’s Treasure Coast have long fought the Brightline rail service, which eventually is planned to travel from Miami to Orlando. “Sadly, we’ve become all too familiar with this kind of accident in South Florida, where Brightline trains have struck and killed multiple pedestrians since they began operating just a few short weeks ago,” Mast tweeted shortly after the Amtrak crash. “I’ve long opposed the expansion of Brightline onto the Treasure Coast, where the mix of at-grade crossings and high-speed trains creates massive safety issues. My experience today has only strengthened my resolve to prevent Brightline from creating this dangerous situation in our community.”

Supreme Court upholds blood-alcohol test rules” via the News Service of Florida — the rules were challenged by attorneys for millionaire John Goodman, who was convicted of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison in the 2010 traffic death of Scott Patrick Wilson. The challenge focused on whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has adequate rules to ensure that blood-alcohol tests provide accurate results. At least in part, the arguments involved whether the state has safeguards to prevent blood from clotting after being drawn — potentially resulting in artificially high measurements of blood-alcohol levels. Also, the arguments involved whether the state’s rules require proper screening of samples. The Supreme Court, which upheld a decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal, said Goodman argued that a rule was inadequate because it did not specify that analysts must screen, document and reject “unfit” samples. But the 35-page ruling denied such arguments.

Pam Bondi opens investigation into fake social media followers” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Fake followers beware: Attorney General Bondi is investigating “recent allegations of social media identity theft involving West Palm Beach company Devumi and related company Bytion.” The investigation was announced on her official website. If you or someone you know has had their identity stolen and used to create a fake social media profile on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or any other social media platform, please file a complaint with our office,” the site says … Bondi and Schneiderman’s move on Devumi follows another Times report on Saturday that on Devumi’s “vast trade in fake followers and fraudulent engagement on Twitter and other social media sites, often using personal information taken from real users.”

Firefighter haunted by 12 deaths at Florida nursing home” via The Associated Press – A paramedic testified that he is haunted by the deaths of 12 patients who died of heat exposure at a Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning due to a power outage during Hurricane Irma. Craig Wohlitka and two colleagues from Hollywood Fire-Rescue testified they responded to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills four times on Sept. 12 and 13 and that the home felt warmer and the home’s 150 patients in worse shape each visit. On the final visit, the head nurse was performing CPR on a dead man. “The lack of care that these people were experiencing and just the conditions they were experiencing,” Wohlitka told administrative judge Mary Li Creasy. “In all honesty, this call is still very much haunting” … he and his colleagues testified at a hearing in which the nursing home is challenging the state’s move to revoke its license. A transformer connecting the main air conditioning unit to the power grid had been knocked out as Irma blew through Florida on Sept. 10. The 12 deaths have been ruled homicides but no one has been charged. A criminal investigation is ongoing.

Email insights: Lack of LGBT protections might spoil Miami’s chances for Amazon HQ2” via Florida Politics – Florida Competes said the failure to update the state’s 1992 Civil Rights Act “places the state at a needless economic disadvantage in a competition that could bring 50,000 high-paying jobs and a $5 billion investment into the State’s economy” … “Ranked 12th on the Fortune 500 list, Amazon recognizes that recruiting and retaining the most talented workforce requires a great quality of life both in and out of the office,” Florida Competes spox Christina Johnson said. The group pointed to a recent Newsweek article that questioned whether Amazon would seriously consider setting up shop in states that don’t extend workplace protections to LGBT employees.

Broward Health’s new policy: You want public records? Pay me” via Dan Christiansen of — Florida Bulldog and others recently have used the state’s public records law to request information about how many lawyers Broward Health is paying and how much it’s paying them. Those requests have been stymied, however, by new upfront demands for thousands of dollars in administrative and legal fees before being able to review those records. Broward Health has traditionally provided public records free of charge or at low cost even as the law allows for the fees to cover “the extensive use of information technology or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency.” The new stonewalling has been Broward Health’s official policy since July when implemented by Interim President/CEO Beverly Capasso and General Counsel Lynn Barrett, both of whom are under indictment. The district’s policy-setting board of commissioners approved the policy, GA-016-005, in September 2016. Broward Health’s board decided to abandon its long search for a permanent President/CEO and voted to give Capasso the $650,000-a-year job even as she awaits trial. “This was done to prevent people from getting information,” said former Broward Health Commissioner Joe Cobo. “If it will cost you $4,000 you most likely will back off.”


Victor Freytas: Charter schools deserve fair treatment” via Florida Politics – I know charter schools can make a difference for kids. As public schools, these institutions deserve to be treated fairly. And that’s why I can’t understand why districts like Orange County Public Schools are suing to block charter schools from receiving fair funding. Unfortunately, a study last year found charter schools in Florida received 71 cents on the dollar compared to district-run public schools. Arts programs cost money. My daughter attends a charter school that made arts a priority. If the school were funded fairly, it might be able to offer even more opportunities to its students. That’s why it’s unfortunate that a district like Orange County Public Schools would sue the state to stop a law (HB 7069) that creates fairer funding for charter schools. The Legislature recently decided all public-school students should be treated equally. I agree. That’s why I think Orange County and 13 other districts should end their misguided lawsuit.


Scott quietly appoints controversial choice to lead state emergency management” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Scott has quietly appointed Wes Maul as state emergency management director after receiving criticism in September for the interim appointment. Maul, 29, was a scheduling assistant to the governor from 2013-16, and before that worked at a mattress store in Gainesville. He was named the chief of staff at the Division of Emergency Management in May 2016 before being appointed an interim director in September. In September, a Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman said Maul was “totally inexperienced and unprepared” for the job to replace outgoing DEM Director Bryan Koon.

PolitiFact hires — then fires — Alan Grayson to be reader advocate” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – Both the fact-checking website and Grayson said one reason the deal was canceled was his possible run for the U.S. House again this year. But the leader of PolitiFact conceded the complaints about Grayson were a factor, too. “It was a little bit of everything,” said PolitiFact executive editor Aaron Sharockman of his decision to cancel the contract. “We had to weigh all of that.” Grayson, a Democrat who served in the House representing two districts in Central Florida, was chosen along with former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly of St. Petersburg to “critique our fact-checks and provide their own expert insight on the issues confronting voters,” Sharockman wrote … That announcement, however, led to a sharp response from several news media and political leaders, largely stemming from an incident in 2016 when Grayson and POLITICO reporter Isaac Dovere got into a confrontation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Samual Ard, The Peeples Group: Farm Share

Andrew Baer: National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Ron Pierce, Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Natalie King RSA Consulting Group: EFPAdmin

Brian Bautista, Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: Beer Industry of Florida

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Old Port Cove Condominium Association Five, Rapallo South

Edward Bowman: Florida Petroleum Marketers Association

David Browning, Southern Strategy Group: PumpOut USA

Jorge Chamizo, Floridian Partners: Anheuser-Busch Companies

Marty Fiorentino, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Flagler County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: Florida Association of Student Educational Tours

Ron Greenstein: Apothecary Specialists, FTG Development

Douglas Holder, The Legis Group: Earth Tech

Charles Liem, CLA Consultants: Centene Corporation & Sunshine State Health Plan, LifeShare, Visual Vault

Francesca Plendl: AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

Steven Schale, Schale Communications: Florida Public Advocacy

Suzanne Sewell: Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities

Patrick Sheehan, The Gregson Group: Counterpoint Energy Solutions

Jonathan Steverson, Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Tech Choice

Akisha Townsend: Best Friends Animal Society


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: A Black History Month Special — “The history of blacks in the Sarasota County Schools from inception until now” with Black Almanac Assistant Producer Duhane Lindo and Renee’ Gilmore of Saja Associates.

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 10 News/WTSP investigative reporter Noah Pransky; journalist Joe Henderson; former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor; Darryl Paulson, Professor Emeritus of Government at University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: In observance of Black History Month, a discussion of the issues and legislation that affects the African-American community. Joining Walker-Torres are Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole; Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith; Beverlye Neal of the NAACP; and Paula Hoisington of the Central Florida Urban League.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A review of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, including analysis of the speech; PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates claims made during the Trump’s address. Guests include former Congressmen Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson, political analysts Michelle Ertel and Dick Batchelor, and Constitution Revision Commission member Frank Kruppenbacher.

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

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Former U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire; Dr. Michael Binder of the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory; Ted Willich, Matt Berseth, Robert Marsh from NLP Logix.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg talk current events and host a weekly roundtable with newsmakers.


White House announces presidential delegation to Winter Olympics” via Tristan Justice of the Washington Examiner – Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence were already announced to lead the delegation … Joining them will be House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, retired Gen. James D. Thurman, U.S. diplomat in Seoul Marc E. Knapper, and 2002 ladies figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes.

Security measures at the Winter Olympics include drones that catch drones” via Steve Mollman of Quartz — As part of safety precautions, drone-catching drones will be on hand to cast nets over any dangerous-looking unmanned aerial vehicles that approach the Olympics grounds in PyeongChang. One fear is that an unauthorized drone could be used to deliver a bomb to disrupt the proceedings. Additionally, security teams have been practicing shooting down such UAVs. In one training scenario, a bomb-carrying drone headed for a bus full of athletes. The participation of North Korean athletes in the games has reduced fears of the North staging such an attack, but the regime of Kim Jong-un is unpredictable, and authorities are taking no chances.

The Winter Olympics will employ drones to catch other drones.

Olympians are using camouflage and the color blue to get ahead” via Erin Brodwin of Business Insider – Olympians at this year’s Pyeongchang games in South Korea are using all the typical tricks, from aerodynamic racing suits to jackets and pants that deflect distracting light and sound. But they’re also embracing some quirky new ones, like racing in blue suits and wearing camouflage patterns. The Norwegian and German speedskating teams will be racing in blue this year instead of their traditional bright red and green suits — a shift that appears to stem from a belief among some of the teams’ sports scientists that blue is a “faster” color. Evidence doesn’t suggest that the color blue is actually faster physically; it’s likely all psychological … there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that psychological factors like confidence can have drastic impacts on athletic performance, and color is one visible characteristic that tends to have a lot of psychological sway.


How much does experience matter in the Super Bowl?” via Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal — The discrepancy in Super Bowl experience between the two teams squaring off in Sunday’s matchup is the largest in a quarter-century and the third-largest in history. In Super Bowl XXVII, played after the 1992 season, the Buffalo Bills had 67 Super Bowls under their belts, versus all of three for the Dallas Cowboys, for a gap of 64. (This didn’t stop the Cowboys from handing the Bills their third consecutive Super Bowl defeat, a 52-17 drubbing at the Rose Bowl.) Of course, the big question is how much the extra experience matters. The answer? A little bit — maybe. In the 10 Super Bowls played between teams with the most significant experience gaps, the roster with more experience won six.

Tom Brady or Bill Belichick: Who contributed more to Pats’ dynasty?” via Bill Barnwell of ESPN — It’s impossible to directly compare Brady and Belichick, given that they have different jobs and each played a huge role in the other’s success. It would be foolish to suggest that Belichick could have accomplished everything he did over the past 17 years without Brady, or vice versa. A question we can ask, though, is this one: Between the two of them, has Belichick or Brady contributed more to the success of this Patriots dynasty? It’s impossible to answer definitively, but … the simple answer is both. It would be impossible to choose between Belichick or Brady, and there’s no way the Patriots of the past 17 years would be the Patriots with one or the other in a different city. The more nuanced answer? Well, Belichick has had a coaching run up there with some of the greats in the history of football, and he has done it in an era in which it’s more difficult to build and sustain success under the salary cap. And yet, there’s a reason top-level quarterbacks get paid about twice as much as top-level coaches.

Would there be a Patriots dynasty without Bill Belichick or Tom Brady? Or both?

Eagles have the ingredients needed to upset the Patriots in Super Bowl LII” via Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated – Why can’t Nick Foles and the Eagles beat the Patriots? It’s a lot more likely than it seems. The Patriots have won so many Super Bowls during the Belichick era — five, so far — that we act like they win it every year. They contend every year, but even the best franchises lose sometimes. Let’s look at the Pats’ history under Belichick. They have lost playoff games to Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco twice, Jake Plummer and Peyton Manning in Manning’s last season, when he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. We have conditioned ourselves into thinking that only great quarterbacks win Super Bowls, and so it makes sense that only great quarterbacks beat the Patriots. History tells us the opposite: New England has done pretty well against Philip Rivers, peak Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan last year. The Patriots have not really struggled against anybody, but they have had some difficulty against deep, versatile, balanced teams with great defenses.

Work ethic, determination have led Wakulla’s Nigel Bradham to Super Bowl appearance” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — This weekend marks an exciting milestone for the 28-year-old linebacker and his hometown. Bradham will be the first player from Wakulla County to play in a Super Bowl … Bradham is one of four former Florida State players starting on the Eagles’ defense, joining cornerbacks Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. Bradham was a four-year starter for the Seminoles (2008-11), leading the team in tackles his last three seasons and starting 37 consecutive games. He was a fourth-round selection of the Buffalo Bills in 2012. Over four years at linebacker for FSU, Bradham tallied 305 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and four forced turnovers. He was an anchor on the FSU defense that bridged the gap between the end of the Bobby Bowden era with the beginning of Jimbo Fisher‘s time as head coach.

The argument that could tear the Eagles locker room apart” via Kevin Clark of The Ringer — The Philadelphia Eagles watch tape and look at statistics. They check for tendencies, scout the advanced numbers, see how things change when the fourth quarter comes around. And they do it all to prepare for … near-daily locker-room arguments about LeBron James and Michael Jordan. The question is simple. Who is better: James or Jordan? The answer is different depending on which member of the Eagles you ask. James has won three NBA championships and four MVP awards, and he’s on a run of seven straight NBA Finals appearances. Jordan won six rings in six tries and five NBA MVP awards. The battle lines are well drawn throughout the locker room. As receiver Mack Hollins describes it: “Well, there are the guys on the team who are right and say, ‘Jordan is the best ever,’ and there are guys who are wrong who say ‘LeBron is the best ever.’” When you talk to Eagles players, you see there’s no end in sight.

The Eagles crushed Vikings fans’ hopes. Now they’re crashing their Super Bowl party.” via Ben Shpigel of The New York Times — That last game, a 38-7 thrashing, does still linger for Vikings fans — though not just because of the margin of victory, or even the result … the one-finger salutes, the threats issued and harsh language used in Philadelphia. In the land of Vikings, some Minnesotans are concerned about what they consider another marauding band: Eagles fans, whose reputation, deserved or not, precedes them. Although Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play, is generally not a hospitable venue for opposing fans, only a small segment tends to engage in appalling behavior. And, of course, Philadelphians are not the only ones who can act poorly when sports, alcohol and perhaps some stupidity mix together. Based on conversations with friends, Laura Conley, 31, who is trying to rent out her home for the Super Bowl, said she could envision Minnesotans cheering for the New England Patriots because of how some Vikings fans were treated in Philadelphia. A Packers fan from Mauston, Wisconsin, Chad Babcock counts himself among the population delighted — or at least not displeased — that Minnesota lost. After the defeat, he heard from friends warning him to be mindful of renting his home, in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, to Eagles fans.

Windfall for Super Bowl hosts? Economists say it’s overstated” via Kevin Draper of The New York Times – For U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis — which opened in 2016 and will host the Super Bowl — the state of Minnesota spent $348 million and the city kicked in an additional $150 million, a bit less than 50 percent of the stadium’s total cost. An economic impact report commissioned by the Minneapolis Super Bowl Host Committee stated that much of the taxpayer investment in the stadium would be recouped by the region during the event. It estimated that the Super Bowl would contribute $343 million to the region, including $29 million in tax revenue. Sports economists don’t view the situation quite the same way. They said the economic impact study for the Minneapolis Super Bowl began by saying all the right things about how past estimates had “been criticized as extremely overinflated, inaccurate, even purposely misrepresented.” In the end, though, it did the same thing … it is the rare Super Bowl host committee that has budgeted for extras. The city of Santa Clara, California, had its costs to host the 2016 Super Bowl reimbursed, but the game cost nearby San Francisco almost $5 million, mostly in police and transit services.

The last (news)men on Earth” via Bryan Curtis of The Ringer — Back in the ’80s, three men stood above the rabble of network TV. They were called voices of God, “faces of the network.” They were the national news anchors: Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings. Today, if I went looking for a TV guy who fit those descriptors, I probably wouldn’t pick a newsman. I’d pick an NFL play-by-play announcer: Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Jim Nantz. They don’t do the same job, but in a strange way, they have come to inhabit the same cultural niche. In our hyperpartisan age, national play-by-play men may be the last stars of TV who say they have no rooting interest in the outcome … Newscaster and play-by-play announcer have always been similar jobs … The job requirements are nearly identical. You do a lot of workmanlike description and are occasionally asked to turn a phrase … Both newsmen and play-by-play men work well past the usual TV retirement age. In fact, they seem to grow in office … Network newscasts also look chintzy now, with only an exotic dateline or two separating them from the oatmeal of local news. Football games look like — and cost — a million bucks. It reflects a reality of TV: One show is a loss leader, and the other can still make the network a fortune.

— ALOE —

Here’s why stone crabs are so hard to find this year” via Eric Glasser of WTSP – Remember when Hurricane Irma emptied Tampa Bay? It did the same all over Florida’s west coast, which is where most stone crabs are harvested. The crabs likely followed the tide farther offshore … to waters deeper than they’re typically trapped. Other possible reasons? More full moons this year. Crabs are nocturnal, preferring to move under the cover of darkness. Also, good weather means bad crabbing. Fewer storms to stir up the sand, minimizing the murkiness that crabs need to move without being gobbled up by natural predators. So, this year they’re just sitting still. The resulting shortage means fewer fish markets are stocking stone crabs. The limited supply is often reserved for restaurants like Frenchy’s, which is known for the seasonal delicacy.

NASA turns selfies by Mars rover into stunning self-portrait” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — Released this week, the photo shows Curiosity in the middle of the dusty, red Martian terrain, with Mount Sharp in the background. The rim of Gale Crater is also visible. A small, self-focusing camera on the end of Curiosity’s arm took the selfies. Dozens of pictures, all snapped Jan. 23, were used to create the mosaic. Curiosity has been roaming Mars since 2012. Its next stop is the slope shown in the self-portrait, where it will probe what’s believed to be clay-rich soil.

This composite image made from a series of Jan. 23, 2018 photos shows a self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge. The rover’s arm which held the camera was positioned out of each of the dozens of shots which make up the mosaic.

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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